Sunday, June 30, 2002- - -
I hope the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash was a success and everyone found themselves a place to get horizontal afterward with no problems.
We couldn't make it, but we did stop at the newly remodeled Cowfish brew pub in Lander, Wyo. to hoist one in their honor. As per usual, I tried their IPA, which is quite good, although it's more of a red ale, a bit thick and heavy for IPA (the 'PA" stands for pale ale guys!). Their pilsner is also very good. Bottom line, they have used plenty of hops while exercising sufficient restraint that their most heavily hopped beers are still quite drinkable. They've only been open for a couple of days and these beers are their first effort, so I'll be looking forward to our next visit.
The Cowfish was on the way home from doing our archaeology dance on a little wildcat well just south of the aptly named Cyclone Ridge; one of those places where the jet stream frequently touches the ground. For those of you not familiar with Cyclone Ridge, it's at the intersection of the old Casper to Lander stage road, and Waltman to Sweetwater Station stage road. At one time it was a major crossroads for western travelers. Now, there's not much there at all and not many people remember places like Ervay and Muskrat, although anyone who watches much TV has probably heard of the Sweetwater Station. Despite it's use as the setting for the Young Riders horse opera, as far as I know, nothing very exciting ever happened there in real life; it doesn't even rate a mention in T.A. Larson's History of Wyoming.
It's interesting that as of 1978, Larson thought that even the major historic trails - the Oregon, California, Mormon, Pony Express routes - had left no significant imprint on modern Wyoming. The travelers spent less than 30 days in Wyoming and left little besides ruts, names and dates on trailside cliffs, a few place names, and some graves. (Page 11 of the revised 2nd ed.) While this is perfectly true, these transcontinental trails also left us an enormously politicized regulatory headache.
This interview of my good friend and very hyper guy, Jude Carino, illustrates the problem. There are enormous conflicts between those who want to develop the trails for tourism and recreation, the folks who want the trails to be preserved with absolutely no impact anywhere near them, and the folks who see the trails as another obstacle to development. Of course, among this last group are those who see this obstacle as a good thing as well as those who see it as a bad idea.
Because I have to deal with the national and regional trails practically every time I set foot outside, I see them as an enormous pain in the butt. It is not possible to please all of these interests and they are all very vocal and very political.
Part of the problem with managing the trails in any fashion is that these were not officially designated rights-of-way with documented and mapped routes. Every time the trail got muddy, or a spring dried up, or forage for livestock became insufficient, a new route was blazed. These routes form a broad corridor of braided trails across the landscape, not a single identifiable set of ruts. Most often we rely on the General Land Office maps from the 1870-1900 period to determine the route of the trails, and these commonly identified only the most prominent route, or that still in use considerably after the period of westward migration.
From aerial reconnaissance and on the ground it is often possible to identify a whole series of abandoned trail routes, but absent the GLOs or other historic documentation, or datable artifacts along the route (which are very rare) it becomes impossible to determine the period of use of an abandoned trail rut with any certainty. In some areas it is possible to distinguish trail swales created by livestock-drawn wagons from those created by motor vehicles, but then some folks out here relied on wagons until WWII - some still do, particularly shepherds in remote areas - so identifying a wagon trail isn't necessarily sufficient to make the route part of the historic system.
One thing's for sure, the problem isn't going away and the trails certainly do have an impact on modern Wyoming.
Don't miss Dave Barry today! He has the perfect solution for those men who don't read owner's manuals.
Way back when [over 5 months ago and I'm not bored yet!] I got quite a few complaints about broken links, although those links seemed to work fine for me, using IE 5.5. Finally, Anton Sherwood explained that I needed to insert a ?/ in each link in order for those links to work with some other browsers (who knows why - perhaps it's magic, but sometimes the magic works..). I've been doing so ever since, with no further link complaints.
Now however, Anton informs me that something has changed and I should not insert the ?/. My question: Does anyone else out there have any problem with either of the following two links?
This link from Samizdata has the ?/ automatically inserted (immediately after the "blogspot.com"). This link from No Watermelons does not have the ?/. Both links work perfectly well for me..
Friday, June 28, 2002- - -
Hmmm. I'd like to point out that I've been dissing Cal Thomas since last January (it's even in my "I owe it to Geraldo" post). Back then I noted that Thomas is terribly biased and goofy to boot; a perfect foil for any left-biased newspaper that wishes to give the illusion of balance. I even ventured to guess that his problem stems from that old solitary sin: excessive self-googling. (Via the InstaPundit, of course.)
This post by Megan McArdle jogged my elbow, as it reminded me what we in Wyoming have in common with Cuba. Wyoming has been criticized for being a bit behind the times, and sometimes we are. For instance, about the time that everyone else on earth has figured out that socialism and welfare don't work, our state government has decided to get into the socialist act: They've decided to take huge chunks of the taxpayer's and industry's money and dole it out to select businesses. Not all businesses, just the ones that will agree to do the state's bidding.
I've posted on these guys before: Our illustrious Wyoming Business Council. They initially drew my ire with the goofy recommendations they made to our city and county government, when the locals decided to jump into the economic development arena. Lord knows the economy around here could use some development; like many areas in the heartland, we're losing population and particularly young folks. That's not good. Nor can I fault the locals for asking the advice of the WBC, that's what they're supposed to do. [I do fault them for deciding that they needed to raise the sales tax rate to fund their efforts, before they even had any firm idea what they intended to do.]
But such advice they got. Someone at the WBC had been to a conference somewhere where the virtues of business parks (free/cheap land/utilities for any developer who'll start specific types of businesses) and calling centers (yes, telemarketers, the scum of the earth) had been extolled. The problem with a business park is that almost any business that could be started there will be in competition with some existing business. We could use more competition for the existing businesses, but not from corporate welfare queens. Furthermore, there are commercial retail and industrial properties of all sizes sitting available now, why spend our tax money to create more?
The problem with calling centers, other than the obvious, is that they require a large pool of underemployed, educated workers, because they have a very rapid employee turnover rate. While it might be possible to start a very small calling center in a place like Worland (population 5250), such a small center would have a hard time competing with the huge centers located in big cities. Starting a calling center the size of that proposed by the WBC, one that would employ 40-50 people, just doesn't seem to be a viable option for a town this small. Besides, would you want your kids working at a calling center?
My complaint with the WBC, aside from the fact that they exist to dole out corporate welfare, is basically that they have a mindlessly one-size-fits-all approach. They pushed business parks and calling centers in Cheyenne (population 50,000, yahoo!), so they push the same solutions out here, without much thought to the resources or needs of the town - it's not their money they're piddling away after all. Thus, even Manderson (population 104) has a business park - a greasewood flat marked off into lots, with street signs and fire hydrants, just in case a dozen businesses decide to relocate there (to be fair, they dreamed this up before the WBC existed, but they're still waiting for a business to take them up on their offer).
Washakie County's voters listened to the proposal to raise taxes to fund a business park and calling center, and rejected the idea by an uncomfortably small margin in a special election last summer. There was no organized opposition to the plan, and I, for one, didn't think it would be necessary, as the proposal seemed so obviously silly. After losing the vote despite the lack of any organized opposition I would have thought that the whole corporate welfare idea would go away quietly, but it's back.
The latest? Start a "general merchandise" store downtown that will be controlled by a committee of appointees. They've already received some funding from the WBC for this effort. On one hand, this shows greater sensitivity to the needs of the local community; there are an awful lot of empty storefronts downtown (just think of all those tourists that drive by on their way to Yellowstone, all you entrepreneurs!!). On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how the existing local merchants react, as 'general merchandise' would seem to imply that they'll be competing with quite a few of the existing businesses. So far the proposal is to fund this endeavor through the sale of stock, but I suspect it's only a matter of time before the tax issue returns. We shall see.
I was lying awake earlier, thinking about fires and wolves, and mountain lions and guns, and generally seething about folks who argue from emotion rather than reason. I started to think about those topics that are most near and dear to me and wondering whether I sometimes become too emotional about these topics to think clearly, when I had one of those sudden I didn't say that, did I? revelations. So I went back and read this post I'd written after an email exchange I'd had with Anton Sherwood.
Frankly, I don't know what I was thinking. In retrospect, I think I had my argument exactly backwards. If there is an individual right to drive protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, then I think Anton is right, it's contained in the Ninth Amendment, and perhaps the Tenth. I argued for the Commerce Clause (Art. I, Sec. 8), but although that clause may have been designed to limit the power of the individual states, its purpose is to convey regulatory power to the federal government, and the feds have used the Clause to extend their power in many areas. In fact, the Commerce Clause was used as the basis of the federal government's power to enact the Gun Control Act of 1968 - I knew this. What I don't know is why I ever argued that the Clause has anything to do with any individual right.
Thursday, June 27, 2002- - -
Here's a map of relative drought conditions throughout the US. This makes it pretty clear why the Rockies are burning.
An interesting article in today's Washington Post. Of course, the politization of wildlands management extends well beyond the fire problem.
Academy, n. (from academe). A modern school where football is taught.
Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary
And unfortunately, not much else. (Courtesy of Bill Quick)
The Fusilier Pundit has a great idea. Would some of you techie types please get to work on this?
How decisions are really made in DC..
Wednesday, June 26, 2002- - -
In the latest Rifle, John Barsness has an article on the factors affecting accuracy in rifles (July 2002, pp. 43). Says he: I own several modern custom rifles, and they do kill game, but they are no more necessary to successful deer hunting than a dualed-out chrome-magged, wench-equipped 4x4 pickup.
I agree that the duals and chrome aren't much use, but I never leave home without the wench.. Well, except deer hunting, she's not much interested in that.
WaPo: In "A Workforce at Risk: The Troubled State of the Federal Public Service," [Brookings Institution scholar Paul C.] Light writes that the proportion of federal employees who said they were "very satisfied" with their jobs dropped 6 percentage points in the past year to 43 percent. The number of civil servants who said they "personally contribute a great deal" to accomplishing their organization's mission dropped by 11 percentage points to 45 percent.
At the same time, the number of civil servants who said they came to work mainly for the paycheck rose from 31 percent to 41 percent.
What a surprise.
Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.
Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary
From this news, one is forced to wonder whether, if the number of incarcerated misdemeanants is simply a measure of the size of the jail budget, it might be better to consider not jailing them in the first place. (Via the LA Examiner)
"These are low-grade misdemeanors," Assistant Sheriff Dennis Dahlman said. "The people with $25,000 bail are not dangerous people. As a group, they are probably poor people who would have bailed out if they had the money. On their written promise to appear, we'll issue them a citation." ...
"Convicted criminals belong in jail and not on the streets," said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
Another historical tidbit:
[At the end of the Civil War] After a brief stint as a civilian treasury agent in Alabama, [Ambrose] Bierce rejoined his mentor [Col. William B. Hazen] on a six-month tour of western forts. Hazen had been named assistant inspector general of the Department of the Platte, and his new duties required him to inspect conditions in the Powder River territory of Montana and Wyoming. He asked Bierce to come along and make a few sketches to accompany his report. In return, he could practically guarantee him a captain's bars in the regular army. The trip was not without its risks. The region's native inhabitants, the Sioux, Cheyenne, and other Plains Indians, were less than enchanted by the steady influx of white gold-seekers onto their land. They regularly made their objections known. A few days after the party arrived at Ft. Reno, a pair of unwary travelers was murdered almost within sight of the fort. Bierce and Hazen managed to avoid a similar fate, although they dined with a number of fellow officers who would not be so lucky. Besides hostile Indians, the party faced the usual ardors of life on the trail: rattlesnakes, dust storms, dried-up watering holes, scorching temperatures, lack of food, and the unwelcome attention of foraging buffalo, one of which grabbed a sleeping teamster by the hair and came near to scalping him after mistaking the man's locks for a clump of grass. Not surprisingly, Bierce had unfond memories of the trip: "If in all that region there is a mountain I have not climbed, a river I have not swum, an alkali pool that I have not thrust my muzzle into, or an Indian that I have not shuddered to think about, I am ready to go back in a Pullman sleeper and do my duty."
Roy Morris, Jr. In an Introduction to Ambrose Bierce' Devil's Dictionary, OUP, 1999.
Almost scalped by a buffalo, eh? Well, Bierce was a newspaperman and not above coloring the facts a bit on occasion..
Gary Owen, Gary Owen, Gary Owen,
In that valley in Montana all alone ..
There'll be better days than these
for the Seventh Cavalry,
When we ride again for dear old Gary Owen.
Today is the 126th anniversary of the battle of the Greasy Grass - that the white men call Little Bighorn.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002- - -
Oh yeah! I almost forgot. We stopped by the Wynkoop Brewery, just to make sure their wares were adequate for the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash. Now I'm really sorry we won't be able to make the Bash. I always judge a microbrewery by their IPA, and Wynkoop's Imperial IPA is outstanding. Nicely hoppy and very swillable. A lot of the microbrewers seem to think that if a lot of hops is good, then lots and lots and lots of hops is better, and the IPA will taste like it's been strained through a bail of alfalfa. Wynkoop's IPA is well hopped without tasting like a mouthful of grass - very nicely done. I also tried a sample of their St. Charles E.S.B. and it's very good as well. My wife preferred the Boxcar Kölsch, which is also light and swillable, but a little low on hops and slightly too sweet for my taste.
Unfortunately, it was a drive-by swilling, as their burgers also looked absolutely great. Enjoy folks!
Silly git! I tried to take Andrew Sullivan's survey, but one of my responses would be 'none of the above' and I never answer survey questions about my income. Unfortunately, 'none of the above,' or 'no response' are not options, nor is leaving a question blank, so I guess I'd either have to give erroneous information or not do the survey at all.
From today's Casper Star-Tribune [no link to letter]:
Goodall to all: mountain lions aren't vermin
Editor: Open Letter to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department:
I am writing because of my interest in mountain lions. How shocking that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department treats these beautiful cats as "vermin." It was when I learned this that I agreed to sit on the board of the Cougar Fund. I want to join forces with the growing number of informed people who believe mountain lions should be protected by law. [The Wyoming Game & Fish recognizes three classes of wildlife: big game, small game, and non-game species. Mountain lions are managed as a big game animal. As such they are protected by a variety of laws. Ed.]
My more than 40 years scientific study of chimpanzees in Africa has made it clear that there is no sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. We are not the only beings with personalities, minds and feelings. All animals with complex brains, such as mountain lions, can feel pain, discomfort and fear.
How is it possible that the Game and Fish Department can issue a license to kill a mountain lion for just $20? Is the life of a highly evolved individual worth so little? It is an insult to the species and to all of nature. That hunting of this sort can be considered "sport," and that it is legal in Wyoming is shameful. [Would it make you feel better, Ms. Goodall, if the fee was higher? The license price is set as a matter of supply and demand. Only about half the mountain lion quota was filled in the agency's western region last hunting season, according to Game and Fish Wildlife Supervisor Gary Brown. Mountain lions are one of the most difficult animals to hunt, it requires considerable specialized knowledge and gear, and there just aren't that many people who are capable of bagging one. Ed.]
I understand that your regulations make it illegal to kill a mother with kittens, or to kill kittens less than one year of age. It is categorically stated by experts that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between adult males and females. Thus to believe that a hunter can know if a female is lactating before he pulls the trigger is clearly absurd. If she is killed, then her kittens will slowly starve to death. The hunter will then, by your own regulations, be guilty of two illegal acts. Will he be prosecuted? [Actually, he'd be guilty of three illegal acts, with one of them being hunting out of season. The hunting season for lions runs from Sept. 1 - March 31 in most areas, a time when the females should not be lactating. Those areas where the season is extended are those where the most human/lion incidents have been recorded. Ed.] I am particularly concerned by the fact that your department is setting quotas for mountain lions based on data regarding numbers and distribution of mountain lions in Wyoming that even you admit to be unsound. Rather than increase the quota then, it would be wise to decrease it pending a rigorous scientific study. [Present staff of the Wyoming Game & Fish Laboratory consists of four full time permanent personnel and five contract/temporary personnel. I know Tom D. Moore, the Branch Chief/Lab Manager. He's a good scientist and a good man, but he can only do so much. However, I'm sure he'd be glad to accept donations from the Cougar Fund if you'd care to put your money where your mouth is. Ed.]
[Snip a bunch more emotional BS. Ed.]
Indeed, it would seem that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would be well-advised to try and educate people as to the facts concerning mountain lions. [They're trying, as you can see from exploring the links above. Ed.] They are a magnificent part of America's wildlife heritage. As a concerned individual with a love of the natural world and a deep respect for individual animals, I would urge complete protection for the species.
Jane Goodall, Bournemouth, England
Jane Goodall Institute of Chimpanzee Research
(This letter was shortened.)
Armchair quarterbacks are one thing. Armchair environmentalists are quite another. We're in the midst of a serious drought. The population of deer is down due to that and perhaps some other factors. Being higher on the food chain, the lion population is slower to react to the drought and, while we would certainly wish for more data on these elusive animals, one thing's for sure: Mountain lions were overpopulated before the drought began and they are way overpopulated now.
The remaining deer populations are moving down into the valleys along the drainages were they can find forage and the mountain lions are following them. Of course, most of the towns in the state are also located along these drainages. As the deer move into town so do the lions. They haven't eaten anyone yet, but they've taken several small pets that we know of, and probably a bunch that we don't hear about. Should we wait until they take a small child from someone's backyard?
Lord knows the Wyoming Game and Fish isn't perfect. They try to manage the wildlife according to the best scientific principles but, thanks to Ms. Goodall and her ilk, they are becoming more politicized all the time. It is this same politicization of forest management by armchair environmentalists that is the root cause of a great deal of our present fire misery. The sad part is, Ms. Goodall knows better, or should.
Update: Please understand that I don't want to live where there's no room for grizzlies, lions, and wolves (not to mention a few coyotes). But remember that this is one of those big square red states where most folks value people over the wildlife. If a mountain lion harms or kills a child it's quite likely that the reaction would be a demand by the people who live here and vote here, for the extermination of the lions. I think that's understandable, but it would also be tragic. It's far better that the lions learn a healthy fear of humans and stay away from populated areas.
Monday, June 24, 2002- - -
Will Warren has fresh verse today and a good one, too.
Something that came in the email. As usual there's no attribution, so if anyone knows the author please let me know..
Old Fred was flying across the Pacific on Delta/Northwest and decided he had to go to the bathroom. So he got up and started walking down the aisle, but just as he passed the plane door it malfunctioned, opened and he was sucked out.
Miraculously he survived landing in the water and saw a tropical island nearby. He swam to it, certain that he would soon be rescued. However, fifteen years passed and no one came to his rescue. Fortunately there was a spring on the island and he survived on coconuts and fish.
Finally one day, as he was drawing sand pictures at the beach, he sees a woman in a trim-fitting scuba outfit emerge from the ocean. She is a beautiful blonde!
She says, "Are you Fred Norton?"
Totally surprised, he says, "Why yes I am !"
"Congratulations, I am from Rescue Inc., and we have been attempting to find you since you were lost. Now tell me, how long has it been since you've had a smoke?"
"Well, of course it's been about 15 years."
So she reaches down the front of her wet-suit on the left side and pulls out a package of Camel cigarettes.
"How in the world did you know that my favorite brand was Camel?"
"We have researched all of your preferences very carefully Fred, we want to do a good job."
So as Fred is taking a deep, satisfying drag on his cigarette, the rescuer says, "And how long has it been since you've had a drink?"
"Well, that's fifteen years too."
And so she reaches down inside the wetsuit on the other side and pulls out a bottle of Jack Daniels.
"How did you know that Jack Daniels was my favorite drink?"
"Well, Fred, as I said we have looked into all of those things too, do you mind if I have a drink too?"
"No, of course not." And they both put a couple away.
Then, she starts to peel off the wet suit. She smiles as she says, "And, tell me Fred, how long has it been since you've played around?"
Fred-----"Wow! Wow! Wow! Don't tell me you've got a set of golf clubs in there!"
Of course, what's utterly dumb about all such efforts is that they won't stop terrorists. Remember when the INS issued a clean bill to Atta et al? Don't you suppose he'd have qualified for a frequent flier pass too?
Attempts to “trade” liberty for security can only produce neither. *
*Update: Incidentally, I've been reading more from this outfit. At first glance it all looks pretty good, but the harder I look the loonier they sound. A rather poor choice of links on my part.
Real donkey dong!
There hasn't been much meaningful movement of late in the case of Cobell v. Norton, the Individual Indian Trust case. In a way that's not surprising, as it's not clear that there is any consensus on what should be done.
Bottom line, the Individual Indian Trust holds the private property of individual citizens 'in trust,' something that this advocate of private property rights and limited government finds utterly abhorrent. However, it is far from clear that the Indians themselves wish to end this relationship, nor does the lawsuit demand anything of the sort.
The Department of the Interior seems happy to continue the shell game, proposing one reorganization scheme after another. But while none of these efforts has met with approval by the tribes, some sort of reorganization seems to be the demand. With the exception of Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians, who has said that reorganization is not the answer and Indians are tired of negotiating with the government - "We just want the money," said Hall - there seems to be no demand for outright abolition of the system and return of the properties to the control of the owners.
The armed and dangerous Eric Raymond has put together a three-part series of essays on Islam that paints a bleak picture. If he's correct - and I'm not qualified to judge - we're in for a long battle with the Islamists and with our own ideals. This is definitely required reading.
In Part I he explores the roots of our current situation: "Diplomatic lies notwithstanding, Islam is anything but a `religion of peace'. Any honest scholar will tell you that Islam is a religion of violence, martyrdom, and conversion by the sword. The duty to wage war for the propagation of the faith is plainly written in the Koran; Osama bin Laden's suicide bombers are part of a tradition that springs from Islam's warlike origins and has been re-affirmed in every generations by ghazis, hashishim, and numerous other varieties of holy warrior. ...
The grim truth is that Osama bin Laden's fanatic interpretation of Islam is Koranically correct. The God of the Koran and Mohammed truly does demand that idolatry be purged with fire and sword, and that infidels must be forced either to convert to Islam or (as a limited exception for Christians and Jews, the "Peoples of the Book") live as second-class citizens subject to special taxes and legal restrictions. The Koran really does endorse suicidal martyrdom and the indiscriminate killing of infidels for the faith."
In Part II, Raymond explains the motivations of Al Qaeda: "The first thing to understand is that Osama bin Laden is neither crazy nor stupid. He is a very intelligent, educated, visionary man who is operating from deep within the Islamic worldview. He's trying to do on a global scale what the Ayatollah Khomeini did in Iran in 1979; he's bucking for the job of Caliph of Islam ("Khalifa" in Arabic)."
As he says in Part III: "Americans are almost universally ignorant of Islamic doctrine and history. .. Americans are not yet ideologically prepared to fight the war against terror as it must be fought if we are to win."
This is powerful stuff. Go read it. Then read it again.
Coyote Bait! [I fall for this routine every time]
Sunday, June 23, 2002- - -
Via Eugene Volokh, here's an article on the use of truth serum in questioning terrorists. Very interesting, but I still maintain that a diet of hospital food would get cooperation just as fast.
Of course, the problem with all such is whether use of such tactics would be restricted to terrorism investigation. Another post by Eugene Volokh illustrates just how fast our keepers can expand any such powers.
Good shootin' Tex! I can't post pictures, but here's my score from yesterday, testing my glass bedding job and doing some preliminary load work for the poodle shooter (tm). Six five-shot groups at 100 yards, all with Sierra 52 gr HPBT Match bullets and various powder charges:
Five in Best 4
I'm recording a "Best 4" because the trigger on this critter is atrocious and I'm calling at least one flier per group. Thus, the best 4 are probably a better indication of the mechanical accuracy of the gun. What all this tells me is that the glass bedding job worked, and very well. Here are six with the same ammo selection prior to the bedding job, barely minute-of-poodle accuracy:
Five in Best 4
Now that I've got it shooting groups instead of patterns I'll take my three best loads and back off to 200 and 300 yards, as the difference between a 0.49" group and a 0.55" group is pretty meaningless. I also suspect that the 0.23" group is an accident - I'm working with a very light weight bolt action sporter, not a heavy-barrelled bench gun - but I can always hope it wasn't a fluke. I'd been hoping that the trigger would smooth out some with use, but I'm afraid it's time for a new trigger now that I know it would be worthwhile.
A word to the wise: It was very hot yesterday and I was shooting at a sustained fire rate of one shot per minute for each five-shot string, which doesn't let the barrel cool much between shots. I was trying a new powder I'd not tried before, but I was following the manufacturer's recommended starting loads when I pierced a primer on my fifth shot, something I've never before experienced. I have no idea what went wrong. Each load was carefully weighed and all powder levels were visually compared, besides which this was a very bulky load and it would be about impossible to accidentally load too much powder - it simply wouldn't fit in the casing - so I'm reasonably certain that the load was as specified by the manufacturer. You can bet I'll be corresponding with the manufacturer before I try any more of that stuff! No harm done, but if I hadn't been wearing shooting glasses I'd be in intensive care right now, instead of in the market for a new set of shooting glasses.
Canoe news is running an opinion poll. The results so far are absolutely hilarious:
Who will be premier of Quebec after the next general election?
Total Votes for this Question: 8817
So far, 3% have voted for Bernard Landry
So far, 31% have voted for Jean Charest
So far, 21% have voted for Mario Dumont
So far, 2% have voted for Other
So far, 42% have voted for Don't Care
"We assure Muslims that Sheik Osama bin Laden is in good health, and all that has been reported about his sickness or his being injured in Tora Bora is completely false. The sheik will address the (Muslim) community soon in a televised interview." Al-Qaida's spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, is quoted as saying.
In other news, Elvis Presley will be appearing at the Las Vegas Sands soon, real soon.
Dave Barry is dangerously close to losing his sense of humor today. With good reason.
Saturday, June 22, 2002- - -
Ever since I read Krugman's article on prescription drug benefits I've been dying to get home and see what Megan McArdle had to say about it. I agree that one huge undiscussed problem is the assumption that having someone else pay for the drugs has no effect on consumption of drugs.
The problem I see to all such giveaways was inadvertently illustrated recently by one of our local loony lefties in a whiny letter to the editor of the local rag. Seems the old feller had been feeling a little constipated one evening and decided he wanted an enema. But it was too much trouble to go to the store and buy one for a couple of bucks, so he went to the hospital emergency room. Now he's upset that they had to examine him instead of just administering the enema he wanted, because the charges for the emergency room visit wound up being around $600 and Medicare only picked up about ¾ of the fees. His complaint? If we'd only agreed to HillaryCare he wouldn't have had to foot any of the bill.
My thought is that the old jerk learned his lesson and won't be asking the rest of us to buy him any more $600 enemas, but if he had his way we'd be paying for a podiatrist to trim his toenails every week. He's entitled to it, don't you see?
Megan McArdle has another outstanding post on Social Security privatization. Her post and the comments are required reading. I agree completely with Megan about the need to privatize SocSec and I've been putting aside as much as I can each month because I don't intend to spend my later years eating dog food, which is about what SocSec will buy you now.
Ah! To titillate without tattling. I'll have to watch what I say here.
We have a new blog on the block that should be very interesting, by my occasional correspondent, the mysterious Fusilier Pundit. At least for now he wishes to remain anonymous, and I certainly understand why (I know the secret! Nanner Nanner!). While his correspondence with me has been mostly of a personal nature and not anything I've posted on, I've been one of the folks encouraging him to start a blog - although I've found his correspondence delightful and certainly never a bother, I'm glad he's decided to share with the rest of you.
This is one to keep an eye on - he's writing from a very interesting perspective.
Friday, June 21, 2002- - -
Home sweet home! We managed to fulfill all our familial and business obligations in Denver and still take in a couple of Rockies games. Some hideous play on Wednesday including my absolute favorite - an intentional walk to load the bases followed by an unintentional walk to score a run. Lucky for me the Rockies redeemed themselves with an extra innings win on Thursday, or my wife would still be fuming - the Rockies were her reward for putting up with all the other running around I needed to do.
We hadn't been to Lower Downtown Denver since early last year and I'm impressed by the progress being made on renovation and rehabilitation of LoDo. They've got a lot of grand old 1870's era buildings and they're doing a great job of renovating them and a usually good job of maintaining the character of the neighborhood with the new construction, with Coors Field being an excellent example. Twenty years ago I wouldn't have set foot in LoDo in broad daylight, now it's relatively safe to walk the streets at midnight.
I've driven in NYC, DC, LA, and many other big cities, and I'm always struck by how laid back and courteous Denver drivers are. The traffic was hideous leaving Denver at 5 pm Thursday, but not a single horn honked the entire way out of town. Pretty cool folks.
As near as I can figure the entire northern Rockies are afire. Thick smoke haze from Denver all the way to the Montana border. Not a pretty sight.
The highlight of the entire trip: We saw a small herd of Bighorn sheep ewes and lambs grazing along the highway at the southern mouth of the Wind River Canyon a couple of hours ago. They're usually much more wary of human activity, especially when they have new lambs, and it looks like there's pretty good forage in the Owl Creek and Bridger Mountains in that area, so the only explanation I can come up with for their being so close to the highway is lack of water in the high country. A lot of the small springs and seeps in the Bighorn Mountains are drying up and I wonder if the same isn't happening there. Lack of water in the high country would force them down to the river along the highway.
And I thought it was dry here. At least the farmers here still have some water for irrigation, some of the farmers east of Denver appear to have lost their irrigation water already, and there's hardly a trickle of water in the South Platte. Some awfully sorry-looking crops and a lot of land that wasn't cultivated this year.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002- - -
Brian Linse has another post on the gun show loophole. Frankly, I find his argument very weak from a logical standpoint, and more than a bit offensive:
"What will the "there is no loophole" folks say if, (God forbid) an act of terrorism is perpetrated on US soil by some of bin Laden's boys armed with gun show weapons? Why should we support the Bush Administration's weakening of other civil liberties, yet leave this potential threat unattended?"
So what is Mr. Linse trying to say here? Is he trying to say that if we don't agree that there's a gun show loophole and we won't agree to close that loophole, that, by our very disagreement we could be somehow aiding and abetting OBL et al? If that's what he's trying to say, I find it patently offensive.
And what about addressing potential threats? Only two paragraphs above that first quote Mr. Linse points to a ".. US Bureau of Justice Statistics site that shows that gun show purchased weapons have so far been an insignificant percentage of the guns used in domestic criminal activity. Gun show and flea market weapons accounted for only 2%, while family, friends, illegal buys, and street buys accounted for 80% (1997 stats).
So if the gun show loophole is a potential threat worthy of closing to protect us from terrorists, what about the enormously greater threat from guns derived from ".. family, friends, illegal buys, and street buys .."? Obviously illegal buys are already illegal, but if the gun show loophole presents a serious threat then certainly we must allow that all those guns in the hands of our family and friends are an even greater threat. What about them? What about all the guns on display at the local hardware? Those are a far greater potential source of weapons for terrorists.
Once you start following this argument, where do you stop? IMHO, this is as slippery as a slope can get.
Off to Denver for the rest of the week. This probably marks the first time in my life that I'll be too early.
Monday, June 17, 2002- - -
Not much blogging this morning, as I've received several great links to old aircraft from reader Capt. J.M. Heinricks and I've been busy drooling.
I want one of these - a flying Winnebago complete with trolling motor and fish finder - just the thing for the impatient fisherman. But don't go back to Jamaica in one..
Sgt. Stryker says he'd rather be a smartass than a bitter old Schlitz drinker. Good advice, but too late for me. What I want to know is who told him about my bug zapper..
And now that I know who he was looking at, the same photo conveys a considerably different message.
Have you seen what these guys want to do with A-10s?
Sunday, June 16, 2002- - -
What a mess! The Hayman Fire is up to 102,895 acres as of yesterday afternoon. That's 160 square miles! 25 residences, 1 commercial property and 13 outbuildings are known to be lost, and 10,000 more are threatened, not to mention powerlines, pipelines, and a bunch of other infrastructure. Entire, towns, are being evacuated.
Not only is the forest toast, the streams will be polluted by the runoff, threatening a world-class fishery. The fire also threatens a fish hatchery that maintains stocks of two threatened and/or endangered species. Critical habitat for several additional T&E species is also threatened.
The good folks at MSN/Slate should be having a real snit, because the cost of fighting the blaze is now estimated to be $52 Million [what's the cost of not fighting the fire, guys?]. While I'm sure Slate will blame these guys, I prefer to blame Lefty Lucy and Wildman Bob, who live in harmony with nature from the vantage of an air conditioned condo. They seem to think that the wood to build their house came from the lumberyard and the gas and electricity to heat and cool it come from a pipe out in the street and a socket on the wall. Thinking thus, they donate huge sums to BANANA* organizations like these guys.
Give enough lobbyists enough money to demand things like the Let It Burn policy (it will) and the Roadless Area Conservation policy which has rendered 31% of the USFS lands inaccessible - until they bring the dozers in to cut emergency access roads and firebreaks - and events like the Yellowstone fires of 1988 and the Hayman fire they're fighting in Colorado right now are a virtual certainty.
I guess what chaps me about the whole business is that Lucy and Bob probably fit into one of two categories: They've either never seen a roadless area [and there are lots of roads in those 'roadless areas' we're just not allowed to drive on them], or they spend part of every summer out here spoiling the view with their dayglo fashions and leaving miles of TP strewn through the trees. Either way, they just love this country to death.
*Built Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything - or anywhere else for that matter.
Saturday, June 15, 2002- - -
I must admit I posted a copy of Madam Sese-Seko's plea a while back. I thought it was funny, but then I'm a sick pup at best.
I just had to hit that link, if only because I don't think I've ever seen the term "Makosa" in print before..
Update: Incidentally, Andrea Harris has a whole series of great posts up today. She pretty well nails that falsely-effacing lefty language. Why must we always explain that what we are about to say is our opinion, before we offer our opinion? Andrea points out that it's probably because the Peepul really are from an alternate dimension where it's Ok to kill somebody as long as you don't hate them.
Eugene Volokh has a series of great posts on the questions of civil versus military custody and the questioning of suspects in this war on terror. All very worthwhile reading (start here and read on down).
One thing I will point out is the emphasis strictly on physical torture. This is understandable, given the number of movies we've all seen where the villain delights in his hammer and tongs, and tortures people gratuitously. But if the goal is to break down the subject psychologically to the point where he will talk, then the most effective methods are those that go directly after the psyche.
What about confining someone in a 6'x9' cell with a single sheet on the bed, a temperature that hovers around 60°F, a bright light that's on 24-hours, and enough general commotion to insure that they're never allowed to sleep for more than 5-10 minutes at a time - does that constitute torture? What about withholding cigarettes from a smoker or coffee from a coffee drinker - is that torture? What about serving jello and blue mashed potatoes twice a day, seven days a week? I'd argue that none of this really constitutes torture, since that's what we do to ourselves when we sign in for an overnight stay at the local hospital. But I'd tell you everything you want to know rather than go through that.
I would suggest that resorting to physical torture indicates a lack of imagination..
Hmmm. Perhaps there is reason to be concerned.
Friday, June 14, 2002- - -
Via the InstaPundit, this is just too rich:
Passengers sharing Flight 406 were startled to hear [ex-VP Al] Gore being told, "Sorry, sir, you have to go through extra screening," and to witness security personnel rifling through his briefcase and suitcase, a witness said.
"You're looking out and seeing Al Gore's unmentionables in his big, carry-on suitcase," said Mark Graul of Green Bay. "You could tell he was thinking, 'This is not happening to me.'
And then they searched him again on his way home! Folks, there's being fair and thorough, and then there's being just plain stupid. And then there's World Class Stupid, and I think this pretty much defines that realm.
Say now, don't be dissing the Wyoming Air Force.
Hawkins & Powers Aviation has a nationally renowned historic assembly, containing dozens of the last remaining examples of World War II’s mighty bombers and transport aircraft. These magnificent aircraft are restored in Greybull, Wyoming and have been known to whet the imaginations of many a true or would have been flying ace. Hawkins & Powers Aviation still operates five of the last flying PB4Y-2* planes used against the Japanese in the South Pacific. So heavily fortified, these planes’ awesome firepower caused the Japanese to abandon some of their islands when they heard these planes would be used against them. Hawkins & Powers Aviation operates up to eleven 2,000 to 4,000 gallon capacity airtankers simultaneously. The aircraft currently used by Hawkins & Powers Aviation are; Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateers, Douglas C-118’s, Boeing KC-97’s, Lockheed C-130’s, Fairchild C-119’s, Lockheed P2V’s, PZLM-18 Dromader [link in Polish] and a Fairchild F-27. Our 4,000 gallon capacity Boeing KC-97 airtanker is the largest in the United States and meets the Federal Aviation Administration Standard Category Aircraft Specifications.
You bet your butt they're expensive, but bear in mind that it costs 2-3 Million to refit one of these old warbirds and make it airworthy, while a new C-130 runs about 22.9 Million (in 1992 dollars) before it's refitted as a fire bomber. They get used for a few weeks during the summer, but they pay the bank for them all year round.
And about those pilot salaries: "In sharp contrast to urban firefighters, airtanker crews operate machinery that would be considered antique by any commercial aircraft operator in this country. At the Federal level, the result is a motley collection of about 47 old aircraft in nine different types. The newest of those planes was built in the early 1960s as an airliner. They're slow. Their pilots must use Kentucky windage to estimate conditions and release their retardant since there are no aiming aids at all. It's crop dusting with a four engined airliner. There is no way to see at night or through dense smoke and haze. The operating environment is the most hazardous flying outside the military and yet the aircraft are less capable than many home built planes. California has lost 11 S-2 pilots in 16 crashes. At 24+ accidents per 100,000 hours, California's airtankers crash at over eight times the worst military accident rate.
So, about those pilot salaries: If you were one of the handful of pilots capable of doing this, and you could only work a few weeks a year, and you knew you stood a very good chance of being killed every time you go up, what would you want to be paid, eh?
Finally, anyone who works for MSN/Slate, aka Bill Gates, shouldn't be quite so quick to cry 'profiteer!'
*Update: I think these are the 'Liberators' referred to in the Slate article, although they're an upgraded version. Note that according to WarBirdAlley.com there are only 5+ still in operation. They practice at the local airports and it is way cool to see those old brutes. They don't look or sound like anything else.
Try to buy a pair of tickets to the Rockies/Yankees game on the 19th of June from the Rockies web site - I dare you. A hint - there's a few seats left behind the foul poles - but how long would it take you to find them by searching through sold-out section after sold-out section? One of the least user-friendly web sites I've seen lately. Makes you wonder if the folks who designed it ever tried to use it.
Better just call the box office. Their computer system shows them what seats are available.
Speaking of gun law loopholes, here's one that is for real and raises all kinds of interesting questions:
From The Gun Control Act of 1968, Public Law 90-618, which, among other things, prohibits ownership of firearms by felons:
(4) Paragraph (1) [restrictions on possession] shall not apply to --
the manufacture for, transfer to, or possession by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State, or a transfer to or possession by a law enforcement officer employed by such an entity for purposes of law enforcement (whether on or off duty); ..
Yep. Law enforcement officers convicted of felonies are still allowed to possess firearms on and off duty. The exemption was written into the GCA of '68. Interestingly, a similar exemption is not written in to the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, creating this interesting effect:
The "Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban," or "Lautenberg Law" as it is more commonly known, created a huge new class of prohibited persons practically overnight. It imposes a Federal firearms disability on any person who at any time was convicted of or plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense that had as an element the use or attempted use of force against statutorily defined persons who have a "domestic" relationship with the offender. Active members of the military and on-duty law enforcement officers are not exempt from this provision as they are the rest of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Ironically, this creates a situation where a person would be able to, hypothetically, remain a soldier or a police officer if convicted for a felony crime, but not a misdemeanor offense. [emphasis added]
So the Fraternal Order of Police at least tacitly supports possession of firearms by convicted felons, as long as those felons are law enforcement officers. That's ironic all right. While I suppose it makes sense to allow law enforcement officers to possess firearms, why would we want a felon to be a law enforcement officer?
Have you heard about any pro-gun control people out there jumping on this? Why not??
Take a few minutes and go exercise your brain with Steve Den Beste, as he takes on the Parable of the Liar, Russell's Paradox, and Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem in a single post. Awesome.
War n., 1 a) a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations; b) a period of such armed conflict; c) the state of war. 2 a) a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism; b) a struggle between opposing forces or for a particular end (a class ~)(a ~ against disease).
Washington Post - Karl C. Rove, President's Bush's senior adviser, promised yesterday to wage "a war" for permanent repeal of the estate tax, and congressional Democrats said they will investigate the use of a White House computer for a partisan presentation by Rove that fell into their hands.
It would appear that this does qualify as 'a war' under definition 2, above. With a bit more effort they might even escalate to a definition 1 war. Now as much as I hate taxes in general, could someone please remind these bozos that one war at a time is sufficient, and this ain't it?
While we're on the subject of Indians, here's a court case that ought to set some interesting precedents: Via Indian Country Tomorrow:*
Indianz.Com has asked a federal judge to award the Internet news service "millions of dollars" for covering the Indian trust fund scandal. .. The fees are based on more than two years of research, phone calls, e-mails, court hearings and conversations with inept Department of Interior officials, according to the document.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in the past has awarded fees to attorneys representing 300,000 American Indian beneficiaries. The Clinton administration was fined $600,000 in legal and dry cleaning costs for refusing to turn over a dress worn by former Attorney General Janet Reno when she rebuffed February 1995 advances to probe the debacle by lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell.
But awards to a news organization would be a first, acknowledged Todd York, the litigation director for Indianz.Com. "We feel that our non-responsive AOL Instant Messenger conversations with [Interior spokesperson] Mark Pfeifle and our numerous invites, always refused, to AOL Chat should not go unpunished," he told ICT.
*Before I get any more email scolding me for being a rube, allow me to point out that every day is April 1st at Indian Country Tomorrow. Really. Go check them out.
Even the Indians are laughing at the FBI.
Via comments by the Indepundit at Bill Quick's. Bill's finally back from 'vacation,' which is good, I was needing a Quick fix:
Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney queries her colleagues on Capitol Hill:
``Can anyone explain how the people in question who now have the land in question in Zimbabwe got title to the land?''
* My query was met with a deafening silence. Those who knew did not want to admit the truth and those who didn't know should have known--that the land was stolen from its indigenous peoples through the British South Africa Company and any ``titles'' to it were illegal and invalid. .. Zimbabwe's sin is that it has taken the position to right a wrong, whose resolution has been too long overdue--to return its land to its people.
If she's not hearing from these folks, and these, and these, right about now, she should be. After all, under her criteria the current residents of Georgia don't exactly have clear title either.
I suggested earlier that we ought to give North Dakota back to the Indians - I wasn't really serious, if only because I know the Indians are smart enough not to go for that deal. But if she's not a total hypocrite, it sounds like Ms. McKinney should be sponsoring legislation to give Georgia back to the Indians any day now.
Thursday, June 13, 2002- - -
John Braue ponders the morality of preemptive strikes, drawing the great analogy to the stylized gunfights in western movies. What he doesn't point out is the reality of real western gunfights, which is probably more apt to our current situation.
Thanks to Hollywood, we tend to think of 'fast with a gun' as meaning fast to draw, but that wasn't the original meaning at all. When folks said Wild Bill Hickok was fast with a gun they didn't mean he could draw those Navy Colts fast from his sash, nor do I imagine that he could - either the barrel wedge or the loading lever retainer or both would have been almost bound to get hung up in that cloth sash. No, they meant he was fast to use a gun. If he encountered someone who needed to be shot, he didn't call them out in the street, he didn't chat them up, he just shot them. No preliminaries, no hesitation, and certainly no foolish ideas about chivalry and proper form. It wasn't a sport, it was a gunfight, and as Bill Jordan was fond of saying "there is no second place winner."
Please. The very last thing we want to do is get wrapped up in some Hollywood notion of a fair fight.
Via a Joseph Perkins OpEd in today's Northern Wyoming Daily News (motto: Internet? We don't need no stinking internet!) we have this delightful piece of buffoonery:
"A small plane with five pounds of C-4 (explosive) will bring down the George Washington Bridge," said Stephen Gale, a terrorism specialist at the University of Pennsylvania who warned the Federal Aviation Administration four years ago about the possibility of airborne attacks.
Really? I wonder why the FAA didn't believe him?
According to my handy dandy Demolition Card (GTA 5-10-28) 5 pounds of C-4, placed directly on the steel member by a demo expert, is capable of cutting a piece of steel 1" thick by 18" wide. That's one small I-beam and that's not including any P-factor (P=plenty). I'm reasonably certain that the George Washington Bridge is made of sterner stuff. No folks, a small plane with 5# of C-4 aboard would make a small black sooty mark on the side of the bridge and would probably inconvenience traffic for a few hours while they scraped up the carcass of the silly shit who flew the plane. In fact, a small plane of the Cesna sort couldn't carry nearly enough C-4 to bring down the GW Bridge - try a full C-130-load. Even then it would take hours to place all the charges properly to even cut the roadway of the bridge, much less bring it down.
Apparently, billing oneself as a 'terrorism specialist' doesn't include knowing anything about the capabilities of the tools of terrorists.
Megan McArdle hits the nail on the head:
.. People who disbelieve global warming or other environmental disaster predictions belong to that majority of Americans who do not want polluted water, ravaged landscapes, or the earth's mean temperature increased above the boiling point of water. No matter how much it may feel like it, neither side has staked out the "against" position in the "total destruction of life as we know it" debate. Everyone is for the environment, in abstract, just as everyone is for mother love and puppies. It's not a question of whether or not most Americans are against those things, but of what they are willing to pay to avoid them.
Yes. I represent a lot of people who work very hard to keep your lights on and your AC running. I get very tired of hearing them villainized as some sort of uncaring environmental monsters. They are not. They are very aware and very concerned about the environmental impacts of their industry and generally seek to reduce those impacts in any economically feasible way. They are also business people and frankly don't care how the energy is generated as long as they can buy or produce it more cheaply than they ship and sell it. I can't name any names, but it should come as no surprise that one of the largest fossil fuel exploration companies is also one of the leading developers of solar power technology. If there is any way to make renewables economically viable they, or their competitors will find it, if only out of the desire to make a buck selling it to you.
I guess what annoys me the most about the 'environmental movement,' aside from their tendency to bring discredit to all environmental concerns, is the elitism inherent in much of their message. The junk mail begging for money to lobby against the junk mail filling up the landfills syndrome. I've truly seen few gatherings attended by more enormous motorhomes and gas-guzzling SUVs than the last Sierra Club convention I saw in Jackson Hole. And all of them complaining about the horrible traffic and all the SUVs! This is 'Oregon environmentalism' - the sort that says 'Ok, I've got my cabin built on the lake, now pass a new zoning reg to stop anybody else from building cabins and cluttering up the view.' I suspect that many of these folks don't want to get rid of their SUVs, they want you to get rid of yours to make room to park their motorhome.
I find few things more amusing than the on-going debate on development of the Front Range down in Colorado, where newspaper editorialists recently transplanted from the coasts, live in split-level ranch-styles on 2.5 acre lots in the 'burbs, and wail because the govmint won't force the filthy masses to live in urban high rises, or better yet, just stop people from moving in entirely. The 'I got mine, screw you bub!' mentality runs strong in us humans and seems almost literally to emanate from places like Bouldor.
Via Jan Yarnot, this isn't funny any more:
The next time terrorists strike--as our leaders say they surely will--it may at least be some kind of help that our government, working swiftly and surely since Sept. 11, has been preparing American citizens to cope with terrorist assaults on the home front. Americans have been blitzed with official advice and trained in how best to respond to the likeliest scenarios--conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear. Many of us have already been vaccinated against smallpox. All of us know exactly where to get hold of medicine to treat anthrax. We have been coached by officials both federal and local on specific things to watch for, what to do first and whom to call. We have even rehearsed an emergency or two, the better to know the drill. As far anyone could be, Americans are ready.
In fact, Jan's blog is remarkably bellicose of late, with too many good posts to mention them all, so go take a look. Sigh. And I'm afraid that Jan has finally convinced me that we have a real problem here. Men are commonly a bit bellicose. Bellicose women are new and intriguing. But when the grandmothers start getting bellicose the folks in DC had better understand that they're just not cutting it. I've argued for patience and against the interpretation of this current inactivity as wobbliness or dithering, because I realize that it could take time to plan a real live war, not to mention getting tooled up to fight one. But wartime leaders should be acutely aware of the morale of the troops, and that of the people on the home front. I don't want to see our troops endangered because of imprudent military actions undertaken to please the voters and assuage criticism until decisive action can be taken. On the other hand, I hate to think what the national mood will be if we get hit again after this long period of apparent inactivity.
Unfortunately, we're watching as our peerless leaders take this whole situation as an opportunity for personal, political, and bureaucratic aggrandizement. The DEA thinks terrorism is an off-shoot of the drug war. The CIA sees an opportunity to stick it to the FBI. The FBI would like to return the favor, and both see it as an opportunity to express their wildest dreams for unlimited powers over the citizenry. The Republicans see the opportunity to tighten the screws on all those nasty civil liberties, and congress sees the opportunity to spend more money on just about everything. As far as I can see, the only folks who haven't really capitalized on the situation are the Democrats. Not that they haven't tried, but their feeble attempts have left them looking largely irrelevant or grossly hypocritical, to date.
One thing we must remember about Underperformin' Norman: He was a guest of ours here in Wyoming during WWII. At the Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp. I can certainly understand why he might be adamantly opposed to racial profiling of any kind for any reason.
That doesn't change the fact that we're strip-searching little old ladies and giving a pass to lunatics with fuses sticking out of their shoes, but it does raise the question of whether Mr. Mineta may simply be the wrong person for the job at this point in history.
Sasha Volokh has a fascinating discussion of morality as it relates to animal rights. Says he:
What would it take for me to recognize rights in animals? I don't really know -- I prefer to adopt a common-law-type, "I'll know it when I see it" approach. But I think it should be more than merely respecting rights in others -- various social animals do have rule-based orders, but not hitting your fellow shouldn't be enough if it's merely out of fear. I think it would have something to do with being able to intellectually understand the concept of "rights" and know that you should respect your fellow's rights not because you'll get punished but because it's "wrong" to do so.
Of course, this rather begs the question of how many [or how few] humans would qualify for rights under these criteria. First, there's the rather sticky question of what constitutes 'rights.' We in the US would say we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A card-carrying communist will tell you that we have the right to a job, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads; and that abstractions mean little to anyone who lacks those concrete things. Both we and the communist have an intellectual understanding of the concept of rights, but do not come close to agreeing on what those rights might be.
Second, even leaving aside the question of what constitutes 'rights,' I'm not at all convinced that there is any significant portion of the population that do recognize or respect the rights of others outside of a fear of punishment. Our political class are a good example of this. They have little fear of real punishment for transgressing on our rights, or for anything else they might do. Should we be surprised that they have little respect for even those of our rights that are enumerated in the constitution, even though each and every one of them has taken an oath to uphold that constitution? When asked to decide between their political career goals and your rights it's clear how most will vote.
And these people are our leaders and examples for us all, eh? I would argue that it's hardly sufficient to have an intellectual understanding of the concept of rights if you don't act on that understanding. Nor is it acceptable to act only when the action is personally painless.
All of this leads to the search for an objective basis for morality, so recently raised by Perry de Havilland. I had previously offered my off-the-cuff interpretation of Heinlein's version of morality - that moral behavior is good as a general policy, if only to save you from the tar and feathers later on. However, Capt J.M.Heinrichs quite correctly pointed out that this is situational morality lacking any objective basis other than rational self-interest. Capt. Heinrichs went on to say: I think [Heinlein] explored the question of morality and found that an objective and pragmatic answer was not possible. Now I objected to this at first, but the more I think about it the more I think that Capt. Heinrichs is correct in his assessment of Heinlein's philosophy.
So where does that leave us? Is there an objective basis for morality, or is all morality ultimately dependent on some divinely, or at least externally derived, given code of conduct? Bear in mind that anyone leaning toward the 'given code' side of the argument implicitly admits that we humans need nannies..
Wednesday, June 12, 2002- - -
Reader August Ruthenberg writes:
I used to work the oil fields in Wyo and I only noticed two men carrying openly. One had on a revolver in a holster and I thought "Cool"
The other was about 5'5" tall, was carrying what was probably a 45 and had on a beret and was dressed in camo. His truck had a H&K in the window and some other stuff. They are out there, but how many are actually the nuts that liberals fear and how many are just scared of liberals. ..
It is one of the reasons I still think of moving back West, you can choose the way you want to live and not have to worry about SWAT showing up.
Yep, we've got the occasional loopy survivalists and green beret wannabes, but I would be careful not to equate possession or carrying of guns, even military-style guns and cammies, with serious 'time for a revolution' militia nuts who build bombs in their barns and rob banks to fund their revolutions - thankfully, those folks are very rare.
That's what makes Nicholas Kristof so very laughable when he sees a threat equivalent to Osama bin Laden in every 5'5" Walter Mitty type with a .45 and surplus cammies.
Unfortunately, while I don't think we have to worry [much] about the Ted Kaczynskies of the world, we do have to worry about the SWAT team showing up at the least provocation - they have little else to do - and we can count on them being heavily armed, poorly paid, and poorly trained. It's human nature and small-town economics in action: Small towns often can't afford to pay high salaries for experienced, well trained personnel in their police department, or anywhere else. Now this provides an opportunity for those who wish to pursue a career in law enforcement or civil service - jobs with 'no training or experience necessary' - but it also creates a situation where the best and brightest frequently stay on only long enough to get the basic training and experience they need to land a higher-paying job with a bigger department elsewhere. Can't blame them for that, but there's a certain filtering mechanism in action here.
A substantial portion of the funding for small police departments comes from various state and federal grants. Small town politicians and bureaucrats tend to look on this as free money they cannot refuse. Unfortunately, a lot of that money is tied to the war on drugs and the general movement toward militarizing law enforcement. A lot of the aid also comes in the form of surplus military equipment and in training to employ that equipment. The town's powers-that-be cannot refuse the money and the law enforcement folks want, and frankly need any training they can get. Under the circumstances, we shouldn't be surprised that small town police departments are starting to look like squads of storm troopers whenever they venture forth from their fortified law enforcement bunkers.
We're also dealing with the midget cowboy syndrome - 5'5" with a hat big enough to shade the chips on both shoulders at the same time. When Mr. Ruthenberg describes his Walter Mitty-type with cammies and military-style weapons, my first thought isn't 'militiaman' it's 'Ah, looking for a job in law enforcement.' The recruiters screen for those sorts, but they can't afford to be too fussy when they're offering $1200/month to start, so we get to deal with a lot of Don Knotts cum Napoleon sorts - or more frequently the Pillsbury dough boy who got poked in the tummy once too often. Now he's graduated from High School and he's got a bad attitude, a badge, and a gun. But he still calls for back-up [and gets it] before ticketing a car-full of cheerleaders for speeding.
So no, Mr. Ruthenberg, if you're worried about the SWAT team showing up, you'd be better off in the city where you actually have to do something BAD to deserve their attention. On the other hand, in the big city they probably give the SWAT team bullets for their guns..
Tuesday, June 11, 2002- - -
Tom Clancy's love child, eh? The good Sergeant has the misfortune to look like a smartass in a career field where looks can be everything. I'd not be surprised if he's a magnet for every under-worked ring knocker that comes along.
This is laugh out loud funny! And way too familiar.
Glenn Reynolds' FoxNews.com piece is particularly bellicose today. Discussing the new Department of Homeland Security, he says:
Organizations that aren't sure what to do often substitute reorganizations for more serious action. To me, that seems to be where we are in the home front battle against terrorists. We continue to pursue half-hearted or downright stupid approaches: banning eyebrow tweezers and plastic knives on airplanes, while being afraid to give extra scrutiny to young middle-eastern men, who are far and away the most likely to be terrorists; federalizing the same low-quality airport security screeners we had before and pretending that doing so will somehow make them do a better job; issuing color-coded alerts while not keeping track of potentially dangerous people within our borders; being willing to shoot down hijacked planes but being unwilling to arm pilots to repel hijackers.
By our actions we have shown - or, to be more accurate, by its actions the White House has shown — that it is not really serious.
As much as I'd like to believe otherwise, I'm beginning to agree. This is just nervous dithering or 'paralysis through analysis.' I'd be much more impressed if Bush was going before congress to demand more funding for daisy cutters.
Via the InstaPundit, Strategy Page states bluntly what seems to be the only viable course of action open to us: The only feasible means of protecting America's homeland from foreign terrorist attack is to eliminate all terrorist-supporting states.
One more time: The only feasible means of protecting America's homeland from foreign terrorist attack is to eliminate all terrorist-supporting states.
This fact cannot be lost on those terrorist-supporting states. We should find it instructive that Kadafi has just now offered a billion dollars compensation for the Lockerbie bombing to buy his way back into our good graces. Apparently he doesn't think Bush has gone wobbly.
Monday, June 10, 2002- - -
Megan McArdle picked up on my comments on Kristof's militia hysteria. Says she: .. I don't really understand why the bi-coastal media folks get so hysterical about the militia. Except that they need some bogeyman on whom to fasten their existential, post-modern angst, and praying regularly is the only weird belief system it's acceptable to make fun of in the Land of the Lost Weekend.
It's particularly amusing to folks like me who live out here and have never met one of these wild-eyed militiamen. Except that to Nicholas Kristof, I'm probably one of those wild-eyed militiamen.
Megan McArdle has been amusing herself with charts and graphs. She's stared at them until her eyes dried out and her tongue bled from biting it.. or something like that. She finds: .. GDP growth is extremely well correlated with CO2 emissions. Which makes total sense. CO2 comes from producing energy. And energy is, at the heart, the stuff that makes everything else, whether it's your body burning fuel to think up smart posts on global warming (and you produce C02 while you're doing this), or your automobile burning gas to turn the wheels to get you to work at the factory where the electricity from the hydro dam powers the machines that make all the cool stuff we use. Given that we don't all have a hydro dam in our backyard, more stuff requires more energy, which means more CO2.
"To get back to  levels of emissions, we would have to cut our standard of living in half.
Now compare this to Paul Krugman's assertion back on April 26th, that: .. the Bush plan still allows twice as much pollution as experts at the Environmental Protection Agency privately think appropriate. The cost of an additional 50 percent reduction in pollution, according to internal E.P.A. documents, would be pretty small. But the administration apparently prefers not to ask industry to bear even those small costs.
Why yes, the costs of reduced pollution are negligible! Our air and water would be perfectly pure if it wasn't for those evil Republicans.
Let's see. On sale this week we have eggs at 69¢ a dozen, extra lean ground beef (not to exceed 7% fat) at $1.69, and center cut pork chops for $2.29. And we walk three blocks to the grocery to get them.. the sacrifices we make for life in the sticks. Of course, there's still the question of where it came from and what sorts of antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and what all the poor critter might have been pumped full of.
Nicholas Kristof has a revelation. Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda, Hamas, etc. are nothing compared to the threat posed by our own Ted Kaczynskies and David Burgerts:
The things you learn in Montana: According to militia members here, the World Trade Center attacks were a plot by the Feds to declare an emergency and abolish the Bill of Rights; the Columbine school shootings were a federal test of new mind-control technology; a map on a Kix cereal box shows the occupation zones Americans will be herded into after the United Nations takes over.
Yes, I too live in fear that one day these fruit loops will realize their power and rise up! Yes, rise up with their aluminum foil helmets and their quantum deframulators to wreck havoc on a scale previously unimagined. What utter balderdash.
Finally, Blogger is back. I'd given up completely yesterday.
Sunday, June 09, 2002- - -
It seems that there's a lot of problems on the Blogosphere this morning, starting with the DailyPundit's site, which appears to lack content. No. I mean there's no text displayed. Oh, never mind.
Baaahh! Blogger & BlogSpot are bonkers this morning. I can post all I want, but I can't seem to publish anything to BlogSpot.
Capt J.M.Heinrichs writes:
You wrote: "Heinlein's bottom line on morality was that it was good as a general policy, if only to save you from the tar and feathers later on."
Very nice suggestion. I think he explored the question of morality and found that an objective and pragmatic answer was not possible. His closest approach to a solution was in 'Starship Troopers'; in his last novels he portrayed morality as a set of rules applicable to the immediate situation, and subject to the superior psychological/intellectual 'force' of the moment.
I'd argue that Heinlein recognized an objective 'right and wrong,' else how to know what behavior will bring the tar and feathers?? On the other hand, this is situational morality rather than an objective standard, exactly as Capt. Heinrichs points out, so he may well be right about Heinlein's ultimate conclusions. I think Heinlein was acutely aware of how quickly our bright moral distinctions can fade to shades of gray. My personal favorite is the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where he examines the morals of the prison riot.
A good dissection of Heinlein's philosophy would make interesting reading..
The Days of '49 Celebration in Greybull was a hoot. If they'd had any more people in the parade there wouldn't have been anyone left to watch it. We were starting to wonder if they were circling the block and changing costumes. Kids in miniature covered wagons pulled by sheep. Every political yahoo in three counties waving from a float or a fancy antique convertible. Antique cars. Antique tractors are very big. They had Rodeo Queens, future Rodeo Queens, past Rodeo Queens, geriatric Rodeo Queens.. my wife says "Where are the Rodeo Kings??" No, no Rodeo Kings - that's a question for another day.
We questioned a number of Greybull locals about the Days of '49. No one seemed to know the significance of the event. I finally began to guess that the town had had such a good party in 1949 that they'd had another one every year since..
One gal did venture to guess that it had something to do with the gold rush, but she wasn't from Greybull and didn't know for sure. As I noted below, there are no California Trail routes through the Bighorn Basin and the first settlers in the basin didn't arrive until the 1870s, so I doubt any actual connection to the 49ers. Finally, we found an old timer in a bar who explained that the first Big Rodeo after The War had been held in 1949. So the Big Party theory appears to be correct. And judging from those in attendance, every rodeo had a Rodeo Queen.
Saturday, June 08, 2002- - -
We're off to see the Days of '49 Celebration in Greybull, Wyo. The question: 49 what? The town was settled in about 1905-6 and began as a railroad camp for the construction of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad (today's Burlington and Sante Fe). There were no cross-country California Trail routes that have any connection to '49ers.. Why?? We've lived here for 14 years now and don't know. Today we shall find out.
Perry de Havilland says I am a minarchist ... In essence I believe in systems involving the one word conspicuous by its absence in this interesting but utilitarian discussion: morality. I believe in objective morality, albeit imperfectly understood and conjecturally proposed. That, rather than the force of state or vox pop, is the one and only source of legitimacy in any system.
Most of us tend to equate morality with religiously given rules, but I think this idea of an objective morality has great merit. The thread of objective and thoroughly pragmatic, even utilitarian morality that was woven through all the Heinlein novels is an interesting take on the subject. Heinlein's bottom line on morality was that it was good as a general policy, if only to save you from the tar and feathers later on.
The tip jar is getting a little plaintive over at Bill Quick's. "Will blog for food" indeed.
Suman Palit is on to me. I fled North Dakota after spending the winter of 1983-84 in Grand Forks, where the thermometers all froze at -40° for about two months straight. It's beautiful country in its own way, and the people are great, even if they do talk funny. But the winters are brutal. Give it back to the French, I say.
Actually, I'd recommend buying a balance beam scale first, or buying both. There's mysterious bimetal bending going on inside the electronic scale and it's reassuring to check it against a balance beam. Also, for weighing out a specific powder charge repeatedly, a balance beam and powder trickler are about as good as the electronic scale. The electronic scale is better for sorting bullets and cases for best accuracy, and is handy when you just want to know what something weighs. I use it quite a bit for weighing projectile points and other small artifacts.
An interesting story there: We archers all know about 'archer's paradox' - the arrow flexes as the string is released and drives the arrow around the handle of the bow. For any degree of accuracy it is necessary for this to occur consistently, so finding arrow shafts of the correct and consistent flexibility is important. A good deal of importance is also placed in finding points of the correct weight, theoretically to provide a degree of momentary inertial delay that causes the arrow to begin to flex as the string begins to drive it forward. Tapering the arrow shaft also aids in consistent paradox. I commonly use points ranging in weight from 125 to 160 grains on tapered ash shafts spined for my 60# bow. Spining referring to measuring the degree of flex in each shaft when it's placed under a known weight on a mechanical contraption.
Maurice Thompson, bow hunting in Florida in the 1870's, used 60-80# bows and yet could not string or draw his Seminole guide's bow. Native American bows I've seen in museums look like they would draw 50-60# minimum and often quite a bit more. A relatively stiffly spined arrow with a heavy point would seem to be called for, and indeed arrows made from locally available chokecherry and especially dogwood are very stiff. Yet a stone point I have here, that would be considered very large for an arrow point, weights 62 grains, slightly less than half the weight of the lightest steel point I use. Stone arrow points found embedded in bison bones are frequently much smaller.
The modern-made stone points often sold for use by primitive archers are generally much larger than the stone points used on arrows prehistorically. The modern-made points are probably larger at least partially because the makers are aware of paradox and are making points compatible with modern ideas of shaft spining, as well as to meet modern regulations regarding minimum size of broadheads.
I have detailed measurements and high resolution digital scans of a handful of arrow shafts from dry caves here in the Bighorn Mountains. All of the shafts are markedly tapered, which most researchers have put down to their being unfinished or poorly made, but I don't think this is the case. They show signs of very careful smoothing and straightening and I suspect that the taper is intentional. However, they differ from my modern-made tapered shafts in being tapered for nearly their entire length. My contention is that if these shafts are that carefully made and tapered they must have known about paradox although their stone points seem much too light to take advantage of it.
Perhaps the answer is in the continuous taper of the prehistoric shafts. I intend to reproduce shafts of those dimensions from the same chokecherry shoots and try them with stone and metal points, to see that effect their continuous taper has on paradox.
Still playing with sticks and string and writing it all off as 'professional enlightenment.'
Friday, June 07, 2002- - -
Regarding shooting ability and rifle accuracy, in the June 2002 Handloader [article not on-line] Ross Seyfried says:
Finally, if you are going to hunt elk with me, I have a preference. That is, if I have to choose between a hunter with concentric ammunition and ½-inch groups and one with crooked ammunition and 2-inch groups, the decision will come down to this. Which one can hit a paper plate every time at 100 yards - in the wind, with his heart crashing, standing on his head, in bad light, after a three-hour stalk, shooting uphill, with cold fingers?
Colonel Cooper has suggested that one measure of a rifleman is the ability to hit a teacup at 100 yards in 5 seconds, another stiff standard.
I would argue that the true test of the rifleman is not just the ability to make the shot when you take one, but much more important, to know when to pass up the shot you aren't certain of. There's not that much game that we can afford to lose a lot of wounded animals. It's also a good ethic not to shoot if there's a chance that the shot will cause the animal to suffer. Whatever the range, the size of the target, or the condition of the shooter, there's a time not to shoot, whether there is some obstruction that might deflect the bullet, the shooter is unsure of the target, the range, the wind, or light, or the shooter is simply too fatigued to hold accurately.