Monday, April 05, 2010

Move completed!

I have now moved over to Wordpress. Point your links to: "".

I'll leave the old one up, but all the posts and comments should have been migrated successfully to the Wordpress site.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

An experiment

Update 2010-04-05: After some consideration and experimentation, it looks like I'll end up migrating to Wordpress. It seems to have more and better features built in. I'll keep posting here for a little while, till I get things set up at the new site and can notify anyone who has me blogrolled that I know about (which may even be before my next real post).

Status Update
: Redirect temporarily disabled while I work on things.

I've been looking for a while now for a way to make my blog more mobile-friendly. I've noticed that, while the layout I'm using works fairly well with my Palm Pre, it's not really optimal. Then one day I went to Gun Nuts Media on my phone and saw they have a mobile version that comes up automatically on my phone and realized that was what I was looking for. Alas, it turns out that Gun Nuts Media is on WordPress, and Blogger doesn't have that option. It seemed I was out of luck.

Looking into it again, in the vain hope that Blogger had joined the 21st century, I found a link to Flurp. Flurp converts a blog to a mobile friendly format (with a couple of different layouts for different phones). You can either insert code in the blog header that redirects mobile browsers to the mobile site automatically, or you can add a link to the mobile version. It's still in alpha, but it seems to work pretty well (though it does cut titles short after only about 15 characters on the iPhone version).

Right now, I've set it up to automatically redirect. I may change that in the future, depending on how it affects my usage and depending on any feedback I get from you, my readers.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Update on Westboro Protest

Image by Robb Allen
Updating the situation:

There will be a counter-protest.
About 30 people circled together inside Owens Dining Hall Saturday afternoon to discuss a unified response. The meeting, led by Student Government Association president Brandon Carroll, tossed around several ideas in handling the church.

“We want everybody on the same page,” Carroll said.


The group voted, agreeing that a counter-protest will be formed.
It looks like the main victim of their protest will be Morgan Harrington.
Church officials said they were not protesting the 2007 shootings, saying they were “coming for the event that happened last month,” referencing slain student Morgan Harrington. A 20-year-old education major, Harrington was found in late January 2010 after going missing in October 2009 while attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Va.
I still find it strikingly coincidental that this will be exactly one week before April 16.

Tech's LGBTA community has taken the opposite approach - ignore them and don't give them the reaction they're looking for.
The LGBTA community has also shown outrage about the church’s protest. Aimee Kanode, a senior humanities, science, and environment major at Tech and president of Tech’s LGBTA said she would not attend the protest, as she has work on the day of the protest.

“These people are awful, appalling, despicable,” Kanode said. “My method is to just ignore them. Me wasting energy on those people is not worth my time.” Kanode said that while the group would not officially organize for the protest, several members and officers would be in attendance. Kanode said she advised her members to “be smart about it.”
The bastards are probably hoping to distract from other events, too.
Another concern for community members is the potential for the protest to take away from other events for the day. Among the events scheduled for April 9 include a memorial for David Seth Mitchell, a US Marine killed in Afghanistan and Tech’s Relay for Life event, which is a fundraiser for cancer research.
They're trying to get their money's worth out of this trip, it seems. Scum.

A Good Start

This is how you fight piracy

NAIROBI, Kenya – Suspected Somali pirates fired on a U.S. Navy warship off East Africa early Thursday in what appeared to be a ransom-seeking attack on an American guided missile frigate, officials said.

The USS Nicholas returned fire on the pirate skiff, sinking it and confiscating a nearby mothership. The Navy took five pirates into custody, said Navy Lt. Patrick Foughty, a spokesman.


The U.S. Africa Command said the five pirates seized Thursday would remain in U.S. custody on board the frigate for now. The Nicholas is home-ported in Norfolk, Va.
Seizing or sinking the mothership and taking the pirates prisoner works a whole lot better than just letting them go. Hopefully, these pirates will go to jail for a long time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Rage-O-Meter is Pegged

Image by Robb Allen

The Westboro Bastards (I refuse to call them Baptist, or a church) are (supposedly*) coming to Blacksburg on April 9 to protest.
Phelps' followers notified town officials in a letter Monday that the group planned demonstrations at three locations around town, including the Blacksburg Jewish Community Center and Blacksburg High School.

Another location, near the Virginia Tech campus, was also identified.

Demonstrating near the high school seems pointless - it's been closed since the gym roof collapsed in February.

After the April 16, 2007, shootings at Tech, Phelps threatened to protest at the funerals of the 32 students and faculty slain that day. Then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell, now the governor, issued a warning that anyone willfully disrupting funerals in Virginia could face charges. Those protests never materialized.

As I remember it, a radio station bought them off with an interview - giving them airtime in exchange for them canceling the protests. While I despise the idea of giving scum like that airtime, it was probably the best thing to do for the sake of the families. (I also think that if they had tried to protest those funerals, someone would have been killed. The pain and grief in town then was a hair's breadth from flashing over to rage as it was - there's a good possibility these bastards would have started a riot just by being there.)Link

It looks like one protest is planned to be across the street from a gift shop operated by a gay couple. I wonder if that's deliberate (they may not know)?

This warms my heart, though:

A Facebook page advertising a counterprotest organized by Tech students and others had drawn more than 4,500 members by Thursday afternoon. More than 1,500 of those members indicated they would attend a counter-rally.

To those planning to attend: Be careful. They have a history of provoking people and then suing anyone who acts out against them, and they carry video recorders.

(* They have a history of announcing protests and then not showing up. Looking at their schedule, I think they do plan on being here - their schedule (I won't link to them. If you want to see it, you'll need to Google it.) puts them in Charleston, WV in the morning, Lawrence, KS from 1130 to 1200, then three separate protests in Blacksburg starting at 1300. I doubt they would go from WV to KS for just a 30 minute protest and fake the 2 1/2 hours planned here. Also, it doesn't leave them enough time to get from WV to KS - it's a 12+ hour drive, and I doubt that group could get through airport security and fly there within the roughly 4 hours the schedule allows. Charleston to Blacksburg, on the other hand, is only about a 2 1/2 hour drive. It's much more likely the Charleston and Blacksburg protests are real, and the KS one is a red herring.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Our efficient, well-run government

Phony products by phony companies get government Energy Star approval.

Fifteen phony products — including a gasoline-powered alarm clock — won a label from the government certifying them as energy efficient in a test of the federal "Energy Star" program.
Investigators concluded the program is "vulnerable to fraud and abuse."
Really? It's "vulnerable to fraud and abuse?" No kidding!
But the General Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, said Energy Star doesn't verify claims made by manufacturers — which might explain the gasoline-powered alarm clock, not to mention a product billed as an air room cleaner that was actually a space heater with a feather duster and fly strips attached, and a computer monitor that won approval within 30 minutes of submission.
So, in a program involving tax credits and rebates (i.e. taxpayer money), the government doesn't bother to actually verify the claims those credits and rebates are based on. Even worse they don't even bother to find out what it is they're certifying!
"EPA officials confirmed that because the energy-efficiency information was plausible, it was likely that no one read the product description information," GAO said.
And they lie about it!
According to the GAO, the EPA and Energy Department told investigators in briefings that although the program is based on manufacturers' certifying their products meet efficiency standards, that efficiency is ensured through aftermarket tests and self-policing.
Remember, this is the same government that is now in charge of our health-care system. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Monday, March 22, 2010

You'd almost think they were prepared, or something

Another Health Care Bill story that warms my heart.

Less than 24 hours after the House of Representatives gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul of healthcare, attorneys general from several states on Monday said they will sue to block the plan on constitutional grounds.

Republican attorneys general in 11 states warned that lawsuits will be filed to stop the federal government overstepping its constitutional powers and usurping states' sovereignty.


Ten of the attorneys general plan to band together in a collective lawsuit on behalf of Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

It's good to see quick action on this. And Virginia isn't left out, either.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, who plans to file a lawsuit in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, said Congress lacks authority under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce to force people to buy insurance. The bill also conflicts with a state law that says Virginians cannot be required to buy insurance, he added.
The governor must have signed that bill in the last day or so - the last time I checked, it hadn't been signed and therefore wasn't the law. Other states are doing the same.

In addition to the pending lawsuits, bills and resolutions have been introduced in at least 36 state legislatures seeking to limit or oppose various aspects of the reform plan through laws or state constitutional amendments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

So far, only two states, Idaho and Virginia, have enacted laws, while an Arizona constitutional amendment is seeking voter approval on the November ballot. But the actual enactment of the bill by President Barack Obama could spur more movement on the measures by state lawmakers.

Maybe this massive government expansion will be killed in the courts.

Health "Care" Roundup

Well, they did it. The Democrat Party bucked the voters, opposed public opinion, and inflicted a massive socialist health insurance system on us.

This story warms my heart. The media is already talking about how this will hurt the Dems.

The initial blush of President Barack Obama's health care triumph immediately gives way to a sober political reality — he must sell the landmark legislation to an angry and unpredictable electorate, still reeling from the recession.

Voters may not buy it.

And that could mean a disastrous midterm election year for Obama and his fellow Democrats.

Some are saying that after the Repubs get control of Congress back, they can repeal this insanity. While I agree that they could, I think pigs growing wings and joining the avian family is far more likely. Obama will never sign a repeal, and I doubt they'll get the numbers to override a veto. By the time we have a President who may be receptive, there will be a massive bureaucracy in place, working against repeal in order to protect itself. Let's face it - when was the last time the government made itself smaller?

And now, here's a quick roundup of coverage by the bloggers I frequent. They'll probably say anything I could, and do it much better.

Nicki at The Liberty Zone is rightfully furious.

Robb at Sharp as a Marble has a simple reminder for us.

Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell has several posts, reminding us that there should be consequences for those who voted for this monstrosity, that it's not completely over yet, and starts looking to what the next steps should be. He shows us that some are looking to present a united fight against this even after it's signed.

Another rightfully angry post, this one by Atom Smasher at Men Are Not Potatoes.

A Conservative Shemale reminds us that it's not the end of the world, or even the country, and offers us some comfort. I'm not quite as confident about this as the person she quotes, but that's more due to some of the specifics of the bill than the principle that is quoted.

Brigid at Home on the Range has a simple message that we should all remember eight months from now.

Tam at View From the Porch give us a little (but only a little, in my opinion) hyperbole.

Michael Bane posts a quote that shows that wisdom can come from any source, and gives us some other words of wisdom.

That's all I have for the moment, but it's still early this morning. I may do an update later, if I have time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Somali pirates attack a Dutch warship:

Troops aboard the Dutch warship HNLMS Tromp fired warning shots Wednesday off the coast of East Africa as suspected Somali pirates in two small skiffs raced toward their warship, the EU Naval Force said.

After the pirates realized they had made what spokesman Cmdr. John Harbour called a "rather silly mistake," they turned around and fled. EU Naval Force personnel tracked down the two skiffs and a third suspected mothership, finding ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades on board, said Harbour, a spokesman for the EU Naval Force.

But that's not the stupid part. This is:

The two skiffs were destroyed and the pirates were set free on the mothership after it had been cleared of weapons. [emphasis mine]
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

Do they really expect that to stop - or even slightly discourage - these human cockroaches from going right back out and attacking another ship? They probably had replacement skiffs and weapons before the end of the day! If you want to stop piracy, you have to actually punish the pirates! Hanging from the yardarm is a good start.

One of these days, someone is going to get really serious about fighting pirates. Until then, well, we have this idiocy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

RIP Capt. Oveur

Actor Peter Graves dies at 83.

Victor has your vector, and you have clearance, Clarence.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another reason DADT should be repealed

She followed the rules and stayed in the closet - and someone else outed her to the military, so now she's been discharged under DADT.

Jene Newsome played by the rules as an Air Force sergeant: She never told anyone in the military she was a lesbian. The 28-year-old's honorable discharge under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy came only after police officers in Rapid City, S.D., saw an Iowa marriage certificate in her home and told the nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base.


Newsome was at work at the base at the time and refused to immediately come home and assist the officers in finding her partner, whom she married in Iowa — where gay marriage is legal — in October.

Police officers, who said they spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window of Newsome's home, alerted the base, police Chief Steve Allender said in a statement sent to the AP. The license was relevant to the investigation because it showed both the relationship and residency of the two women, he said.


In the complaint filed last month with the department, ACLU South Dakota said police had no legal reason to tell the military Newsome was a lesbian and that officers knew if they did, it would jeopardize her military career.

Newsome, who was discharged in January, said she didn't know where the marriage license was in her home when police came to her house on Nov. 20 and claims the officers were retaliating because she wouldn't help with her partner's arrest.

This was blatant retaliation, despite the police department's claims that once they knew they "had" to tell the military. They knew that giving that information to her superiors would destroy her career - it's not like DADT is a secret. Telling the military she's a lesbian could do nothing to help them bring in her partner, the only possible goal was to hurt Newsome for not cooperating.

This is another example of why DADT is just wrong. You can follow the rules, staying deep in the closet and keeping any relationships a deep, dark secret, but if someone else outs you to the military, your career is destroyed anyway.

We already make gays and lesbians hide who they are for their entire military careers. Should we also make them take a vow of celibacy and eschew all romantic relationships for as long as they serve? I might support that - but only if we require heterosexuals to do the same thing.

Update: A little research prompted by a debate going on over at A Conservative Shemale has revealed that we actually do effectively make gays and lesbians take a vow of celibacy when they join the military. From the actual DADT law (10 U.S.C. 654)
(b) Policy.— A member of the armed forces shall be separated from the armed forces under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense if one or more of the following findings is made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulations:

(1) That the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts


(3) That the member has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex.

[omitted sections deal with exceptions to the law]
So gays who join the military can't have a romantic relationship (after all, even kissing or holding hands by two men can be considered "a homosexual act or acts"). I stand by my original conclusion: I might support that - but only if we apply it to heterosexuals, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Here's news to me - the U.S. Department of Education has "combat training and protocol[s]" that require short-barreled shotguns. What the heck does the Dept. of Education need combat training and protocols for? Raids on unauthorized homeschoolers?

(h/t SayUncle)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Oh, HELL No!

Real ID 2.0, anyone?
Lawmakers working to craft a new comprehensive immigration bill have settled on a way to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants: a national biometric identification card all American workers would eventually be required to obtain.
Can you think of a better way to unite large numbers of conservatives and liberals than this? I mean, Real ID has states passing laws making it illegal for state agencies to comply with parts of the RealID Act. Why?
Under the potentially controversial plan still taking shape in the Senate, all legal U.S. workers, including citizens and immigrants, would be issued an ID card with embedded information, such as fingerprints, to tie the card to the worker.
Potentially controversial? What planet were they living on when Real ID was being debated? Do they really think Americans have changed enough that quickly for this to not stir up a rain of fecal matter?

Also, unless there's a central database that the information is checked against every time the card is read, I predict it will take less than six months for criminals to crack the code on the cards and start making fakes that read with biometrics matching whoever they decide to give the card to. Less than a year to spoof it, if there is a database (unless some .gov idiot leaks the whole bloody database on a 'lost' laptop, sooner).
"It is fundamentally a massive invasion of people's privacy," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "We're not only talking about fingerprinting every American, treating ordinary Americans like criminals in order to work. We're also talking about a card that would quickly spread from work to voting to travel to pretty much every aspect of American life that requires identification."
Exactly. Just like social security numbers were only supposed to be used for Social Security purposes. It will spread to everything.

(h/t A Conservative Shemale)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Yet more Climate Change shenanigans

Now it's NASA/GISS cooking the numbers.

Now a new "Climategate" scandal is emerging, this time based on documents released by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in response to several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suits filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The newly released emails further demonstrate the politicized nature of climate science, revealing a number of questionable practices that cast doubt on the credibility of scientific data provided by NASA.


In another email, he reveals that NASA had inflated its temperature data since 2000 on a questionable basis. “[NASA's] assumption that the adjustments made the older data consistent with future data… may not have been correct,” he says.


Unfortunately, it seems that the discrepancy privately highlighted by Dr. Ruedy was not coincidental, but part of a broader pattern of misrepresentation on the part of GISS. Between 2002 and 2005, GISS chief James Hansen issued press releases headlined "2005 Warmest Year in a Century;" "2006 was Earth's Fifth Warmest Year;" and "The 2002 meteorological year is the second warmest year in the period of accurate instrumental data." In other words, global warming is happening and that immediate action is necessary.


In fact, further corrections revealed by the emails indicate that U.S. temperatures on average had only increased by 0.5 degree Celsius since 1934, rather than 1 degree, as originally claimed.
There's more - you should go read the whole thing. Remember - even in science - where there's money involved, there's politics involved.

(h/t SayUncle)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Repeal of Virginia's restaurant CHP ban passes

According to the VCDL Blog, SB334, repealing the ban on concealed carry in restaurants, passed the House today unchanged with a vote of 72 to 27! It should be in front of the Governor McDonnell in a week or so. He has indicated in the past that he would sign such a bill, so it's pretty much a done deal.

McDonald v. Chicago - Oral arguments today

Update: Analysis: 2d Amendment extension likely (from SCOTUSBlog)

This is troubling, though:
The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “due process,” since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge. [emphasis mine]
Why is that relevant? Or, to echo a point Mr. Gura made at one time, the SCOTUS should be concerning itself with what the Constitution means, not whether it’s a good idea to follow it.

Just a reminder, oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago are at 10:00 today. Apparently, SCOTUS has decided they will not release the audio, but the transcript should be available later today.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Holy Bullshit!

This fills me with a sick rage.

They ride around seeking out girls who they feel sinned by wearing revealing clothing (anyone who isn't dressed in an ankle-length skirt with a shirt buttoned up all the way and a kerchief covering her hair, apparently), and pass out repugnant pamphlets blaming rape victims for the actions of deranged lunatics who seek power by sexually violating women!
One passage from the pamphlet reads:

“Scripture tells us that when a man looks on a woman to lust for her he has already committed adultery in his heart. If you are dressed in a way that tempts a men to do this secret (or not so secret) sin, you are a participant in the sin,” the leaflet states.“By the way, some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly. So can we really say they were innocent victims?” [emphasis mine]
Nicki hits the nail on the head:
The only difference between these drooling, frothing zealots and their Taliban counterparts is that they haven't gained enough power to start stoning women to death for provocative dress yet.
I hope I never run into one of these idiots. Testing the limits of my self-control is not a good thing, and I really don't need to deal with an assault trial - but someone who tries to tell me a rape victim brought it on herself because of the way she was dressed stands a good chance of losing many teeth. Though I would push for a jury trial if I lost that battle, since I doubt the jury selection process could find 12 people around here who would vote to convict.

Oh, and on a separate note (from the same post at Nicki's) - Pat Robertson, you really need to drink a big tall glass of STFU, you evil piece of revolting buzzard excrement.

Quote of the Day - 1 March 2010

From Tam, remembering her office's first Win95 install:

"You mean all the machines in the office have a browser icon on the desktop?"

"Yes," she replied.

"And a fat pipe right to the Web?"


"And this seems like a good idea to you?"
If only we knew.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A School Shooting, and a Heroic Teacher

There was a school shooting in Colorado today:

One male and one female were shot at about 3:30 p.m. outside Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, Jefferson County Sheriff's office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said. Both students were taken to a nearby hospital and were expected to survive.

Student Steven Seagraves said he was about 10 feet away when an adult approached students and asked them: "Do you guys go to this school?"

When the students said they did, he shot them, Seagraves said.

Seventh-grade math teacher David Benke, a 6-foot-5 inch former college basketball player who oversees the school's track team, tackled the suspect as he was trying to reload his weapon.

Nobody could have blamed Mr. Benke for running for cover. He was unarmed, against someone with a rifle. He saw an opening and took it - at great risk to his own life - to protect his students.

"He was trying to rack another round. He couldn't get another round in before I got to him so I grabbed him," Benke said, recalling that he didn't have time to fear for his life.

They don't say what kind of rifle it was, other than "high-powered" - of course, to the MSM, any rifle is "high-powered." The story says he was reloading, but it sounds more like it may have jammed. I suppose we'll find out later, though I don't expect the media to get it right without getting it wrong at least three different times.

[Update Feb. 24, 2010: NPR says this morning that it was a bolt-action rifle.]

At this time, the shooter appears to have no connection to the school, and no motive has been released.

Good job Mr. Benke, it sounds like you prevented a massacre. Any praise I can offer will fall infinitely short of what you deserve for your courage and quick thinking. Don't beat yourself up because you couldn't stop the first shots - when you have no reason to expect an attack, the attacker will always have the initiative, and the advantage of surprise. You overcame that, and took advantage of a single moment pure, blind luck to save many children.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Climategate, and other things

Jenn over at A Conservative Shemale gives us a great multi-subject post today, starting with more problems for the whole global warming/cooling/climate-change thingamabob:

Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.


“One mistake was a miscalculation; the other was not to allow fully for temperature change over the past 2,000 years. Because of these issues we have retracted the paper and will now invest in the further work needed to correct these mistakes.”
They didn't "allow fully for temperature change over the last 2,000 years." Doesn't that cover the entire period where any man-made climate change would actually have occurred? That's some "mistake"!

She then links us to an article where the AGW pushers are trying to defend their claims.
[N]one of that gets at the question du jour, which is how big a role humans are playing. Until later on. Lashof and Deans say it’s a big one, and their source for saying so is a government report compiled by the nation’s top science, defense, and diplomatic agencies—NOAA, NASA, the Pentagon, the National Science Foundation, the Department of State (none of which have been marred in scandal)—over the course of two decades, through four presidential administrations.
Notice their source is a government report - they don't say where the agencies got their data for the report. Remember, most of the problems cropping up recently in the whole AGW theory are about problems with the data. It doesn't matter how "nonpartisan" the report is if it's based on corrupted, compromised, cherry-picked, or imaginary data.

She also hits on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, taking us to an article about a study showing that other militaries have found allowing openly gay soldiers to continue to serve has not been disruptive even with rapid transitions.

A comprehensive new study on foreign militaries that have made transitions to allowing openly gay service members concludes that a speedy implementation of the change is not disruptive. The finding is in direct opposition to the stated views of Pentagon leaders, who say repealing a ban on openly gay men and women in the United States armed forces should take a year or more.
Remember, a lot of the people pushing for a "slow" repeal of DADT are the ones who don't want it repealed in the first place - or would prefer to go back to the complete ban that existed before DADT.

She has more, too, but you should go to her blog to read it all.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bread and Circuses

Jay G, who is MArooned in the Volksrepublik of Massachusetts, brings us word of the sorry state of public interest, noting that with all the important issues facing the U.S. today, the top headline is Tiger Woods' apology.

As long as we've got our bread-and-circuses, we'll ignore the signposts saying "Hell: 200 miles" all along the way. Distract us with a salacious story of a talented sportsman brought down by his reproductive organs, we'll forget all about the evil in the world, all the crazy, all the many ways our government fails again and again to do what it is supposed to do.

It gets discouraging when you realize that the vast majority of your fellow Americans know the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" but can't name their own Representative...

One of the signs leading up to the fall of Rome was the distraction of the people from important issues and events through the use of rewards and entertainment. This is the origin of the phrase "bread and circuses."

… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)

Roman politicians would attempt to secure votes with cheap food and entertainment, rather than by pursuing sound policy. Eventually the great Republic (and then Empire) declined and fell.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. The state of the U.S. is starting to look pretty familiar in some ways.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


It's 27 degrees F, there's still nearly a foot of snow on the ground, but Blacksburg's most enthusiastic bike cop is not only out patrolling on his bicycle, but he's wearing SHORTS!

He's a great guy, but he's absolutely nucking futs as far as this goes (and yes, I have told him that to his face. Many times. Usually when I see him riding his bike wearing shorts in 10 below omg it's freezing weather.)

He's also one of my favorite cops in town, so this is really nothing more than good natured ribbing. :P

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I knew the "science" behind global warming was sketchy, and the data questionable, but... Wow.

Just one quote:

“We concluded, with overwhelming statistical significance, that the IPCC’s climate data are contaminated with surface effects from industrialization and data quality problems. These add up to a large warming bias,” he said.

Such warnings are supported by a study of US weather stations co-written by Anthony Watts, an American meteorologist and climate change sceptic.

His study, which has not been peer reviewed, is illustrated with photographs of weather stations in locations where their readings are distorted by heat-generating equipment.

Some are next to air- conditioning units or are on waste treatment plants. One of the most infamous shows a weather station next to a waste incinerator.

Watts has also found examples overseas, such as the weather station at Rome airport, which catches the hot exhaust fumes emitted by taxiing jets.

This really has gone from bad science to a farcical cover-up. Read the whole thing.

[h/t Robb, at Sharp as a Marble]

Bill further restricts sex offenders

From the Roanoke Times:

Legislation that would further limit where sex offenders can live and expand the list of convictions that activate those restrictions has drawn the ire of civil libertarians and advocates of reforming those laws.


If enacted, Athey's House Bill 1004 would bar individuals ordered to register as sex offenders for crimes involving a juvenile victim from living within 500 feet of multiple places children are known to frequent.

It would add school bus stops, community parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, public pools and private, parochial and Christian schools to state law, which applies to day care centers, public schools and adjoining public parks.

I have just two comments on this right now:

1) In addition to my next objection, I would have to object to adding school bus stops to the list. They can change from year to year without notice (unless it affects your own kids). What happens to a sex offender who wakes up one morning and finds out they've moved a school bus stop in front of his house? Does he have to move? Can he be charged with a violation immediately even though he wasn't notified? If he does have to move, how long does he have before he can be charged?

2) This objection is actually the most important - even beyond Constitutional considerations. It is, of course, the perennial objection to sex offender registration/restriction laws: If they're so dangerous we have to continually track where they live, and restrict where they can live, work, and travel,


Friday, February 12, 2010

State Censorship

Update: VT administration rejects Commission on Student Affairs' stance

Any effort to end Tech's contract with the Collegiate Times or its parent company, or to ban student organizations from advertising in the newspaper, "is not in the offing," [university spokesman Larry Hincker] said. "That is not the position of this administration."


Virginia Tech is threatening to pull funding from the campus paper (the Collegiate Times, or "CT").

The dispute centers upon a CT policy that allows online readers to post anonymous comments at The [Commission on Student Affairs] and others who support its proposal have objected to reader postings they characterized as racist or otherwise offensive.


Despite its independence, the newspaper receives free office space and $70,000 annually from the university, Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Spencer said.

The commission would further seek to ban student organizations from using university funds to buy ads in the CT, the letter stated.

Such a move could cripple or shut down the newspaper, which derives the majority of its revenues from ad sales. The newspaper's leadership pushed back publicly Thursday.

Essentially, the university wants to ban all anonymous comments on the paper's website because of some "racist or otherwise offensive" postings (ignoring, of course, the question of just who decides what is racist or offensive). The company that owns the CT is standing its ground, and doing so rather aggressively at this point.

The commission has requested another meeting with CT representatives.

But in a response to [commission chairwoman Michelle McLeese], [Kelly Wolff, general manager of the Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech, which owns the CT] wrote: "We have advised the Collegiate Times staff to discontinue discussions with CSA members, individually and collectively, on the topic of online comments. ... This is no longer a dialogue; it is coercion.

"We will wait to hear what the commission says. ... But if they are going to pursue this course of action, then we will take legal action," Wolff said in an interview Thursday.

In a purely private enterprise, this would not be a problem - a sponsor can provide or withdraw funding, facilities, or services at will and for any reason (within the limits of existing contracts). Virginia Tech, however, is an agency of the state (which is why they can't ban firearms on campus for anyone other than employees and students, or for specific events).

Note the sentence that I put in bold in the first quote. This actually goes farther than the university just pulling funding and support, they're also seeking to restrict where student organizations (the Fencing Club, the LGBTA, etc.), would be allowed to advertise.

Should an agency of the state be allowed to dictate terms about content to a newspaper? Should they be allowed to restrict where student organizations advertise? Or does this become a First Amendment violation? My first instinct is that this goes to far, and is an unallowable government coercion of media, but I'm not 100% settled yet - I really haven't had time to give it good, thorough, consideration. Opinions?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


There's been a lot of discussion about how Avatar is just a CGI remake of Fern Gully (or Pocahontas, or Dances With Wolves, etc.), but I think everyone missed it.

It's just a CGI remake of the Smurfs.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Global Warming!!?? F#@K YOU Al Gore!

That beam wasn't broken before we got over a foot of "Global Warming" dumped on us in a week's time!

That's the old carport/party patio in my backyard. This one:

Damn it!!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

About that Global Warming...

That's ten inches worth. That I just finished shoveling out of my driveway. Bite me, Al Gore.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oh, good grief

Now JFK got shut down because someone went through the wrong door.

A busy terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport was evacuated after a man opened a restricted door and set off an alarm, authorities said, making it the second known security breach at a New York-area airport this month.
Authorities earlier said the security breach was caused by a passenger who was exiting Kennedy's Terminal 8 and opened a door that was supposed to be used only by airport workers.
There's a simple way to keep people from going through doors that they're not supposed to go through. It's called a lock. There are even ways to make it easy for the people who are supposed to use the door to open it.

If the TSA was actually about security, these basic measures would have been in place years ago. Instead they use signs. Like a terrorist is going to care about the sign that says "Don't go in here, or else."

Authorities were initially unsure Saturday whether the person had been coming or going from the JFK terminal, and they evacuated the secure areas of the building while they investigated. The Transportation Security Administration said its agents and Port Authority police were involved in the investigation. [emphasis mine]
How much damage could a real terrorist have done during that confusion when the authorities didn't know what was going on.

It's not about security, it's about visibility.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rights versus Convenience

NPR ran a story this morning about a case being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court today. This case revisits a SCOTUS decision last year.

Until last year, prosecutors in all but 10 states could introduce a notarized affidavit from crime lab experts, attesting to their findings with respect to critical evidence. This document was sufficient to state that, for example, the white powder found on a defendant was indeed cocaine, or that a defendant's DNA matched that found on a rape or murder victim. Forensic analysts only appeared if subpoenaed by the defense.

But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that the clause of the Constitution that requires the accused to be confronted by the witnesses against him puts the burden on the state to produce not just paper certificates, but live forensic witnesses, who can be cross-examined. Without these live forensic witnesses, the court decided, forensic evidence cannot be introduced.

The opinion ended up putting actual practice somewhere in the middle - prosecutors must send a notice to the defense that they intend to to introduce an affidavit. The defense can then object to the affidavit being introduced without the witness appearing. If the defendant does not enter an objection, the affidavit is considered sufficient without the witness. This shifts the burden back onto the defendant, but greatly simplifies it by not requiring them to actually go through the more complex process of issuing a subpoena.

Here's the part that concerns me:

Nevertheless, four justices were outraged by the decision, predicting that it would result in a windfall for the defense, huge expense for the states and the release of guilty defendants.

Why do they want to restrict the Rights of the accused based on the expense to the states? Shouldn't a person's Right to face the witnesses against them trump any consideration of convenience and cost-savings of the government? The same government that's prosecuting them?

Only one thing has changed since June. One member of that five-justice majority — David Souter — has retired, and been replaced by Sotomayor. Prosecutors hope that having been a criminal prosecutor herself in New York, Sotomayor will be sympathetic to their cause.

This is why SCOTUS appointments are so important. One Justice can cause a complete reversal of a previous decision. One Justice can tilt the balance of power from the people to the government. One Justice can make the difference in whether you can effectively exercise your rights or not.

Let's not forget that Heller was a 5-4 decision, too.

Some 24 states are asking the court to reverse itself as well, citing backlogs, costs and other problems they say the decision has created.
Again, backlogs, costs, or "other problems" do not matter in the face of a Constitutionally Enumerated Right intended to protect the people from an overzealous or abusive government. Frankly, the decision didn't go far enough - the entire burden should be on the prosecution, and the defendant should not have to do anything for the witness against him to appear at trial.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

NPR had a couple of stories this morning on airport security and the underwear bomber. While both had some interesting information, I found myself getting angrier the longer I listened. Why? Because they kept ignoring the real breakdown in the whole system. They were going on and on about how the intelligence agencies are "inundated" and suffering from information overload. They went on about the full body scanners that wouldn't have caught this guy even if they had been used. I got mad, because they kept ignoring the real question:

How did a lone traveler, who paid cash and had no luggage for an international flight, get on a plane without additional screening?

See, either of those factors alone are generally considered suspicious, and should warrant additional scrutiny. Both together should be a red flag to screeners that this person should be thoroughly investigated before being allowed on the plane. Add in his religion and national origin, and you should have a Big Giant Red Flag signaling that this person should not get on a plane without a strip search and maybe a body cavity search, too.

This was not a failure of the Watch Lists, or the CIA/NSA/FBI or any other intelligence agency. This was not about the failure to use the full body scanners that were at the airport where he boarded. Yes there were failures at all those levels, but they were all irrelevant in this case. This was a failure on the part of the TSA to recognize basic signs of a suicide bomber. This was a failure to use basic security procedures that would have caught this twit in the absence of all the information that the CIA/NSA/FBI/TLA had. Basic procedures that would have stopped him without relying on all the high-tech gizmos that may or may not work.

It just shows that, as many others have pointed out recently, this administration is fundamentally unserious about real security.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Four Rules Reminder

... or, Why the Best Safety is in your Head.

I had a simple little reminder today of why we always, always, follow The Four Rules. Fortunately, there was no ND.

After work, I was changing to go run some errands at the house (since I still haven't been able to get moved in), and went to switch pistols. See, when I'm at work, I wear a suit. But I take the jacket off for most of the day, so I carry my Kel-Tec P3AT in a Crossbreed MicroClip tuckable holster, with my shirt tucked in over it. Virtually unnoticeable, but readily accessible. When I'm not at work, I carry my Taurus PT-145 in a Crossbreed SuperTuck Deluxe. But, I store it in an Uncle Mike's IWB holster. The Uncle Mike's is smaller, and fits in the drawer by my bed, which the Crossbreed doesn't. The Uncle Mike's is easier to put on or take off quickly. If I go on a rescue call in the middle of the night, I can just slip it on, where the Crossbreed takes a little more effort.

Well, I was changing pistols, and I noticed something. When I pulled the Taurus out of the Uncle Mike's holster to slip it in the Crossbreed, I realized the safety was off. Now, out of habit - which I cultivated intentionally - I look at the safety every time the gun is taken out of a holster. I can only assume that it got frobbed somehow in the process of putting it in the Uncle Mike's the night before, or I just missed that it was off.

Now, had I been relying on the safety to keep the gun from firing, there might have been a serious tragedy. But, I know that mechanical safeties can fail, or be manipulated unintentionally, so I also always, always, follow The Four Rules:

Rule 1: The gun is ALWAYS loaded! - In this case, I knew it was loaded anyway.

Rule 2: Never point the gun at anything you do not want to destroy or kill. - It was pointed at the wall, which, while not something I really want to destroy or damage, is repairable. Beyond that wall of the apartment is the brick outside wall and solid earth up to about shoulder level - definitely a safe backstop.

Rule 3: Keep your finger away from the trigger until you are ready to fire. - As always when I'm handling a gun, but not ready or planning to fire it, my trigger finger was indexed along the frame below the slide, and the other fingers were around the grip, giving me a secure hold on the weapon.

Rule 4: Be sure of your target, what is near your target, and what is BEHIND your target. - Since I wasn't planning on firing, this one is not applicable - but see my explanation above on Rule 2. I knew what I was using as a backstop if it did fire, and I knew what was behind it.

It always pays to stop and review The Four Rules occasionally. This time, I got a surprising but harmless reminder of why they exist. Next time, it could be an ND, but if I follow the Rules, it won't be a tragedy.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sherlock Holmes, as he was meant to be!

(Warning - contains minor spoilers)

I saw Sherlock Holmes tonight, and I can only agree with LawDog - Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law bring us Holmes and Watson as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle meant them to be. LawDog puts it better than I can:
Is this movie an accurate depiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous literary invention? That depends.

If you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes of the books, then yes. If you are a fan of the Hollywood version of the detective -- then no.

This is going to come as a shock to some folks, but Basil Rathbone was a lousy Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Arthur penned a Sherlock Holmes who was a young man -- probably in his late twenties, but no older than mid-30's -- who was a genius, yes, but also manic-depressive.

In "A Study In Scarlet", Sir Arthur -- through Dr. Watson -- described how Holmes would be seized by melancholia and would lie upon his sofa, in the dark, for days without speaking or moving; in other stories, Holmes would be "seized by an intensity" and go for days without eating or sleeping, until he fainted.

He is -- as written by Doyle -- an eccentric, who kept his unanswered mail nailed to the mantel with a pen-knife; his tobacco stored in the toe of a shoe; and his cigars in a coal-bin.

He is an addict, who self-medicates his depression with a 7% solution of IV cocaine, with occasional forays into morphia use.
Robert Downey, Jr. does a bang-up job of portraying the Holmes of the books - mania, depression, and all. A man who can fight as well as reason, and is tenacious once the game is afoot.

Jude Law gives us an intelligent, competent, Watson - able to keep up with Holmes' mania, his eccentricities, his reasoning, his secretive planning, who can hold his own in a fight, and who has become familiar enough with Holmes' methods to make his own deductions.

They do take some liberties with the "official" continuity. The movie takes place shortly before Watson's marriage, but there are references to "A Scandal in Bohemia," which took place after his marriage. Watson learns of Moriarty, even though he had not heard of him at the start of "The Final Problem," which also took place after his marriage. There may be other discontinuities, but I'll admit that it's been so long since I read the books that I didn't really notice any.

Despite that, it was a good movie, true to the characters and the spirit of the books. It's made me want to read all the stories again (thank goodness for Project Gutenberg, which has all the Holmes stories - and more - available for free online).

I heartily recommend this movie, for all Sherlock Holmes fans. Go, and enjoy!

Sunday, January 03, 2010


Jenn over at A Conservative Shemale points out the the super-duper high-tech body scanners everyone is shouting about in the aftermath of the underwear bomber apparently would not have actually done any good, even if they had been used.
I guess it’s time to state the obvious- There is no one perfect system. We need a defense in depth strategy that is going to have to include some form of profiling.

I'm really starting to like her. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders.

The high-tech stuff does have it's place, but as she said, there is no one perfect system. Consider the body scanners. One weakness - if I understand the system right - is that it doesn't penetrate skin. Now imagine a really fat terrorist, and what he could hide in his folds. (I apologize profusely for that disturbing mental image.) We absolutely need a defense in depth strategy, and it is going to have to include some form of profiling.

The problem is that people hear "profiling" and think "ZOMG, we're going to strip search anyone who looks middle-eastern! Religious persecution!" and immediately shut their brains down and fight it, regardless of what profiles are actually used. So, of course, no politician who cares about getting re-elected (which is pretty much all of them) would ever dream of allowing profiling to happen on their watch.

But profiling does not automatically mean using race or religion based profiles. The underwear bomber would have been caught with a simple profile that had no references to race, religion, or even gender - he paid cash for his ticket (already a red flag), and he had no luggage for an international flight. Either one of those facts should have triggered additional scrutiny and a more intensive search before boarding, both together should have had him pulled aside for a detailed interview and background check.

But, you know, religion and race shouldn't be ignored when creating those profiles, either. If John Smith goes to Pakistan and comes back as Muhammad Abdullah, it should raise suspicions. Abdul Khadar from Terroristan should be asked more than just "did you leave your luggage unattended," and should go through a little more scrutiny than just walking through a metal detector with his shoes off before boarding the plane. Along the same lines, Joe and Jane Jones from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, traveling with their two year old daughter and three month old infant, are very likely not terrorists, and probably don't need to be strip searched.

As long as you don't let yourself be blinded by the profiles, or allow them to be abused, they can be extremely effective. Just ask the Israelis.