Tuesday, January 31, 2006- - -
What perfect hindsight!
Debra Burlingame beats the stuffing out of that old strawman as she tells us that "Al Qaeda, not the FBI, is the greater threat to America." It's our silly demand for civil liberties and privacy that has tied the hands of all our federal agents!
Of course, our government's failure to stop the 9/11 plot had nothing to do with sclerotic bureaucracies so concerned with protecting their turf that sharing information with another agency was anathema. Nor did it have anything to do with the fact that all those clues that seem so obvious in hindsight were obscured in a fog of information overload. Thus, the Patriot Act is a Great Idea, not just the enshrinement of a laundry list of new police powers. And hey, if you have nothing to hide, why be concerned about
Big Brother the NSA watching you? Yessiree, if we don't give government free rein, that ol' bogey man Osama might come out of his cave and get you! Can't have freedom and security, don't you know? What perfect bullshit.
The biggest bit of bull: "The old laws that would prevent FBI agents from stopping the next al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi were built on the bedrock of a 35-year history of dark, defeating mistrust." It's the old ahistorical saw that 'we trusted our government back in the good old days before Watergate'. Yes, our founders trusted in government so much that they wrote the Declaration of Independence to remind us that governments are never to be trusted, and then wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights to bind the hands of our government. Terrorists have killed a few thousand people over the last hundred years. Various governments have killed millions. Who ya gonna trust?
Ps. As a counterpoint, here's another WSJ piece by James Taranto, who presents a much more nuanced report on a recent interview with VP Dick Cheney that makes clear the issues at stake here. The extent of executive power and government power in general in these difficult times is certainly worthy of much discussion and debate. I'm much more comfortable with folks like VP Cheney who understand this than with those who would fall on their shaking knees at the alter of government ala Ms Burlingame.
PPs. Tsk! Michelle Malkin says Burlingame speaks for her. One is forced to wonder if Ms Malkin would be quite so sanguine about the Patriot Act, the recent revelations about the NSA, etc., if a Gore or Kerry administration were in charge right now. There's the rub: Don't arrogate any power to yourself that you don't want your worst enemies to wield tomorrow..
Update: Okay, lest you think me a raving paranoid, I'll point out that the problem I see isn't the fight against terrorism, it's mission creep. "... sure as crabgrass seeks out cracks in a driveway ..." there will always be someone in government willing to exploit our fears for purposes having nothing to do with terrorism.
Particularly, don't miss Senator Russ Feingold's Statement From the Senate Floor on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, which explains more eloquently than I, the good and the bad contained therein. Says Feingold:
"Rather than engage in a true debate on the controversial parts of the Patriot Act, as Senator Specter did yesterday, many proponents of the Patriot Act just point to non-controversial provisions of the Patriot Act and talk about how important they are. They say this bill must be passed because it reauthorizes those non-controversial provisions. That does not advance the debate, it just muddies the waters. I have news for those who would try that tactic here. It won’t work. We don’t have to accept bad provisions to make sure the good provisions become law. I hope the Senate will make that lesson very clear this week."And they did. Says the InstaPundit:
"The Patriot Act's supporters, and its detractors, could both do a better job of arguing their cases. But the burden of proof is on its supporters and, as I say, they haven't met it. Of course, I didn't think they had met it the first time around, when it passed with almost unanimous bipartisan support."Indeed. If I'm paranoid, at least I'm in good company.
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in
Kansas Wyoming any longer..
New Mexico bills itself as the Land of Enchantment, but it's this vista I find enchanting. We visit the Desert Museum every year and made it over there a couple days ago. A definite 'not to be missed' experience.
Monday, January 30, 2006- - -
We've finally found Nimbus Brewery and completed our grand slam of Tucson's brewpubs! Yes, it is exciting, we've tried several times over the past few years to find the place, but never could. One of those cases of mistaken assumptions: I'd assumed that a brewpub would be in a fairly up-scale neighborhood, which means north and/or east of Tucson city center. Surely there wouldn't be a brew pub in the warehouse district down by the air base.. Well, silly me. Of course it's in the warehouse district. It takes a lot of room to brew beer on a semi-large scale.
Of course, as soon as I mentioned that we'd had a hell of a time finding the place the response was 'Why didn't you look up our web site? It has a map with directions you know.' And to add insult to injury, one of the local Harley riders proceded to tell me about PubCrawler.com, which is the way to find brewpubs. Color me covered with embarrassment.
So here's the deal: All three brewpubs in Tucson have a great IPA and/or pale ale, our standard measure. All three will tell you their pale ale is very hoppy, but none has that 'strained through an alfalfa bale over-hopped to the point of undrinkable' taste that was so common a few years back when microbreweries first became popular. They're definitely not Budweiser, but they're just a nicely happy hoppy.
The three differ mostly in setting. Being in the warehouse district, Nimbus dispenses with a patio, as all you'd see would be the weed-filled lot next door. Inside it's quite nice -- okay, it's a bit short on ferns, it's dark, and it's purple, but it's clean -- and has an interesting menu (we'd already eaten and will require a return trip to try their food -- I hate when we have to go back -- dang it!). I particularly liked the Frank Lloyd Wright-style stained glass insets in the back bar. A good selection of beers including Scottish and English ales that will leave you kneewalkin', and even these sweeter ales are not sticky sweet. In fact, I didn't find them sweet at all once you get past the initial few sips. Very nice.
Thunder Canyon Brewery is in the Foothills Mall, sort of the down-scale side of up-scale, on the north side of town. They have a patio with a nice view of the mall parking lot -- hey, at least there's plenty of parking, you can watch all the people walk by, and it is outside in the sun which is the whole point of coming all the way down here. The menu is the standard burgers, fries, sandwiches and such, nothing overwhelming, but you won't go away hungry. It's main virtue is it's easy to get to, has plenty of parking, the service is fast and efficient, and the beer is darn good.
Gentle Bens Brewing Company is on the U of A campus: great [cough] scenery but the parking sucks. We park on University Blvd about 6-8 blocks away and walk, but there is a parking garage somewhere around there (not likely to be a good fit for the White Whale). They have a nice patio, all the better to admire the scene and, being a college campus, the people watching is superb. They have the standard burgers and fries, but they also have some interesting cuisine for a change of pace from your usual brewpub fare. An excellent pale ale makes the place worth the walk, even if you don't enjoy the college scene.
Sunday, January 29, 2006- - -
"Scientia est potentia"
Captain Ed makes an astute observation regarding the on-going flap over earmarks:
"Line-item vetoes from the executive and forcing each earmark to pass a vote in Congress sound like reasonable reforms for the existing process, but it doesn't get to the root of the problem, which is the overall size of the federal budget itself. Too many mandates have been granted to federal control, most of which fall outside of the constitutional boundaries of federal power as it is. The size of the budget creates a vast treasure that encourages grand corruption that makes earmarks look like petty cash. ..."Yes, the sheer size of the pile o' loot makes it just too tempting. But money isn't the only, or perhaps even the biggest source of corruption in government. Money is only a means to an end and for too many that end is power.
That's why this bit by David Gelernter so apalls me (yes, the poor guy can't seem to open his mouth without pissing me off):
"Here's where the Net is going, as far as I can see. The world is moving to an "Empty Computer" model of computation. In the Empty Computer world, all my digital assets (all my docs, apps, images, videos, soundtracks, mail mssgs etc) are stored in my personal data structure, afloat in the Cybersphere. I can access my personal structure from any net-connected computer in the world (obviously, modulo security checks).A Great Idea! But.. Remember the 'just plain creepy-as-hell' Total Information Awareness Office? Remember their Knowledge is Power motto? Go ahead. Put all your personal data, all of it, from your birth certificate to the pictures of your poodle, on the web. Convince everyone else to do the same. Would the resulting database make a too, too tempting target for government snoops? Could they override all your firewall and password and encryption protections with a wave of their magic wands, for the greater good of national security or the war on drugs, or the next bogy to come along? Call me paranoid, but in this case our government has proven that they are out to get you. I call this insane. And Gelernter sees these "data structures" (I've already beaten that horse) as fungible. Yes, we could outsource the server farm to oh so trustworthy China. Big Ideas aren't necessarily good ideas, are they?
"... All my digital assets are afloat in my personal data structure on the net, available to me automatically on every computer everywhere -- on computers in phonebooths, supermarkets, planes, airports, classrooms, my office, etc. I log on and identify myself and there's my stuff. Computers become viewing devices for tuning in personal data structures (which are floating out there in the cyber-cosmos like Venus).
The Net will provide distributed, reliable, fungible storage for these floating personal data structures. What will the structures look like? I claim they'll look like "lifestreams," the electronic timeline-journals we first implemented in the mid '90s (everything fully indexed; with a past, present and future; the stream begins with your birth certificate). ..."
Update: FDLEing with Matrix
Congress pulled the funding plug on the Total Information Awareness program, but if you think it's gone away, Think Again. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center: "The General Accounting Office has issued a report (pdf) that identifies almost 200 data mining projects throughout the federal government that are either operational or in the planning stage. Many of them make use of personally identifiable data obtained from private sector databases." A whole lot of snooping going on under the radar, it would appear.
Saturday, January 28, 2006- - -
The failure of capitalism, Part 2
A couple days back I commented on David Gelernter's remark that the sorry pay afforded humanities and social science professors at US universities is a 'failure of capitalism'. I pointing out that there are often dozens, if not hundreds of applicants for each of those humanities and social sciences teaching positions. Today James H. Joyner Jr. likens WalMart to academia, again stressing the vast number of applicants and paucity of jobs in the academe and likening this to the recent example of a Walmart in the Chicago area receiving 25,000 applicants for 325 positions.
"Arguably, Wal-Mart is actually overpaying for these jobs -- likely because of minimum wage laws and other governmental regulations. If 79 qualified people are applying for every job, then the conditions of work are surely more desirable than they need to be. One imagines that Wal-Mart could, if it had the flexibility, cut the salaries and/or benefits offered and still attract, say, two applicants per opening.This is precisely the situation I've seen and that Gelernter ascribes to a failure of capitalism. This accusation obviously chaps my behind, and here's why: Every Podunk U. simply must offer a Ph.D. in, say, anthropology. It's a matter of prestige and payroll -- it takes a lot of professors to run a Ph.D. program. Bigger departments are more prestigious (and have bigger budgets) than smaller departments. If you're training prospective Ph.D.s you must indeed be a gifted educator. etc., etc. Then you can't have a Ph.D. program without Ph.D. candidates and can't keep the program without graduating candidates. Oddly enough this leads to a glut of Ph.D.s and a Ph.D. in anthropology is consequently worth just about the paper it's printed on. Them's the facts. How this self-inflicted situation becomes a 'failure of capitalism' is a bit more difficult to understand.
"This isn't just an educated professional talking about situations that "those people" find themselves in. I have a doctorate in political science and have found myself in precisely the same situation as those Wal-Mart applicants when on the academic job market. Indeed, there were often many more than 79 highly qualified applicants -- Ph.D.s with publications and teaching experience -- for each college teaching position that I applied for.
"Because the academic market is so tight, universities have adopted virtually the same attitude toward aspiring professors as Wal-Mart does to prospective stockers. They demand heavy teaching loads, substantial committee work, a rigorous pace of professional publication -- and offer rather paltry salaries. And that's for people who have, on average, twenty-two or more years of schooling."
Ps. Eric S. Raymond responds to Gelernter:
"I've said this before in public, and I will again. I think my own fumbling efforts at descriptive sociology and anthropology have earned a better press than they probably deserve, because the standards of scholarship in those fields are now so desperately bad that an outsider/amateur like me who applies even minimal rigor looks brlliant by comparison. My modest success is the flip side of the Sokal hoax, and both are less testimony to the cleverness of their authors than to the degree that the academic background of our work has become an intellectually impoverished wasteland.Ouch! 'Tis the truth, but it still hurts. The academic bar has been lowered so far that just about any idiot can trip over it. Still, in my not so humble opinion, there is a great deal of value in the study of anthropology (and archaeology!) and there are some brilliant people in the field. Like everywhere else though, caveat emptor applies.
"You complain that nobody wants to pay decent salaries to humanities academics as if this is market failure. I think it is the market mercilessly assessing the actual value of what they teach. If anything, they're paid far too much, and insulated from the hard choices independent scholars like me have to make."
Thursday, January 26, 2006- - -
Looks like a cold winter
It was October and the Indians on a remote Wyoming reservation asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild.
Since he was a chief in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like.
Nevertheless, to be on the safe side he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. But being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?"
"It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold," the meteorologist at the weather service responded.
So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared.
A week later he called the National Weather Service again. "Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?"
"Yes," the man at National Weather Service again replied, "it's going to be a very cold winter.
The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.
Two weeks later the Chief called the National Weather Service again. "Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?"
"Absolutely," the man replied. "It's looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters ever."
"How can you be so sure?" the Chief asked.
The weatherman replied, "The Indians are collecting firewood like crazy."
Get a haircut and get a real job
I'm still following the "Big Conversation" (yes, those are scare quotes) and I must say that I find this bit from David Gelernter a bit.. well, both odd and divorced from reality. Says he:
"... Everyone knows about capitalism's successes; we need to spare a little attention for its failures too. The US university is one big one. Everyone knows that elite US universities occupy the wacko left of the ideological spectrum. Because they run the ed schools, they've gradually turned the public schools into wacko-left institutions also, where children learn every day about all the awful things (aand [sic] none of the good ones) the US, western civilization, amd [sic] white men in general have foisted off on the world.Okay, there's much to agree with in this re the wacko left, but read on:
"Why does it work this way? In part because humanities and social science professors are paid approximately nothing. They've always earned less than their accountants, but nowadays I'll bet they make an order of magnitude less. (Science profs are underpaid too, but at least we have consulting opportunities, etc.) Why shouldn't US humanities professors hate this country and hate capitalism when their mediocre-ist students routinely get rich while their professors can't even pay their damned bills? Do we really think this is a clever way to run a country -- to pay the people who have maximum influence on the attitudes of young people so little that they're bound to be resentful and angry? Nowadays, colleges that have managed their portfolios well are swimming in money and are putting up new buildings right and left. How much of that filters down to the faculty? Zero."Sounds like someone needs a nap. I'm a product of the social science department and yes, I just fired off a check to the IRS for my fourth quarter 1040-ES that probably exceeds the annual income of most of my former professors so, in a way, I understand where Gelernter is coming from. So why is it that my friends who want to be academicians must compete with dozens, if not hundreds of other applicants for every job at the university? Is there simply a glut of gluttons for punishment? I don't know the answer -- certainly I fled academe, largely because I was tired of starving -- but there must be some other reward that causes so many to overlook the lack of monetary rewards.
Leaving the university was a hard choice for me. I miss the library, I miss the conversation and the academic environment but I don't miss trying to live a full-time life on a part-time wage; I'm right with Gelernter on that. Still, I don't blame the pay on capitalism. Quite the contrary. There was a long line of applicants for my job and that ol' invisible hand set the pay scale accordingly. Presumably, all of those applicants were aware of the pay scale. Why anyone applied for the job is beyond me. Why they stay there and whine about the pay, when they knew what the pay would be, is even further beyond me. There really are other jobs out there.
I'm tempted to suggest that it's the 'perpetual student' syndrome -- a fear of leaving the nest and striking out into the cold, cruel world where you don't win accolades for merely putting in an appearance -- or an exaggerated view of their contribution to society (which is far from rare in the academe), but that's unfair to the dedicated academics who really have something to say and something to impart to their students. Bottom line, I don't understand it.
What I do understand is that these folks, one and all, will be quick to claim that they're a cut above the average intellectually. They can hardly claim they didn't know the financial aspects of the life of genteel poverty they were getting into. They've made their beds, and now they all too often whine about the lumpy mattress. If money matters that much then, yes, the academe is not the place for you, but don't blame the lack of income on evil capitalism. I'm likely to offer some cheese to go with that whine.
Ps. I suppose what really got me about Gelernter was this closing bit:
"And why do we want to be a nation that worships rich people anyway? Conspicuous consumption used to be bad taste. Unfortunately taste has been abolished. And students have never been so obsessed with money, and so indifferent to spiritual things. It's not the tech industry's fault. But the next time a multi-billionaire tech bigshot tells me how wonderful capitalism is, I'm going to throw up. Obviously they think it's wonderful. But there's more to life. ..."Yes, there's more to life than money. So what the hell was your point again?
Did I die?
This looks a lot like heaven to me. AJ's Fine Foods: An incredible selection of fine wines, exotic spices, cheeses I've never heard of, desserts to die for, and even a sushi bar. We wandered in, quite unaware of what was in store (so to speak), while waiting for Williams-Sonoma to open. Two hours and a hundred bucks later (we needed something for lunch and cheap this place isn't!) we staggered out, dazed and bewildered, and quite enchanted. Good thing they don't have a store in Worland, I'd weigh 300 pounds.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006- - -
Essential reading for bloggers and blog readers:
"Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person's obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled -- whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others -- to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country's affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person's opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it is his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world."No shit.
-- Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit
Tuesday, January 24, 2006- - -
Shooting the bull..
We wandered through the University of Arizona's bookstores yesterday, specifically searching for the Geologic Map of Arizona (they didn't have one!) and generally browsing. My wife found an Edward Gorey Doubtful Guest T-shirt she had to have and I found On Bullshit.
Bullshit has always been a rather slippery substance; try to grasp it and it squeezes through your fingers. Therefore, Harry G. Frankfurt, a retired professor of philosophy at Princeton, thinks it's important to propose a Theory of Bullshit. It's an absolutely delightful, if tiny, tome that should provide me with much blogfodder.
I should also point to Timothy Noah's Slate article Defining Bullshit, which itself pretty much defines, yes, bullshit, in the process of discussing On Bullshit.
Ps. Why do I point to Timothy Noah's Slate article as an example of bullshit? Consider:
"... When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensible that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose." [Emphasis added]It's those infamous '16 words' and the Niger = Africa conflation that have been hashed out ad nauseum. Noah assuredly knows that Africa extends beyond the borders of Niger. Whatever he might believe regarding Saddam's intent to manufacture nuclear weapons, it is, for Noah, beside the point of making Bush out to be a liar. Of course, those 16 words are not a lie, but they too are bullshit by Frankfurt's definition. [Yes, by Frankfurt's delightful definition an assertion can be undeniably true and yet be utter bullshit!]
-- Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit
Monday, January 23, 2006- - -
A breath of fresh air
I'm very glad to see the educational gender gap getting some attention, with another post by the InstaPundit this morning. As Lionel Tiger notes:
"To the contrary, the [New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Men's] report frontally accepts that there are intrinsic differences in how men and women cope with health, education, responsibility and violence. It concludes that social policies must not begin by denying differences. If you're running a zoo, know the real nature of your guests. This applies nationally, not only in New Hampshire. The clout of female voters has been transmuted into a strangely pervasive inattention to the legitimate needs of boys and men. While there remain grating sources of unfairness to women, the community is in the process of steadily creating a new legal and educational structure that generates new gender unfairness: 90% of the victims of Ritalin and similar drugs prescribed for schoolkids are boys; but even drugged they perform less well than girls. A 2005 study at Yale found nationally that even in prekindergarten boys are nearly five times as likely to be expelled as girls." [Emphasis added]Prof. Tiger underscores the apalling current approach to educating little boys: 'Drug them into passivity. They may not learn anything, but at least they won't be so disruptive!' I rather suspect that if you were running a zoo and drugged all the animals who were too active the ASPCA would be on you like white on rice, so why do so many of our school systems get away with drugging all their little animals?
Why must you be so difficult?
That was a pain in the posterior. While I was fussing with my template to add New Stuff!! I decided to add the search bar (up there ^^). Well. Blogger's search bar doesn't add a new cell at the top of the blog, it overlays the top of the blog with the search bar, obscuring the title and my little definitional double entendre re the coyote. This entailed a bit of fussing with the HTML to move the headings, always dangerous for me. (Actually, it wasn't that difficult, maybe I'm getting the hang of it.)
Ps. No, I don't consider futzing with my blog template as being 'a slave to my computer', and even that I do very seldom (and with considerable trepidation).
You'll be seeing this expression a lot today, on the faces of Denver Broncos' fans.
Another photo from the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. This is a great example of why I love digital photography, particularly for petroglyphs. I had thought this looked like a human face with big, starey eyes -- sort of a dazed look -- but after dumping it into PhotoShop and punching up the contrast I can see it much better than I could in person and it looks more like an owl. Of course, we have no idea what it's meant to depict; no one knows what became of the Jornada Mogollon people.
No one knows what became of the Denver Broncos yesterday, either.
I have been seriously remiss in updating my blogroll and I'll get to that 'one of these days'. In the mean time, I've added a new category New Stuff!! (<--- over there). First up is Northview Diary, an excellent little blog about life on the farm. This is how I grew up, with the horses and cows, cats & dogs, rabbits & chickens (and pigs and goats). Still love animals and often relate to them better than I do to people. Give her a read, it's not your city life.
Sunday, January 22, 2006- - -
Patty sends a list. My favorites:
15. Why is "phonics" not spelled the way it sounds?And
18. If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?Of course, #18 is proof that love is blind. Or at least very near-sighted.
Wonder where they all went..
From the DailyPundit comes a link to an interesting Mark Steyn article on the Iranian problem. Steyn has a point that it seems we could be doing more to covertly subvert the Mullahs, but then the key word here is "covert." I tend to give our guys more credit, but I have no more idea what they're up to than Steyn does.
As for the great difficulty of military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, I think Steyn is seriously underestimating our military. After all, how many stealth bombers, flying how many sorties, does it take to drop 200 bunker busters? I don't know the answer, but I bet it's "not many". Add conventional bombers, fighter-bombers, and cruise missiles. Could we hit Steyn's 'couple of hundred potential sites' in one night with enough left over to drop a few on the Mullahs? I wouldn't bet against it. Speaking of which, we spend a week or two in Tucson most winters and the A-10s and fighters out of Davis-Monthan are remarkable for their absence this year, moreso even than in 2003. I suppose they might all be taking the weekend off, but I wouldn't bet on that either.
Ps. Jeebus! Okay, they're not all gone. Someone over at the National Guard airstrip (right across the road) is cranking one up and there's nothing stealthy about it.
"Dust storms may exist"
Or perhaps not. They could be a figment of your imagination or just dirt on your glasses. I've often wondered if all of you aren't figments of my imagination caused by too many hours of pounding my head on a padded wall.. Still, I will miss the New Mexico Highway Department's existential road signs.
Ah, those computer whizzes
Jaron Lanier replied to the comments of Eric Raymond, Glenn Reynolds, John Perry Barlow, and David Gelernter a couple of days ago. A good deal of the reply is a clarification of his original article (Yes, if you don't speak clearly the first time you may well spend more time in clarification than you did in pontification!). His response does make considerably more sense than the original, although perhaps I should not have read the original when the clock was telling me it was way past bedtime. This makes me cranky and crabby, and just plain hard to please.
Still, his latest remarks are sprinkled with oddities:
"Regarding specific points of disagreement: I would say that gasoline can be re-used if you smash the engine, just like dinosaur residue can be reused even though they and their ecosystems are smashed. Computer code loses its potency in a way that nothing else does.Yes, I understand (I think!) what he's getting at, but anyone who thinks 'riding a hobbyhorse' is an odd metaphor should certainly reexamine his own horse apples. "Smash the engine" indeed.
"Raymond claims that what I dreamed up as a "farce" is to him a "hopeful" possibility. What I wrote up as farce was people abandoning the species to become Gods because of Wal-Mart."
Frankly, I think Lanier's pessimism regarding the future of computers is ahistorical in the extreme. I spent years learning the rudiments of Fortran, etc. Now, my dad, who never touched a computer until long after retirement, is emailing with questions about how he might best archive his digital photos. Nor do I think much of his fears of software 'lock-in'. But then, I don't see many people relying on IBM OS360/370 anymore and there was a time when it was preeminent. Microsoft, Apple, et al. blew that paradigm out of the water and I suspect it will only be a short time before we look on Windows as a quaint anachronism. I wind up junking a computer after an average of two years use. When someone comes up with something that works better than Windows at a competitive price, I'll gladly junk Bill Gates' baby.
On the other hand, Lanier provides me with considerable schadenfreude in his discussion of Unix/Linux and his recent travails with an Apple product. I refuse to be 'a slave', in Lanier's parlance, to continual tweeking of my computer, I see no point in learning to work on my own OS and writing my own programs (been there, done that, life is too short), and refuse to pay twice as much for something that I suspect is only marginally better than a Windows-based machine. I've always suspected that Unix/Linux and Apple computer users' main reason for their loyalty to the brand is because they can't admit, even to themselves, how much they have invested in time and/or money. I really do spend very little time tweeking, upgrading, and customizing my Windows boxes, believing heartily in John D. MacDonald's old observation that 'it's not so amazing how well the bear dances, but that it dances at all'. Take it out of the box, plug it in, load some software, and it had better work. For the most part, Windows does. Yeah, it sucks but, I suspect, not as bad as its competition.
... and again. It's that old conflict between what we want to be true and what is:
"Surely our water line won't freeze overnight in Deming..."Coming from North Dakota, I never could understand the folks who talk about global warming like it's a bad thing. That's doubly true today.
"Surely our water line won't freeze overnight in Tucson..."
Ps. Yes, I know that the ice caps could melt and flood New York and LA. Still, the only way I see this as a bad thing is if all those city folk move to Wyoming, and that ain't goin' to happen.
Those angry white males
Could there be a more unlikely organization than the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Men? I would expect such a politically incorrect organization to go over about as well as a White Police Officer's Association. Note this delightful bit:
"Perhaps for those baffled as to why a Black Police Association is encouraged whereas a White Police Association would be (rightly) denounced, the pamphlet asks: "Can minorities be racist?". The answer appears to be: "Not really".Now substitute 'Sexism' for 'Racism' and ask yourself if the same equation applies. It would appear that in PC-speak, by definition, it is impossible for a minority to be racist or for a female to be sexist. Which seems singularly unhelpful and is, from an anthropological perspective, sheer foolishness.
"It says : "Minorities may of course have prejudices relating to the majority group and may sometimes act on these. Whether it is appropriate to refer to this as racism is debatable (remember that Racism = Prejudice + Power). ..."
For every yin there is a yang, and in order for there to be an "us" it appears that there must be a "them." Many culture groups' names for themselves essentially translate "We, The People," just as many groups' names for their neighbors translate "enemy." For instance, the people who call themselves Dakota/Nakota/Lakota - "those who consider themselves kindred" - were long ago dubbed Sioux, a corruption of their Ojibwe neighbors' term for them nadowe-is-iw-ug literally "They are snakes." Nothing new about identity politics, it appears to trip a primal trigger.
Unfortunately, this interpretation of identity politics as a yin/yang duality deeply embedded in the human psyche suggests that there really is no ultimate solution to the problems of racism, sexism, and all the other 'isms'. We will always identify more closely with our family than with our neighbors, more closely with our neighbors than with strangers, and more closely with those of our sex than with the opposite sex. Still, I hope that people of good will can learn to examine their own prejudices and overcome them.
For another anthropological perspective, see Lionel Tiger, who discusses the gender gap (mentioned below) and provides the link to the New Hampshire Commission.
Friday, January 20, 2006- - -
On the road again!
Considering how much dust was blowing into Almagordo from White Sands yesterday, I wasn't sure we wanted to drive right past White Sands today, but it was dead calm when I got up this morning, so we hitched up and moved Coyote World Headquarters, Almagordo division (pictured to the right) on down the road to Deming, NM. We'll overnight here and then on into Tucson, where the busman's holiday will kick into high gear: It's rock show time!
I was a bit disappointed that in all our travels around the Tularosa Basin we never saw any gemsbok (note that there are three species of oryx, only the gemsbok has been introduced into New Mexico). We've usually seen at least a couple on our previous trips. The New Mexico highway department has finally fixed I-10 through Los Cruces, which had been high on my list of the worst stretches of highway on earth. It's still a little rough hauling up out of the valley west of Los Cruces, but it's infinitely better than it was. After hidious winds yesterday it was near-calm today, a major relief. And tomorrow we'll be in Tucson, one of our all-time favorite cities.
Boys and education
The InstaPundit links to Richard Whitmire article on the growing education gap between boys and girls. Seems boys are falling behind rapidly. Says Whitmire, this is "... a dramatic and unsolved mystery: At some point in the early '80s, boys' relative academic records and aspirations took a downward turn. So far, no one has come up with a good explanation for this trend, but it's a story that affects millions of boys and their families."
It's been awhile since I had to deal with any eight-year-old boys, but if I recall correctly, they're a bit of a handful. I'm told by friends who do have young boys that the current diagnosis drawn from any disruptive behavior in class is Attention Deficit Disorder and the solution is to drug the little comedians into oblivion. These folks responded by pulling their kids out of that school and fleeing to Tinytown, where the teachers still understood what's meant by "boys will be boys."
I haven't done any research on this and don't know what the stats are, but I seem to recall that a dismayingly large percentage of boys in some areas are being treated for ADD, which just might have something to do with the abrupt downturn in their educational achievement. I'll have to look into this further..
Ps. Okay, here are some facts & figures: While it's estimated that 3 to 5% of the population has ADHD, the percentage of children medicated for ADHD is much higher, at least in some areas. Here's an article that discusses the over-diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder among school age children, which notes that "Over the last three decades the rate of drug treatment for behavior problems has increased exponentially, culminating in the prescription of ADHD drug treatment for at least 5 to 6 million American children annually ..."
In one study it was found that during the 1995-96 school year of students in two school districts in southeastern Virginia 8% to 10% of the students were treated with stimulants for ADHD in school. The study then found that a considerable additional number were being medicated outside of school. Most notably, the rates of medication were much higher for white boys than for the school-age population in general:
"Among elementary students, 17% of all students and 33% of white boys had been diagnosed with ADHD and the vast majority had been medicated for this condition at some time during the 1997-98 school year."Perhaps this doesn't acount for all of the gender gap in educational achievement, but it would appear to be a significant factor.
"In southeastern Virginia, the region with the highest documented rate of ADHD drug treatment of any community, students identified with ADHD were 3 to 7 times more likely than their peers to experience adverse educational outcomes. Regardless of whether children diagnosed with ADHD were medicated, they were far more likely than their schoolmates to be expelled or suspended from school, require special education services, and repeat a grade ..."
PPs. I just popped over to the InstaPundit's to see if there were any further developments, and the further development would seem to be me.. Welcome, InstaPundit readers!
PPPs. Marianne Friers writes:
"I have a high school aged son, who although smart as heck and a real asset in our family business, is a terrible student. He knows more than I ever will about American history and is an inspired mechanic. However, he HATES school. He would rather stay home and work like a field hand on our family farm than go to class. If we let him skip a day, he will work for a dozen hours beside his dad rather than sit in class for half that time.Be sure not to miss the post (and the comments!) at Stepping Stone that the InstaPundit linked to, and his follow-up on disciplining boys.
"I think you are absolutely right that this is because boys are no longer allowed to be boys. By their very nature they delight in the gory, violent aspects of life.
"Give 'em a stick and it turns into a Tommy gun quick enough. Society today abhors that aspect of male human nature. Schools work overtime to squash it and to brainwash the little critters that their very essence is bad, bad, bad. If that doesn't work they give them drugs instead.
"We value all of our kids for who they are. I wish I had the gumption to homeschool them."
I am eternally glad that I made it through school before ritalin was invented and recess was eliminated. I was often a bit unsocialized, and couldn't sit still for 10 minutes. I can only imagine where I'd be if I were in grade school/high school now. Thankfully, I've been 'on recess' ever since I graduated from college!
PPPpps. [Sigh] So much email shows up with imbedded advertising links that I didn't notice Ms. Friers' link to her blog Northview Diary. And an excellent one it is, farming in up-state New York, horses and cows and baby bunnies (Oh, My!).
Thursday, January 19, 2006- - -
It's a busman's holiday!
The geologist of the family could no longer be contained, so we set out today to poke the rocks. We started at Valley of the Fires, just west of Carrizozo, NM, a fascinating place. There seems to be some disagreement over when the lava flows occurred, with some of the literature saying it was about 1000-1500 years ago, and others saying it was more like 5000 years ago. Whatever, it's long cold now. Pretty darn scenic though.
Hiking in that incredibly jumbled terrain gave us a powerful thirst, so we stopped in at the Sierra Blanca Brewery in Carrizozo for a quick tour -- very impressive -- and then went across the street to the Outpost for their green chile cheeseburger and a few Sierra Blanca brews, highly recommended by the folks at Weber's Grill in Ruidoso when we stopped in there yesterday (Weber's is the "pub" half of the Sierra Blanca Brewpub. Not quite under the same roof, but darn good food and beer.) The Outpost's green chile cheeseburgers were darn good too.
Then it was off down the road to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site (Hey, I get equal time!) It's perhaps the largest collection of Jornada Mogollon petroglyphs, with about 21,000 individual 'glyphs. I set out to take a picture of every darn one of them, but eventually it got miserably windy and the dust blowing up from the White Sands was unbelievable. It finally got too windy to hold the camera still and my wife dragged me away by the ear.
Pretty darn cool though. Here, we started out to look at the rocks and found the rocks looking back..
The Mogollon culture area is a long way from my area of expertise and I couldn't say for sure, but I'd guess they must have eaten a few bighorn sheep.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006- - -
I visited Folk of the Wood Accoustic Music Specialty Shoppe in Ruidoso, NM, today. They're under new management, they've just moved and their shop is a bit of a mess, their web site is belly up, and their phone system is scrooged. The good news: Their luthiers are still on the job, they've got a nice selection of instruments in stock at good prices, and they're working on the phones and web site. They don't have a toll free line in operation but they can be contacted at 505-802-0215, emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, and their web address will remain www.folkofthewood.com, although that link will only get you a 404 at present.
I had a very nice chat with Tradd Tidwell, one of their luthiers and an excellent mando player. Looked over and tried a variety of nice mandolins, and even got a chance to play an octave mandolin, aka "a mandolin before taxes." They're about the size of a guitar and tuned an octave below a regular mandolin. The bastids wouldn't sell me the octave though, it was already spoken for. The teases.
Give them a call, drop them a line, or stop by their new digs at 1031 Mechem Dr., Unit #1, Ruidoso, NM 88345.
Ps. They're making progress! The web site is up and running, although they've still got a lot of remodeling to do. They've always done very well with their photography, giving you a close look at each instrument. I hope they'll manage to continue that.
The fog of war..
Was never foggier than in the recent flap over the missile that wasn't. Via the DailyPundit comes MSM/DNC Lie #1 of 2006 from the Cassandra Page. Where to start?
First, we have Cassandra's assertion that this is a WWII artillery shell, imbedded in a link to Michelle Malkin, who in turn links to Jeff Taylor, who posts a photo of the offending object for comparison with a photo of a 155 mm artillery shell. Clearly, Taylor is correct in identifying the projectile as an artillery shell, so it is highly unlikely that it was delivered via a Predator. But where does the "WW II" bit come from? Well, that would appear to originate in an article at The American Thinker (also linked by Cassandra), who quotes Ned Barnett:
"Ned Barnett is an expert on military technology, and frequently serves as a contributor to The History Channel on mil-tech issues. He has plenty of experience researching military ordnance. He told me:Mmkay.. refer back to the two photos posted by Jeff Taylor. Toward the base (bottom) of each shell you will see a brass band that encircles the projectile. This is called an obturator ring and is generally made of brass, bronze, or some other softer-than-steel material. It obturates (fills) the bore so that powder gases are contained and engages the rifling of the gun's bore, imparting stabilizing spin to the projectile while protecting the bore from the hard case of the projectile. Look closely at the obturators on the two rounds and you will note that the bottom, example round has a shiny, smooth obturator while the offending object in the upper photo has closely spaced diagonal grooves. Those are the marks of rifling, indicating that the round has indeed been fired. Also, it should be noted that the wear and tear imparted to a projectile in firing and impact will definitely lead to premature aging. Yes, the beast has been fired and I see no reason to presume that it was very long ago. So much for our expert Mr. Barnett (who does note that the projectile doesn't look old enough to be of WW II vintage but then implies that it might be). Sure, such ordnance was invented circa WW I, but the 155mm gun remains in use to this day.
“Based on my extensive experience in researching military technology, I can verify that this is a 152mm or 155mm artillery shell – unfired – and by the looks of it, fairly old. ...""
So where did the thing come from? I find it highly unlikely that conventional artillery would have been used to shell a possible meeting of al Zawahiri and his cohorts. Something a bit more accurate would seem to be called for. We do have a precision guided 155 mm artillery round, the XM982 Excalibur, which might have done the job but, as its 'XM' prefix denotes, it's experimental. It also has nose fins, which the offending projectile apparently does not. The answer: Who the hell knows? It is certainly possible that the old man and the boy were in the house when it was hit, so perhaps we shouldn't chastise the NY Times too much on the basis of their ignorance of ordnance when there appears to be plenty to go around. There certainly has been enough blatter on all sides to thoroughly confuse the issue however, and now I've probably added a bit more.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006- - -
A Gory Story
I finally got around to reading Jaron Lanier's Gory Antigora, prompted by today's publication of John Perry Barlow's reply (I've been a fan of Barlow for many years). Of course, I also read Eric S. Raymond and Glenn Reynolds' replies. Frankly, I'm a bit underwhelmed.
Explaining a dense topic in clear, simple terms is a great and rare gift. Stephen Hawking springs to mind as an outstanding example. Unfortunately, if Hawking exemplifies clarity of discourse, Lanier is it's antithesis, seeding a morass of unintelligible blather with the occasional banal truth: "The most technically realistic appraisal of the Internet is also the most humanistic one. The Web is neither an emergent intelligence that transcends humanity, as some (like George Dyson) have claimed, nor a lifeless industrial machine. It is a conduit of expression between people." A conduit of expression? Why that would never have occurred to me! Ultimately, Lanier's essay reminds me of the exercises in academic obscurantism that seem designed to leave the audience thinking 'That guy must be brilliant, I didn't understand a damn thing he said!'
Fortunately for my fragile ego, Eric Raymond begins his reply: "I'm finding it difficult to reply to Jaron Lanier's essay, because I'm finding it difficult to extract an actual point from the text." I think the response I'm searching for here is 'Indeed'. Full disclosure: I'm probably particularly sensitive to this sort of pseudo-intellectual techno-babble because a number of my colleagues have made careers of memorizing long strings of impressive-sounding jargon that sound very good to the uninitiated -- "The guy must be brilliant, etc." -- but can best be translated as 'blah, blah, blah, Ginger, blah, blah, blah'. The language is high falutin' but the content is near nil.
From there I went to John Perry Barlow's essay, expecting that he might make sense of Lanier, but there too I was disappointed. Not the least by the analogy Barlow draws between the agora/antigora and evolutionary biology. Says Barlow: "To return to the biological model, I would point out that nature is really a long argument between creative chaos and grimly stable order. The evolutionary record displays what Stephen J. Gould called "punctuated gradualism." Successful life-forms dominate for long, boring periods between brief exclamation points of wild experiment." Ayee!
Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould proposed the concept they termed punctuated equilibrium as an alternative to the earlier concept of phyletic gradualism, two terms Barlow appears to have concatinated. More recently Kieser and Groeneveld have proposed a model that they term punctuated gradualism that accommodates both punctuated equilibrium and phyletic gradualism. Unfortunately, I don't think Barlow was referring to this excellent hypothesis and the remainder of Barlow's discussion of evolutionary biology is equally.. unfortunate. The points he makes are good ones, but this is much like a doctor drawing the analogy between human metabolism and the workings of an internal combustion engine, and then going on to demonstrate that he hasn't the foggiest notion what goes on under the hood of his Volvo. It grates*.
Finally, Glenn Reynolds' reply manages to work in a plug for his forthcoming book and a plug for space exploration, without shedding much light on Lanier's essay. If this is an example of what the Cato Institute intends as "the exchange of big ideas" I'm afraid I'm not much impressed.
*Ps. I should note that Lanier is the first to draw the rather inapt analogies between evolutionary biology and human cognition, and computers and the internet.
PPs. Today's installment in the on-going discourse of Computer Intellectuals is provided by David Gelernter, who sheds some light on Lanier's original article. One of the things I'd found a bit odd in the original was Lanier's assertion that we needn't have employed the concept of the computer file. Lanier noted:
"Prior to sometime in the mid-1980s, there were influential voices in computer science opposing the idea of the file because it would lead to file incompatibility. Ted Nelson, the inventor of the idea of linked digital content, and Jef Raskin, initiator of the Macintosh project at Apple, both held the view that there should be a giant field of elemental data without file boundaries."Okay. A giant field of elemental data, eh? I had a hard time grasping how a giant field of elemental data would be organized and stored, but Gelernter helps out in linking to an article he wrote for the NYTimes awhile back. says he:
"What is this universal information structure? A narrative stream, which says, ''Let me tell you a story. '' The system shows you a 3-D stream of electronic documents flowing through time. The future (where you store your calendar, reminders, plans) flows into the present (where you keep material you're working on right now) and on into the past (where every e-mail message and draft, digital photo, application, virtual Rolodex card, video and audio clip and Web bookmark is stored, in addition to all those calendar notes and reminders that used to be part of the future and have since flowed into the past to be archived forever).Got that? Instead of files we'll have 'electronic documents' such as email messages, digital photos, video clips, etc., that can be organized into 'pending documents', 'working documents', and 'archived documents'. I'm right with him in thinking that the terminology -- folders, desktops, and so on -- is a little contrived. I preferred, and still think of these as directories and subdirectories, ala MSDOS. However, these aren't the objects, they're our terminology for the objects. Whether you call it a 'file', an 'electronic document' or 'Fred', it's still a batch of digital data that can be agregated into larger batches of digital data. Our software interprets this batch of Fred and displays a photograph while it interprets that batch of Fred and displays an email message. Now I understand, and I absolutely concur that we should do away with computer files and go to the Fred principle. [Sigh.]
"And so the organization of your digital information reflects the shape of your life, not the shape of a 1940's Steelcase file cabinet. [...]"
Just call me Pollyanna
"Surely our water line won't freeze overnight in Almagordo..."
What a concept!
"George Bush won the election. If you don't like it, you better win elections."
-- Rahm Emanuel
Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!
The famously pork-free John Boehner, candidate for U.S. House majority leader, proves that he's first a politician. Says he: "I called for a ban on earmarks that serve lobbying interests at the expense of the public interest. We need to establish some clear standards by which worthy projects can be distinguished from worthless pork, so that pork projects can be halted in their tracks as soon as they are identified."
Even the infamous 'bridge to nowhere' would have created a bunch of jobs. That's a public interest, isn't it? The old saw that "it's only pork when it goes to someone else's congressional district" is very true. The pork won't go away by establishing "clear standards" for "worthy projects", because all of these projects are worthy in the eyes of the congresscritters who view pork as "getting their fair share" of the government's largesse. I suspect that Boehner knows this.
Boehner flatly states that our government is too big and controls too much money, but never mentions the obvious solution: Cutting the federal budget. Instead he makes big talk about principles and ethics, and lobbying reform and moving power out of the beltway, all the normal hot air. As long as the money is there, there will be plenty of snouts in the trough. Unfortunately, Congress will ask for less money about the time that pigs sprout wings.
Thank God for modern medicine
"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
"I love California I practically grew up in Phoenix."
Monday, January 16, 2006- - -
Finally made it to "sunny" New Mexico
We left Ft. Morgan Sunday morning and headed south by way of Brush, Lyman, Rocky Ford, and Trinidad. Five trees, four towns, three prisons, two curves, and one hill later we made it to Raton, NM, which proved to be the only place other than Baggs, Wyo, where my Verizon EVDO card couldn't get a signal. To add insult to injury, we woke up this morning to an inch and a half of snow. Yikes! If we'd wanted to get snowed on we could have stayed in Wyoming.
My wife, the geologist, had wanted to start the busman's holiday by taking her pointy hammer to the rocks around Raton today, but we decided we'd best just head south fast as we could go. We drove out from under the worst of the snow just south of Raton, but it snowed on us off and on all the bloody way to Almagordo. We made it here and will spend a couple or three days unwinding, seeing the sights, and visiting the wineries around here before we decide where to go next.
Saturday, January 14, 2006- - -
Here's an interesting story
Researchers believe raptors may have hunted Australopithecus africanus, based on a re-examination of 'the 3 1/2-year-old ape-human known as the Taung child', who appears to have been killed by an eagle.
A couple of notes on the article: First, "hominids" are members of the family Hominidae, which includes modern humans and all our ancestors and close relatives. Second, you'll note that the 'missing link' bit dates to 1924. 'Missing link' and 'ape-human' aren't really part of the modern paleontological jargon. Finally, A. africanus is now generally believed to have been an evolutionary dead end and not our direct ancestor. The details are a bit fuzzy, however.
Ps. Can I dance with your date?
Here's another interesting article on human origins. I don't consider National Geographic to be an authoritative source, but the article gives a good overview of current thinking and controversy. One thing to note: Radiocarbon dating is quite accurate for recent materials, but becomes progressively less accurate as we go back in time. By 50,000+ years ago, it can be pretty darn shaky and a 20,000 year gap may be no gap at all.
Now there's an opportunity for infinite mischief
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- A Cheyenne representative proposes a bill he says would clean up Wyoming elections.Who says what's 'unbiased'? If they get this off the ground I'd love to sit in on the sessions where they decide who's to be on the Voters Commission and when they decide what to include in each candidates' resume. Can you say Cat Fight?
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, proposes a system that would allow candidates who collect a modest number of donations from private citizens to then qualify for public campaign funds. Zwonitzer presented the bill Wednesday to the League of Women Voters in Cheyenne.
Putting such a system in place in Wyoming would cost $3 million per biennium, Zwonitzer said. It would cost another $200,000 to establish a Wyoming Voters Commission he proposes in the legislation to provide unbiased information about candidates.[Emphasis added]
I keep forgetting to mention that the Casper Star web site has a great news look for the new year. They've even got pictures, although they've yet to integrate them into the articles. Ah well, one step at a time..
Woke up this morning to multiple systems failures. The ignition electrode in the tin tipi's furnace is old and coroded, and fails to ignite about once in 1000 times (probably help if I cleaned it more often..). Oddly, it never seems to do this except in the middle of the night when it's really cold. When the furnace fails to fire the blower still comes on and quickly floods the place with frigid air. Luckily, Fred was on the job and came to let me know that his little pink spot was turning blue. Simple solution: Turn off the furnace, wait until the blower cycles down, then turn it back on. voila! Heat.
Fine, it was time to get up anyway, so might as well wash up.. Oops! No water. It had been so nice that I hadn't plugged in the heat tape on the external water line. Froze solid, natch'. Get the flashlight and stagger outside, find the cable and plug it in.. Nope, no juice. Check the breaker, it's broke. Reset and we've got heat to the water line. And it's time to go south!! One more day here and we're off to somewhere in New Mexico.
The trials and tribulations of linear living. I should note that it took longer to tell you this than it did to get the furnace back on and heat to the hose. It will take awhile for the heat tape to thaw the line -- it will keep it from freezing, but you're supposed to plug it in before the temperature drops so low. I'll plead ignorance, on the grounds that the Casper Star's weather for Ft. Morgan says it's currently 36 degrees and predicts a low of 29 (as of an hour ago). That must be the other Ft. Morgan 'cause it's a lot colder than that out there.
Friday, January 13, 2006- - -
Don't we all?
"I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else."As quoted by Mike Compton
-- Lily Tomlin
A long day
Yes, it is possible to put $600 worth of wine in one cart, even if it's all on sale and you don't spend more than $10 on any single bottle. The cart does get a bit hard to push though. The trip to Applejack's is well worth it, as I figure we saved 30-50% over what we would have paid in Wyo. And that's for what little we could have found at home. A good selection, great prices, and heavy-duty carts.
Departing Applejack's, we found our way to the Blake Street Tavern and Flying Dog Brewery. What can I say? Good Beer. No shit. The Classic Pale Ale and IPA were very nice and the IPA was well-hopped without that 'strained through a bale of alfalfa' over-hoppiness. It was just right! The burgers and sandwiches are excellent as well. The Tavern is only open for lunch from 11-2, and tables get mighty scarce at the noon hour, so best get there early. Despite the crowd the service was fast, pleasant, and attentive.
Then it was a fast trip back to Ft. Morgan, where we hit the video store and I picked up Serenity. Outstanding! A red letter day all around.
Well, slap my ass and call me Sally!
Back last Sunday (January 8th), I noted the media's non-reaction to Stephen Hayes' Weekly Standard piece reporting that Saddam Hussein's regime trained thousands of Islamic terrorists. Last I checked, on Tuesday evening, we were up to 12 hits on a google news search of Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak, all of them publications on the fringes of the mainstream. Now, I'm gratified to note that we're up to 19 hits. Not overwhelming, but at least the list now includes such worthies as the Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Scripps Howard, and Deroy Murdock (Murdock also notes a Newsweek column that didn't surface in my limited search). All of these appear to lean heavily on Hayes' original piece, so we're still a bit short on independent corroboration, but the story is getting harder to ignore.
Thursday, January 12, 2006- - -
The wind blows every which way, don't it?
The WaPo's Richard Cohen on Senator Joe Biden:
"'Tis a pity. Biden occupies the sensible center of the Democratic Party. He supported Bill Clinton's crime bill (more cops, fewer assault rifles) which helped the Democrats fight the talk-show calumny that they were pro-crime and anti-cop. In his maturity, he has emerged, along with some appropriate gray hair, as one of his party's most important -- and knowledgeable -- voices on foreign policy. Even on Iraq, an area where too many Democrats forgot that there was any reason for war, Biden took a decidedly centrist -- and defensible -- position. He voted to authorize the president to go to war but has since characterized that vote as "a mistake.""We all know how many more cops and how many fewer assault rifles we have on the street nowadays, but I suppose Clinton's crime bill did help the Dems on the talkshow circuit. Likewise, Biden's 'I voted for it, but now I'm agin it!' probably looks good on Oprah. Out here in the middle it sounds more like the 'sensible center' is twisting in the wind. (H/T InstaPundit)
"They can't say that! Children might read it!"
[Flying Dog Brewery] "Road Dog porter was the first of our beers to cross the line with the authorities and shortly after its launch in 1995, we were told to remove it from the shelves due to the alleged use of profanity. The offending text was Ralph's inscription that simply read, 'Good Beer. No Shit.' We replaced the text with, 'Good Beer. No Censorship.' and with the help of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) we fought to get the original text re-instated. In 2001 we achieved our goal and today, 'Good Beer. No shit.' stands proudly as a statement of fact on all Road Dog Porter packaging."You see? The ACLU really does do good works!
The PM Energy Family Blog: "The ugly reality of being energy independent hit today. Some gunk got into our generator’s carb, rendering it inoperable on a day when we really needed it."Guys, generating your own electricity by burning gasoline isn't exactly what I think of as "energy independent." Yer still dependent of fossil fuels, just -- you know -- doin' it the hard way. [Via the InstaPundit]
What a trip!
We made it to Ft. Morgan yesterday, running in a hell of a crosswind. We bailed out of our usual route, straight down I-25 to Loveland (the wind frequently decorates the ditches with semis between Wheatland and Chugwater, not a good way to start a vacation), and took the backroads through Torrington and Scott's Bluff, which was some better, but not much. We started early to try and beat the wind, but it had howled all night in Casper and only gained force the farther south we went. (With one brief lull: It was dead calm in Douglas. First time for everything I suppose.)
Sunrise found us in Torrington, where we had a great breakfast at the Citgo truckstop east of town. Their breakfast burrito with green chili is still with me, outstanding gas mileage. Turned south on the bypass west of Scott's Bluff (watch out for that railroad crossing, it's an axle-breaker) and headed up over the Wildcat Hills, one of those places that's uphill both ways over the divide between the North Platte at Scott's Bluff and the South Platte at Ft. Morgan. 'Course, everything's uphill from wherever you are when you're hauling all your worldly possessions behind you. Thank god the 5th wheel is so heavy though, or we'd probably have been decorating a ditch somewhere. Did I mention that it was windy?
Then we crossed the border into Colorado and the wind abruptly died. Funny, that always seems to happen when you cross the border south into Colorado. North Dakotans say that -40 keeps the riff raff out, in Wyoming it's the wind. Hard to say which is more effective..
Now, we're comfortably ensconced at the Sands,in their little RV park behind the motel, and wishing for a little wind from some direction besides southeast. Ah, the delightful aromas of cheese factory and stockyard. As my farmer friends would say, 'it smells just like money' (personally, I was never that fond of the odor of butt sweat either though). In Ft. Morgan they at least have the sense to put that stuff where it's usually downwind. And it must have got pretty close to 60 yesterday! If we were geese we'd stop right here.
Instead, it's a short visit with the M-I-L and then south 'til we can have the windows open at night (I hope, I hope!). We haven't decided where we're going yet, just looking for someplace where the hardware store has never sold a snowshovel.
Funny story about the Sands motel and RV park: Seems that years ago, when the INS still tried to catch illegals, there were secret tunnels out behind the motel where they hid the wetbacks. Must have been a delightful way to live. At any rate, although there's plenty of room for them to have built pull-throughs for the RVs (it's the damnedest place to get into I've ever seen) they can't do it because the ground keeps giving way back there. What they need to do is hire an archaeologist with some remote sensing gear to find those old tunnels and do a little excavation. That would be most interesting.
Hmm.. now I smell a community development grant.
Now there's some good news!
For the most part, I avoid watching television -- life's just too short -- so I missed the Firefly series back when it was broadcast. Not because I avoided it, but because I just never heard of it. Then the DVD set came out and I decided that I should see what all the hype was about. Absolutely loved it! I watched the whole series and all the extras and behinds the scenes stuff twice in about three days. Then I was faced with a choice between watching it all a couple more times, or forcing it on friends. If TV is a drug I guess I'm a pusher now.
I haven't seen Serenity yet. It didn't come 'to a theater near me', at least while I've been near a theater, and we haven't been to WallyWorld since it was released on DVD. Most frustrating, our lives have been too much up-in-the-air to mail order anything. We're going to Denver today for our semiannual pilgrimage to Applegate's (we try to get out of there with only one cart of wine) and I'll keep my eyes open for a DVD store. Can't wait.
At any rate, the news that a Serenity sequel might be forthcoming is very welcome! In fact, if they were to revive the TV series, I'd try to remember to watch it. Really. I promise.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006- - -
"How far are you willing to go to win the War on Terror?"
Matt Welch raises a fascinating question. It's late and this will require further cogitation in detail, but my answer is: A lot farther than I would be comfortable with encoding into law.
Let's take Matt's number three as an example: "3) Can you imagine a situation in which the government would be justified in waterboarding an American citizen?" [Let's skip the debate on whether waterboarding is torture and whether American citizens should enjoy more natural rights than any other human being.] Would I condone giving carte blanche to US operatives' use of torture? Hell No. Would I break out the wires and pliers if I were convinced that the guy I was holding knew the location of the ticking nuke in Chicago? You're damned right I would.
The question might be better phrased as: Would I make myself a heinous criminal to save the lives of millions of people? Yes, I would, knowing full well the potential consequences of my actions [but catch me if you can]. I would be neither surprised nor offended if the authorities felt it necessary to prosecute me because what I did should be illegal and I think breaking the law is wrong. However, breaking the law to save millions of lives is, I suspect, what lawyers refer to as "mitigating circumstances".
"Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
-- George Orwell
Where the wild geese go..
You shouldn't follow barefoot. Fortunately, we're well-shod and comfortably housed in the old tin tipi, headed south to someplace warm. We left Worland first thing this morning and drove as far as Casper, where we've become familiar faces at the Isaac Walton League campground at Ft. Caspar.
Ah yes, Casper, where the jet stream touches the ground. I should have a word with the Casper Star-Tribune weather people, who say the current winds are out of the southwest at 25 mph, with gusts to 32 mph. That's got to be inside their office. Here at Ft. Caspar the wind is howling like a banshee. (Actually, Ft. Caspar is in a bit of a wind funnel, formed by high ridges on either side of the North Platte River. The winds are typically much lower most anywhere up away from the river.)
Old Ft. Caspar was established back during the great westward expansion, to protect the wagon trains following the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails from Indian attack. The location was ideal, as many groups of travelers were stranded here by inclement weather. Yep, modern-day Casper might not exist if it weren't for the locally lousy weather stranding travelers here for the last 150 years. Okay, I am joking, but not much..
A very long day today, with miles of snowpack starting at Shoshone and turning to black ice 30 miles west of Casper; tons of fun pulling a 36-foot 5th wheel, but having grown up in North Dakota, I used to drive on that stuff 10 months out of the year. The black ice had caught a semi headed west, turned him almost 180 degrees, sent him across the on-coming traffic and near-backward into the east-bound ditch, where he was jackknifed until he could have reached out his driver's side window and touched his trailer. Luckily, he didn't take out any on-coming traffic, and he managed to keep the whole mess upright. I bet he pinched out a few rubber nickels though.
Tomorrow, on to Ft. Morgan, CO, to see the M-I-L.
When did that feature become a bug?
Browsing the news this morning, I came on this bit about terrorists recruiting in Spain for the glorious war in Iraq. This sent me to wondering why some are making this out to be a bad thing, given all the past talk about a flypaper strategy: Fighting the terrorists in Iraq rather than in New York and London. Which led me to wonder if the 'flypaper' was a figment of bloggers' imaginations, or had ever been expressed as actual strategy by the Bush administration and military. Well, a quick google found this mostly excellent article, written just yesterday by Andrew Sullivan, that affirms that the 'fly trap' was indeed an expressed strategy before we went into Iraq.
Sullivan: "... If the terrorists leave us alone in Iraq, fine, [someone close to the inner circles of the Bush administration] said. But if they come and get us, even better. Far more advantageous to fight terror using trained soldiers in Iraq than trying to defend civilians in New York or London. "Think of it as a flytrap," he ventured. Iraq would not simply be a test-case for Muslim democracy; it would be the first stage in a real and aggressive war against the terrorists and their sponsors in Ryadh and Damascus and Tehran. Operation Flytrap had been born.Of course, articulating the flypaper strategy might indeed "end it." The jihadis may arguably be nuts, but they're not stupid. Once again I'm forced to be glad that the Prez doesn't take all the great advice he's so often offered. Tell your enemies you're drawing them into a trap? Please.
"I subsequently aired this theory on my blog, and received incredulous responses. Readers chimed in with objections. Wouldn't that mean essentially using U.S. soldiers as bait? Isn't this too cynical and devious a strategy? Isn't there a limitless supply of jihadists just longing to mix it up with the U.S. in a terrain they know better than we do? What on earth are you talking about?
"Will this strategy work? Its obvious disadvantage is that it's tough to fight an escalating terrorist war in the same country you're trying simultaneously to nudge toward civil order and democracy. Terrorism undermines civil society even in countries with very advanced traditions of democracy, let alone a country like Iraq. Certainly, that internal contradiction helps explain why the U.S. is now desperate for more help in pacifying Iraq as well as waging war within it. One possibility is that better and more aggressive policing in urban areas (by Iraqis and foreign troops) will enable U.S. soldiers to leave the cities and fight a guerrilla war against al Qaeda and Hezbollah in the Iraqi hinterland, putting extra pressure on Iran and Syria at the same time. That would be an elegant solution. But at the moment it's a somewhat optimistic one.
"At some point, I'd argue, the president therefore has to make this strategy more formal. He has to tell the American people that more violence in Iraq may not in some circumstances be a bad thing. It may be a sign that we are flushing out terror and confronting it, rather than passively waiting for it to attack again. He has to remind people that this war is far from over, that the mission is still very much unaccomplished, and that this is not Vietnam. Right now he looks defensive, reactive and not in full control. That must end. And articulating the flypaper strategy might just help end it."
'Are we using U.S. soldiers as bait'? Well sure. Feining weakness to draw out your enemies is a very old trick because it works.
'Isn't this too cynical and devious a strategy'? Of course it's cynical and devious. It's very cynical to say 'better Baghdad than Boise'. If it's too cynical we can apologize later. You know, right after we apologize for supporting Saddam all those years before we decided he was just too evil. That seems pretty cynical too.
'Isn't there a limitless supply of jihadists just longing to mix it up with the U.S. in a terrain they know better than we do'? Well there is that, but if there is a limitless supply of jihadis, all I can say is "better Baghdad than Boise," to which I'll add "Poor bastards."
'What on earth are you talking about'? Nothing, nothing, forget I said anything, I was just rambling.
Monday, January 09, 2006- - -
Bah! Stupid #$%@ computers!
Bill Quick has an interesting post linking to this article about the shortcomings of our military equipment. I tried to post a comment, but Bill's blog is toast (and people look down their noses at us lowly BlogSpot types). At any rate, here's my comment for what it's worth:
You know, I bet that the troops at Valley Forge griped about the quality of the rags they had to wrap their feet with too. Some folks just aren't happy unless they have something to bitch about.
Seriously, there certainly are problems with the military's arms and equipment, but if you were wondering whether Winslow T. Wheeler knew what he was talking about you don't have to look farther than his comment: "That the large 9mm caliber M9 pistol is collecting similar complaints brings into question just what it is that troops are complaining about." The large 9mm, loaded with hardball, is a sorry joke compared to the old standard .45 ACP, as we told the bastards when we were involved with the early testing at the Armor Engineer Board that led to the adoption of the M9. But No, we had to go with the NATO standard caliber.. you know, the caliber selected by the Germans and French.
On the other hand, I ran more than a few qualification ranges and recall a significant number of troops who were simply terrified of the blast and roar of the .45 (believe it or not).
Likewise, Some wax poetic about the fine qualities of the old M1 and M14, and I like the M14 a lot but, judging from actual results on the range, it's not for city boys, although I know some country girls who can plumb tear up a 1000-yard target with one. Both the .45 and 7.62 are great rounds, but they apparently have too much recoil for someone who's never fired a gun of any kind before. That should be blamed on their mamas, not on the military.
The big problem is one that really isn't solvable: Logistics run afoul of Murphy's Law. You can't have multiple calibers of small arms to suit the needs of each individual trooper without issuing the guys with M14s 5.56mm ammo and the guys with M16s 7.62. Personally, I would have gone with the more effective caliber and let the wimps sweat, but that's just me.
"Make my day"
I believe that's the more common phrase than the "Stand Your Ground" or "Shoot Your Avon Lady" appellations applied to the proposed no retreat law by the Casper Star's editors. I went over the proposed 'no retreat' and 'no CCW' laws in my last post at greater length, and Blogger was beginning to fight me (it doesn't seem to like long posts), so I cut it off. Still a few minor points though:
The Casper Star editors quote District Attorney Mike Blonigen of Casper: "... says he is concerned such a law could be misused. "I would hate to see a situation where we allow a person to bring a gun to a fistfight," he says." Funny, in the case where my wife was on the jury, a local man did bring a gun to a fistfight at an after-hours party and he was duly charged with felony aggravated assault and battery. The jury acquitted him. Seems it wasn't so cut and dried as all that. The 'fistfight' was three guys beating on one drunk and our defendant put a stop to that -- with a 1911, the kid was no slouch. No one was shot and no shots were fired. Happy ending right? Well, no. Despite these basic facts, which weren't in dispute far as I can see, charges were still filed against the guy who broke up the fight.
The police had a theory that the guy might have tried to fire his gun and it misfired. (Yeah right, we're talkin' 1911 here, only one of the most reliable handguns of all time.) Great show was made in the courtroom of making sure that no one on the jury was familiar with the 1911 and the results of the state crime lab examination of the handgun and ammo were suppressed at the request of the prosecutor. Neither of these moves sat well with the jury, who felt that they were being chosen for their ignorance and then being actively kept in the dark. Yep, insult the jury's intelligence, you're off to a great start.
The defendant claimed to have been unloading the gun, and the police found an ejected cartridge on the ground, an unloaded handgun, and the magazine in the kid's hip pocket. They also noted a tiny mark on the primer of the ejected round and said 'Aha! He tried to shoot!' Sure he did, and then after ejecting the unfired 'dud' he cleared the chamber and dropped the magazine. Make sense to you? It makes more sense to me that the guy was trying to insure that no one got shot if he should get involved in a scuffle.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have juries. The law, lawyers, judges, and the police can indeed be asses of major proportions. Most asinine, the jury did not mean to condone such behavior. They would have convicted the guy of a lesser included misdemeanor assault or such, if that option had been offered -- we do take this waving guns around stuff pretty seriously under any circumstances -- but no, it was 'send him to prison or exonerate him'. Faced with an all or nothing choice, the jury found him not guilty although they'd have liked to slap him up-side the head.
Ps. Well isn't this precious. A kid in Worland gets charged with felony aggravated assault and battery for trying to save a drunk from a bashing, while Mr. Hotshot Football Player gets charged with three counts of misdemeanor 'brandishing a firearm' for pulling a gun on three teenagers in a MacDonalds parking lot. For what little justice remains in this world, thank those old birds who came up with the idea of a jury of your peers.
Et Tu, Sarge?
A pair of very interesting OpEd pieces in the Casper Star on Wyoming House Bill 46, "the No Retreat Law," and other pending gun rights legislation. First, we have MSG Hubert Townsend's comments in Saturday's print edition (dated Monday, Jan. 9th on line; maybe they'll print it twice, that would be nice). This is followed up by an editorial today. Both are well worth the read.
First, a little background:
CHEYENNE -- Wyoming could both ease legal restrictions on the use of deadly force and allow more citizens to carry concealed weapons under measures some lawmakers are pushing in the coming legislative session.Both Townsend's OpEd and today's editorial tend to disagree, as do I, with the assertion that the no retreat law will 'expand when you can use deadly force'. If anything, the proposed legislation will codify long-established precident, as Townsend notes:
Reps. Stephen Watt, R-Rock Springs, and Mick Powers, R-Lyman, are sponsoring a measure that would put Wyoming in the ranks of "no-retreat" states.
In addition to specifying that Wyoming citizens have no duty to try to escape before using deadly force against assailants, their bill would specify that a person has a right to assume that anyone breaking into his home poses a deadly threat in most instances.
"It expands when you can use deadly force," Watt said of his bill. He said he's sponsoring the measure because he believes people have a fundamental right to protect themselves.
Mike Krampner, a Casper criminal defense lawyer, said it's established fact that most break-ins are committed by people intent only on stealing property.
"There is a respectable school of thought that the human life, no matter how depraved, is worth more than any amount of property, and that we ought not to encourage summary execution for attempted theft," Krampner said.
On the concealed carry issue, Rep. Becket Hinckley, R-Cheyenne, says he plans to sponsor a measure in the coming session that would allow citizens to carry concealed handguns without going through the current state application process.
The state currently limits concealed carry licenses to those who go through an application process intended to screen out felons and others barred from owning guns.
Somewhere along the line some people with an advanced case of religious self-righteousness forgot their own heritage and written history and placed the lives of criminals over those rights of self-defense that householders held for thousands of years. Fortunately, it now seems that that despicable trend has finally turned as evidenced by several legislatures considering enacting Exodus’ original “no retreat” commandment.Mike Krampner's assertion that 'most break-ins are committed by people intent only on stealing property' is certainly true, but perhaps a bit disengenuous. Yes, most burglars are only after property, but virtually all break-ins in the State of Wyoming are conducted while no one is home. In a state where roughly 70% of households have a gun, a career of hot burglary would likely be quite short and probably fatal for the burglar. This is not the case everywhere, as noted by Col. Cooper: "Current jargon holds that a "hot burglary" is one committed when the resident of the dwelling is at home - a "cold burglary" when he is not. Since the disarmament of the British public, hot burglary is up 50 percent - as opposed to a steady 13 percent in the United States."
In a state where hot burglary is virtually unheard of, I think it's safe to assume that someone breaking into your house when they know you're at home is one bad ass bastid who absolutely poses a deadly threat. There's a line here though: I certainly hope that the new law will not justify shooting some crankster when you catch him going out the back window with your VCR under his arm. The 'reasonable man doctrine' -- that deadly force is only justified in a case where a reasonable person would feel in danger of life and limb -- must still apply. I see the proposed no retreat law as simply clarifying the circumstances that can be assumed to lead a reasonable person to feel endangered, not as license to shoot anyone who sets foot in your home.
There's another interesting aspect to the no retreat legislation: If there's a law on the books that says you can shoot anyone kicking down your door in the middle of the night, it will likely make the SWAT team think twice about serving those late-night, no-knock warrants. This seems like a good thing to me; if you want to arrest someone and search their home, in most circumstances you can do it during daylight hours while wearing a police uniform. That is much safer for all involved and, unless the suspect poses a deadly threat to the community, there's no more justification for the police shooting him than there would be for you or I. Kicking down some crankster's door a 3 a.m. while dressed in full military regalia and packing automatic weapons seems a bit gratuitous, don't you think? Especially since said crankster is more likely to be home during daylight hours rather than out plying his nocturnal life of crime.
Then again, this sort of SWAT action doesn't happen very often in Wyoming, for the same reason we seldom see a hot burglary. It's too, too dangerous, which the SWAT team would appear to tacitly verify in their choice of attire. Now don't get me wrong, there's certainly a place for SWAT tactics, but it seems like overkill if the object is to arrest your local hippie pot-grower or some scabby-faced tweeker. But I digress..
[From the 'CHEYENNE' clip, above] Eric Johnson, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming College of Law, also serves as faculty director of the university's prosecution assistance program -- a clinic where law students provide assistance to prosecutors -- and he sees problems with the "no retreat" proposal.Consider this scenario: Q -- Well Officer Bill, what was the condition of the victim when you found him? A -- He'd been shot in the back. We found him lying outside the defendant's back window clutching a VCR to his chest. Apparently, Mr. Johnson believes that a jury in the State of Wyoming, where, as Mike Krampner notes, defense of property has never been considered justification for shooting anybody, would find this shooting justified under the new law. That seems patently silly to me. If the defendant has shot someone who didn't need shootin', no jury in Wyoming is going to be hornswoggled by a bunch of fancy legal flimflamery on the part of the defense attorney. Of course, judging from the four recent jury cases I, my wife, or close friends have been seated on, the jury won't be much impressed by biased witnesses, police theorizing, florid oration on the part of the prosecuting attorney, or admonitions from the judge either. In short, Mr. Johnson, you can't play a jury in Wyoming like some twelve-part violin concerto. If you try you'll only insult their intelligence, which they will assuredly hold against you. Arrggh! Digressions are us..
"It's not that I want people to have to walk away with their tails between their legs," Johnson said. "It's a concern that this could be misused by people who are clearly culpable, to create reasonable doubt in a case in which they're clearly at fault."
The legislation that I find more interesting is the move toward Vermont-style carry laws (actually more like Alaska's law, in that it still provides for training and licensing in order to carry out-of-state). As the Second Amendment says "keep and bear", I've always had more than a bit of trouble with requiring a license of any kind to bear arms, so I wildly applaud this measure. Note that the Second does not say 'keep and openly bear'. This is an issue where the NRA and I parted company about the time they started touting CCW licensing. Their argument seems to be that CCW licenses are better than no concealed carry at all, and I can see their point. I simply can't see CCW licensing as anything other than an unconstitutional infringement of a natural right. [Don't bother emailing on this point. I'm not a lawyer and I have heard all the arguments about how 'keep and bear' didn't really mean concealed. All that I've heard eventually boil down to sophistry.]
I also get a bit tired of the 'clubbishness' of CCW licensing; if you have a CCW you're a member of the club and authorized to swagger about. Why, you can even get a little badge with your CCW number on it! Give me a friggin' break. Either the Constitution and Bill of Rights mean what they say, or.. well, I suppose that's why we have so damn many lawyers. [Full disclosure -- I have held a CCW, back in my younger and less stiff-necked days. Never bought the little badge though.]
I'll close with MSG Townsend's parting shot:
"That’s the good news. The bad news was noted by Tacitus, the first century Roman historian. He stated, “The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates.” Well, some things never do change, do they?