Coyote n. A small wolf (Canis latrans) native to western North America.



The Old Coyote's alter ego is:

Anthony A. (Swen) Swenson

Mild-mannered archaeologist by day..

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Monday, December 31, 2007- - -  
Infuriating! Give the Cherry Creek Schools administrators a Spotted Jackass award!
Bill Richardson, a math teacher at Smoky Hill High School, has formed a mentoring group for black students and it works. Members of The Brotherhood come to school early and stay late, with upperclassmen counseling younger students in daily study sessions and support groups. The 60-some members have boosted their marks an average of half a letter grade in the year since the group formed. "We're no longer statistics," said 11th-grader Mike Seals, whose GPA has risen from a 2.3 to a 3.5."

Sounds like a great program, so it's getting the support of the school administration, right? Well, no:
Their rap triggers anxiety among Cherry Creek Schools administrators who prefer to tackle the achievement gap by training teachers to be attuned to the different cultures represented in the district.

"A new approach might distract from what we're doing," says district spokeswoman Tustin Amole. "The Brotherhood kind of sets us back."


Meanwhile, a districtwide Brotherhood summit set for next month has been scaled back from 1,600 kids — including third- and fourth-graders — to 400 older students.

"Telling young kids that most of you will fail, the worry is we're sending a message, however unconsciously, that we expect them to fail," Amole said.

Teaching self-worth makes sense. But those lessons mean something only if administrators allow them to be backed up with a clear-eyed look at the world.

"They don't realize that you can turn kids on by telling the truth," Richardson said. "Even if we have to go underground, we're not going to stop until we change the world."
Heaven forbid we should do something that works. Better to stay in our nice, comfortable multi-culti fog and doom more generations of kids to second class lives. This is just unbelievable.

@8:09 AM

Saturday, December 29, 2007- - -  
It's not often I disagree with the InstaPundit..
But you could probably do two puppies at a time with a Tailgator.

@6:42 PM

That's naughty! But awfully funny.

@6:34 PM

Okay, it's poetic..
But it's not entirely justice. A burglar getting mugged is just too sweet, but what's with releasing burglars on their own recognizance?

@6:46 AM

And Hmmm.. again
Dear Amy: My girlfriend and I have been together for two years. This month she gave me an ultimatum: I give up hunting, or she leaves.

Every year, my best friend and I spend the opening weekend of deer season in a cabin we built on his family's land. It is the only weekend I hunt, and I look forward to it every year. My friend and I don't get to spend much time together, so this weekend has been our excuse to get together, catch up and have a good time.

My girlfriend told me this year that she doesn't want to be with someone who could kill a deer. I tried to explain that hunting helps control deer population in the absence of natural predators and that hunting is a better way of acquiring meat than buying beef slaughtered in an industrial farm and shipped across the country.
Amy sez:
Dear Befuddled: Your letter is why ultimatums don't usually work.

(If I could, I'd issue an ultimatum against ultimatums.) This issue will come up each hunting season; you now have a year of peace in which you can attempt to work out a compromise (and where ultimatums don't usually work, compromises almost always do).

Would your girlfriend be as unhappy if you went on this hunting excursion, enjoyed the experience but didn't kill anything? Could you square your ethical hunting argument to keep the peace at home? You could start by presenting these two extremes with the goal of taking baby steps toward each other until you meet somewhere near the middle.
Now that's not at all the advice I'd have given. Frankly, girlfriends are easy to come by, hunting cabins aren't, and if she doesn't like hunting she probably doesn't approve of fishing either. I say dump Lola Granola and find a real woman.

Got to love the next letter though. The gal's parents didn't like her pierced and long-haired boyfriend, but since they've been married and he's cleaned up his act they've grown to love him. Good for them. Amy's moral is a little strange though: "There are twin burdens here: one for the "eye of the beholder" to refrain from judging according to appearances, and the other for the person who believes he won't be judged according to appearances." D'oh! People are judged on their appearance? What a surprise. Don't put 16 piercings all over your face and then whine that people think you're weird. Put 16 piercings all over your face because you want people to think you're weird.

Doesn't always work out quite as planned though. People occasionally mistake me for a hippie, but I'm actually a biker between bikes. One too many wrecks and my wife put her foot down. She's right, I'm a danger to myself on one of those things. But she doesn't complain when I go hunting & fishing, she puts in an order for however many birds or fish or whatever she wants..

Update: Here's an interesting article that our conflicted hunter should have given his girlfriend. Hunters and fishermen contribute actual cash to wildlife and habitat preservation, as opposed to the lip service given by most opposed to those activities. The article is right: Hunting and fishing, at least successfully, takes time to learn. The cost of the gear has gone up incredibly over the last few years. And it is becoming harder to find a place to hunt and fish.

@6:21 AM

Things that make you say Hmmm..
Casper Star -- Demographers say thousands of people like Kerr are heading to the Rocky Mountain West in their later years. Forget the warmth of Florida and Arizona. Baby boomers, in particular, are gravitating toward the peaks and sagebrush basins of Wyoming and Montana, promising to turn these states from relatively young into two of the nation's oldest.

They're drawn by low crime, fresh air, little traffic and abundant outdoor activities, said Larry Swanson, an economist and director of the Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Missoula, Mont.

Although people of all ages like those things, older people tend to be flexible enough in their careers, families and finances to finally kick up their boots on a porch rail, he said.
This is true as far as it goes. However, quite a lot of the over-65 transplants that we meet have moved to Wyoming because they can't live on their pensions and SocSec wherever they came from. Paid for the house while they were working but now they can't afford the property taxes, and the general cost of living is just too high for a comfortable retirement. I'm not sure how the burst housing bubble has affected this, but quite a few of our neighbors sold their house back wherever, bought a comparable house in Wyoming for a quarter as much, and are supplimenting their retirement on the profit.

Though certainly the low crime and light traffic appeal. Some, like my dad, just couldn't handle driving in big city traffic anymore, what with failing eyesight and dwindling reflexes. Having his pickup broken into two or three times didn't help. But what I don't see is a lot of the retirees out recreating, which is too bad, there is a lot of outdoorsy stuff to do.

@6:03 AM

Those darn wolves..
Seems they've turned up in Colorado. Again.

@5:56 AM

Friday, December 28, 2007- - -  
This ought to be interesting
A piece of news I first saw in a sidebar on today's DenverPost dead tree edition:
MADISON, N.C., December 26, 2007Remington Arms Company, Inc. (“Remington” or “ the Company”) the only manufacturer of both firearms and ammunition for Hunting, Law Enforcement/Security, Government & Military applications in the United States, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Marlin Firearms Company, Inc. (“Marlin”). The transaction is expected to close by the end of January 2008.

Marlin, headquartered in North Haven, Connecticut, also owns Harrington and Richardson (H&R), New England Firearms (NEF) and LC Smith brands of rifles and shotguns.

Tommy Millner Remington’s CEO, said, “I am pleased to announce that Marlin’s well known brands with a long heritage of providing quality rifles and shotguns to hunters and shooters around the world will join the Remington family. The opportunity to combine two historic U.S. based companies with such storied and proud histories, is both challenging and exhilarating.”
Remington and Marlin are both known for their well-made, functional, and inexpensive guns. With their combined talents they could crank out some cool stuff.

Update: I'm not so sure all the claims in Remington's press release are quite accurate. Are the Marlin Model 39 and 336 rifles the oldest shoulder arm designs in the world still being produced? Well, no. You can still buy new-made muzzleloading rifles and shotguns from Dixie Gun Works, including flintlocks that date to the colonial period. that's a bit before Remington or Marlin were around. But hey, it's an advertisement of sorts, do you believe everything Billy Mayes tells you?

@6:22 PM

Doom & gloom!
DenverPost -- Home prices in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas fell in October by the most in at least six years, raising the risk that more Americans will walk away from properties that are worth less than they owe.

Values fell a greater-than-forecast 6.1 percent from October 2006, the S&P/ Case-Shiller home-price index showed Wednesday. The decrease was the biggest since the group started keeping year-over-year records in 2001.

In metro Denver, home values declined 1.8 percent in October from a year earlier, continuing an 11-month streak of year-over-year price declines.
Home prices in Denver and nation-wide haven't fallen as much as I would have expected, given the drumbeat of doom in the press. But note that the Denver Post staff refer to this as "carnage". Seems like more of an economic fender bender to me. I do feel for the folks who bought at the height of the bubble, but if they were buying a home, rather than looking for a short-term investment, they've only experienced a little paper loss. On the other hand, I don't feel terribly sorry for the folks who financed McMansions with interest only and adjustable-rate mortgages.

Ah well, I don't often comment on business & finance because I don't know much about it. I only make money, it's my wife's job to hang onto it, which she does quite well, thankyouverymuch. But I couldn't let this article's "carnage!" hed pass without comment.

Update: Despair!
WASHINGTON - The housing market plunged deeper into despair last month, with sales of new homes plummeting to their lowest level in more than 12 years.


Over the last 12 months, new-home sales nationwide have tumbled by 34.4 percent, the biggest annual slide since early 1991, and stark evidence of the painful collapse in the once high-flying housing market.


The median sales price of a new home dipped to $239,100 in November. That is 0.4 percent lower than a year ago. The median price is where half sell for more and half for less.


Would-be home buyers have found it more difficult to secure financing, especially for "jumbo" mortgages _ those exceeding $417,000. The tighter credit situation is deepening the housing slump. Unsold homes have piled up, which will force builders to cut back even more on construction and look for ways to sweeten the pot to lure prospective buyers.


The housing market has been suffering through a severe slump following five years of record-breaking activity from 2001 through 2005. Sales turned weak as did home prices. The boom-to-bust situation has increased dangers to the economy as a whole and has been especially hard on some homeowners.

Foreclosures have soared to record highs and probably will keep rising. A drop in home prices left some people stuck with balances on their home mortgages that eclipsed the worth of their home. Other home buyers were clobbered as low introductory rates on their mortgages jumped to much higher rates, which they couldn't afford.
So.. After five record-breaking years that have seen contractors building entire tracts of spec "homes", many of them ridiculously over-sized McMansions made of cardboard held together with staples and glue; lenders offering all manner of weird financing options (How many years does an "interest only" loan run and how does that differ from paying rent?); and buyers jumping into "low introductory rate" loans that will predictably balloon to prices they can't afford (Buy now, pay later!); the supply has exceeded demand, homeowners can't afford to heat the humongous hovels they now have negative equity in, and can't afford the actual payments. I'd guess there's plenty of despair to go around, but there should also be plenty of people saying "I told you so!" (And no, I don't flatter myself that I'm one of them.)

I've got to wonder how much of the slump in sales is due to all the flippers fleeing the market, or being pushed out as the banks wise up. Well sorta. I can't help seeing a few parallels with the dot com crash. As many times as we're told "if it looks too good to be true", we still see people falling for every get rich quick scheme that comes along, whether it was buying stock in a company with no visible product, or buying a house with an interest-only, variable rate loan and counting on appreciation to build equity you could use as collateral for the next two houses you were buying on spec. With my perfect 20/20 hindsight it's easy to see that a lot of people were investing a lot of money in houses built of cards (and cardboard!).

Yet, I can't see how this is really hurting people who bought a home with the intent of living in it, and financed it with the intent of paying off the mortgage someday rather than flipping it before the low introductory rate expired. Those who bought a home with the idea of letting it sit empty for a year and then selling it at a huge profit likely didn't pay much attention to the quality of the carpets or give much thought to how much it would cost to heat that heated 3-car garage or if the contractor-grade furnace even would heat all 4000 square feet, whether the kitchen was laid out by a cook or by a cabinet and counter salesman, or whether the AC would cool that cathedral-ceilinged upstairs master bedroom under those black asphalt shingles. If you bought your home with the idea of living in it, hopefully you gave all those things some consideration.

Our only interest in the paper value of our home is in making sure we have sufficient insurance to rebuild if it burned down, and cringing every time the tax assessor congratulates us on our wise investment. When we bought the place we looked at whether we could afford the mortgage payments, not at how much money we could make when we sold it; although it certainly occurred to us that our payments were about what we'd been laying out in rent, so any equity we might build was pure gravy compared to making someone else's mortgage payments. We weren't making an investment, we were buying a home. I suspect that most of the folks who looked at it that way are doing just fine. Those who thought they were playing Monopoly, not so much.

Ps. I suppose I should note that plenty of people who weren't speculating on the housing market have been hurt: Those who've lost their jobs, been transferred across country, or for a zillion other unforeseeable reasons need to sell their home are pretty well screwed. Those who invested in the banks and contractors and all the other speculators will share the pain. I feel for those folks. The ones who thought they'd found a way to make an obscene profit? Well.. Fools. Money.

@7:06 AM

This is why we have varmint rifles
Erie, Colorado -- The standard advice to make a loud noise to scare off lurking or approaching coyotes is being questioned by some in Erie, where two dogs were killed and a woman was injured in an attack by a pack of the animals Sunday.

A few residents in town are beginning to feel like coyotes are losing their innate fear of humans, and that deterrence measures such as banging pots and pans or shouting at the animals are not having the effect they used to.

The latest attack, which took place in the backyard of a home in the Airpark neighborhood, is one of several that have been reported in Erie over the last few months — and the first involving a human injury.
Banging pots & pans? I'm thinking the occasional louder bang would re-instill the desired fear of Man. Or not. But it would solve the problem either way.

Update: this is the infamous Ruger M77 .223 with 1 in 12" rifling twist that's given me such difficulties with mid-weight bullets. Works just fine with bullets of 50 gr or less though. [Sigh] I'm afraid the days of $20 for a 500 bullet bulk pack are history. Fortunately, I bought two-lifetimes' supply when they were cheap.

@6:21 AM

Thursday, December 27, 2007- - -  
When duct tape isn't enough..
I usually find that a big tube of Liquid Nails will do the job!

@8:33 AM

And we're supposed to trust their evaluation of Iran because..?
Via the InstaPundit, it seems the NSA was infiltrated by the Chinese. Mainly, it appears, because the NSA got sloppy on doing checks of their contractors.

@8:28 AM

Slipping into Savagery..
Edward Burnett Tylor proposed that human cultures developed through three basic stages, savagery, barbarism, and civilization. Although this seems crude and ethnocentric, this was an advancement over the biological/theological belief that the more primitive societies of the world were at the stage of barbarism because they had fallen from grace.
Sometimes it seems we should dispair of some of our fellows ever rising above the state of Savagery. And yes, that's terribly ethnocentric of me. Sorry about that.

@6:52 AM

Gettin' kinda crowded..
We're told that Wyoming's population increased by 10,000 between 2006 and 2007.
"The 2 percent increase was the strongest increase since 1982, the end year of the oil boom," Wenlin Liu, senior economist with Wyoming's Economic Analysis Division, said in a release. "This was not a surprise, because it just followed the substantial job growth of 4.9 percent in 2006."

The 4.9 percent job growth was the highest since 1981.

Wyoming's population growth has been lagging behind the increase in jobs for quite a few years.

The strong growth in population, Liu said, should have brought some relief to the state's severe labor force shortage.
Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses with high tech skilz..

@6:13 AM

Back in the land of free WiFi!
Okay we're not in the shade of the Chisos Mountains yet, but Coyote World Headquarters has successfully relocated to Ft. Morgan, Colorado. Yes, the roads were horrid and once again we weren't able to make it by Christmas, but we'll celebrate a belated Christmas today. Looks like we'll be riding out yet another winter storm today as well.

We'll stay here for a few days and wait until the darn roads are clear and dry, then it's off for points south. Can't wait to get back to Terlingua.

@5:48 AM

Wednesday, December 26, 2007- - -  
The sweet smell of Red Herring
A few days back I applauded our congresscritters for their attempt to remove restrictions on guns in National Parks.

Now I see that the Casper Star editorial staff says 'we don't need guns in national parks'. This is an argument I've heard many times in some form and it's insidious. The 2nd amendment isn't about allowing people to have guns if they can prove they need them, it's about forbidding the government infringing on an inherent right. As I pointed out in the comments at the Casper Star, we the people aren't required to demonstrate a need for a gun any more than they are required to demonstrate a need to editorialize.

Update: Speaking of guns in National Parks, we're on our way back to Big Bend NP, spank on the border of Mexico and about as remote as it's possible to get in the lower 48, outside Wyoming. Illegals regularly come across the border, although not in the hords seen elsewhere. Drug smugglers too. I find being forbidden a gun there somewhat unamusing.

@7:50 AM

Tuesday, December 25, 2007- - -  
But, But, BUT..
This timeline doesn't include the date when Al Gore invented the internet! How could NPR allow such an oversight?

@11:09 PM

Maybe we do need nannies..
Via the Instapundit we learn about People Having Fun Without Helmets. I'm reminded that a beloved aunt was once horribly injured in a tobogganing accident. They hit a hidden obstruction and the toboggan was broken in two, ramming a large splinter into her nether regions. I suppose we can assume that a helmet wouldn't have helped.

@10:45 PM

Things that make you say Hmmm..
Drudge links to this bit warning us about the perils of methane hydrate. Seems it's a fairly common commodity: The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth. We're talkin' natural gas. In mass quantities. But it comes with considerable environmental danger according to some:
"Methane hydrate was a key cause of the global warming that led to one of the largest extinctions in the earth's history" says Ryo Matsumoto, a University of Tokyo scientist who has studied frozen gas since 1987.
Global warming wiped out the dinosaurs? What about Chicxulub? Or did the impact release mass quantities of natural gas? Or..

I'm voting for 'any new source of energy will be a sign of the apocalypse'.

@8:03 PM

Well, it's a white Christmas!
And we're stranded at the Douglas, Wyo, KOA (where the jet stream touches the ground!). We should have headed south a month ago but.. work. Yes, right now I'm thinking that's a four letter word. Seems we've been here before, so we should know better than to tarry quite so long in the snowy north. But, work..

At least it's prompted me to finally post a photo of the new tin tipi, even more monstrous than the old one. And quite a find. It's an all-weather RV and it's been surprisingly cozy. The old brute was a bit drafty and it was hard to heat when the weather got like this -- and the weather can get like this in Wyoming in June. This outfit is heavily insulated and much more weather-tight, and despite having half again more squares it's proving to be much easier to heat. Right now with the sun shining a little milk house heater is doing the job and even through the howling storm last night the twin forced air heaters kept it almost too warm without struggling a bit.

Ah well, we were hoping to spend Christmas evening with the M-I-L but we'll get there. Of course, if we spend too many more days like this the two cases of wine we brought to last us through March will need replacing by the time we get to Denver! I hate when that happens.

Merry Christmas!!

@1:19 PM

Very interesting..
Peggy Noonan on Mike Huckabee and the floating cross. She's right, knowing it had to be intentional, it is rather creepy.

@11:58 AM

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you..
Browsing the intertubes on this snowy Christmas morning I came across a piece by David Petzal discussing a recent OpEd in the Washington Post by Richard Feldman. All this reminded me to post on the latest outrage, the NRA-sponsored(!) 'Veterans Disarmament Act'. So what gives here? Well according to Feldman:

I've been down this road more times than I care to count. But the truth is that much of the public debate over gun rights and gun control is disingenuous. Gun owners of every stripe -- liberal, moderate, conservative -- and non-owners alike can and do agree that violent criminals, juveniles, terrorists and mental incompetents have no right to firearms. Federal and state laws, despite poor enforcement by the courts, underscore that. Further, there's no significant debate -- nor should there be -- over private ownership of guns for lawful purposes such as target shooting, hunting, self-protection and collecting.
Sounds reasonable, right? I mean, who wants mental incompetents running around with guns? But, as usual, the devil is in the details. Seems that H.R. 2640, a plan to expand the Brady Bill background checks (which is currently on President Bush's desk), would greatly expand the definition of "mental incompetent":

Gun Owners of America and its supporters took a knife in the back yesterday, as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) out-smarted his congressional opposition into agreeing on a so-called "compromise" on HR 2640 -- a bill which now goes to the President's desk.

The bill -- known as the Veterans Disarmament Act to its opponents -- is being praised by the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign.

The Brady Bunch crowed "Victory! U.S. Congress Strengthens Brady Background Check System." The NRA stated that last minute changes to the McCarthy bill made a "good bill even better [and that] the end product is a win for American gun owners."

But Gun Owners of America has issued public statements decrying this legislation.

The core of the bill's problems is section 101(c)(1)(C), which makes you a "prohibited person" on the basis of a "medical finding of disability," so long as a veteran had an "opportunity" for some sort of "hearing" before some "lawful authority" (other than a court). Presumably, this "lawful authority" could even be the psychiatrist himself.

Note that unlike with an accused murderer, the hearing doesn't have to occur. The "lawful authority" doesn't have to be unbiased. The veteran is not necessarily entitled to an attorney -- much less an attorney financed by the government.
So what does all this mean? According to WorldNetDaily:

The Schumer scheme would update federal law in the United States concerning the ownership of guns, and restrictions on those who can own firearms. A decades-old law creates a ban on gun ownership for anyone who has been adjudicated to be mentally defective, Eric Pratt, a spokesman for Gun Owners, told WND. It was intended to be used in cases when a person is declared innocent by reason of insanity in criminal cases.

However, the proposed update would allow that "adjudication" to be determined not only by a court but by any competent authority, which could include a Veterans Administration psychologist, any panel of psychologists or a wide range of other possible "competent authorities."

It also would automatically include people on a federal no-gun-ownership limit who have been diagnosed with some behavior-related childhood conditions, and in a provision that is especially objectionable to the Gun Owners organization, any veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Misbehaved as a third-grader? Stressed out? Having trouble sleeping after months in a combat zone and some quack decided you've got PTSD? Bzzzt! No guns for you Bubba.

Now how did we arrive at this state of affairs where the NRA and the Brady Campaign team up to attack our 2nd amendment rights? It seems it's all in an effort to be reasonable and what defines "reasonable". Feldman argues that the NRA is too unreasonable and too unwilling to compromise. Petzal argues that the NRA is a staunch defender of our rights and the Brady Bunch's biggest nightmare. But some, like the late Neal Knox and GOA, warned long ago that the NRA was far too willing to compromise.

While the NRA was bragging up its involvement in writing the Brady Bill's background check requirements, some (including myself) feared that the background check would become a de facto form of gun owner registration. Seems we were right. What seemed perfectly reasonable -- billed by the NRA as an effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane -- has been used for nefarious purposes. Certain classes of people have been identified 'who everyone agrees shouldn't have guns'. Then, for the gun grabbers, it becomes a simple matter of expanding the definitions of those classes of people. Thus, we've got misdemeanor domestic violence offenders barred from gun ownership, an expansion of the 'violent felon' clause, and now anyone diagnosed with even minor mental issues gets added to the list. Meanwhile, it will only take another Janet Reno in office for the background check records to get cross-checked against the military medical records.

There's a reason many gun owners think compromise is a dirty word and that reasonable gun controls aren't reasonable at all. Because there's a constant push to find a chink in our armor and expand the definition of reasonable yet again. Too often the NRA has attempted to show how reasonable they can be -- the price, perhaps of playing politics inside the beltway -- and their efforts to show good faith have been taken advantage of by those who have no good faith.

And what happens when someone decides that blogging is just plain nuts?

@7:54 AM

Doom! Doom!! Doom!!!
I haven't watched network news in months, but last night, on our way south (finally!)we had the tube on waiting for the Bronco game (23-3, why do we bother?). Now I'm reminded why I don't watch TV news. "If it bleeds it leads", even on Christmas eve. And if it don't bleed don't count on hearing about it from our talking heads. No wonder so many people think we're headed to heck in a rickshaw. So David Harsanyi's* piece from yesterday's Denver Post is a refreshing relief:
With all the negativity and apprehension engulfing this nation, it's a wonder any of us can be thankful this year.

Today's compliant American citizen trembles in fear at the slightest sign of peril.

You know, if Osama doesn't get us, Chinese toys certainly will.

All this doom and gloom has manifested in the rise of populist politics, an unfortunate movement that seizes on every morsel of bad news it can exploit for political power.

You, on the other hand, are left to sit, curled up in the corner, agonizing over the proliferation of Mountain Dew, Mexican gardeners after your job, lead in your lipstick and polycarbonate bottles — whatever that is.

Now, no one can deny that we're a nation dealing with a multitude of crucial problems. We are, after all, home to Miss South Carolina, Dennis Kucinich and "Dancing with the Stars."

Still, it's no reason to panic.
He goes on to point out that by virtually every measure we have great reason to be happy with current events. I've long suspected that those "populist politics" have something to do with the relentless bad news, so I can't help but agree with him there. For a little Christmas cheer, read the whole thing!

*Curious. David Harsanyi has been notably absent for the last week and a bit, while Jeff Goldstein has gone silent. Now both are back. Coincidence? Has anyone ever seen them together? Is Harsanyi the mysterious 'dillo? Someone count his fingers..


Oh yeah! Merry Christmas!!!

@5:44 AM

Monday, December 24, 2007- - -  
When you care enough to send the very best..
Last year 161,366 background checks were run on Coloradoans buying guns and it looks like they'll break that record this year.
The CBI's InstaCheck program handled 1,306 checks in 12 hours on the day after Thanksgiving, so-called Black Friday for its potential to put retailers in the black for the year.
The big sales days? Christmas -- of course -- and Valentine's Day.

@6:01 AM

Sunday, December 23, 2007- - -  
Mother Maybelle's guitar?
Oh my! I'll have to remember this for my next project. Got to love the sunburst on that maple neck. And, of course, the Big Mon's mandolin is nothing to sneeze at. Some philanthropist should buy them and re-donate them to the museum. Monroe's Loar Gibson is probably worth over a quarter million $$ alone though. That would be a very nice philanthropist.

@5:50 PM

Merry Christmas!
Here's a great find from the Fretboard Journal Blog. Christmas music from old wax cylinder recordings. Some of it's over 100 years old. some of these links are broken, but the rest are great. Surprisingly good fidelity and not a lot of noise. I imagine they've been cleaned up a bit. [Or not, a little later, some are pretty bad.]

Update: Goodness! When did Santa get reindeer? Here's a tune from 1918 where he's pulled by a pair of ponies. Of course, in this next tune, also by Miro's Band from 1918, the mailman delivers Christmas presents.. On Christmas morning. That wasn't just a different time, it was a different universe.

Another Update: Here it is Christmas day and the Wall Street Journal comes through. According to them: "The writer George Pintard added the idea that only good children got presents, and a book dating to 1821 changed the horse and wagon to reindeer and sleigh. Clement Clarke Moore in 1823 made the number of reindeer eight and gave them their names." Apparently it took awhile for such modern notions to take root! The best part? Santa's red suit originated in Coca-Cola ads in the early 1900's.

@4:38 PM

Clayton Cramer links to an organization that promises:
Dig a deep well, fit it with a hand pump, and you can provide up to 2,800 gallons of safe water a day for as many as 300 people! In many communities, clean water lies hundreds of feet below layers of hard rock. Children have no choice but to drink disease-infested water from surface lakes and ponds. When our drilling teams strike water, entire villages erupt in celebration because a clean water source can cut a community’s child mortality rate in half.
For only $18,000! Now they're absolutely right about the value of clean drinking water, and $18,000 will drill a well hundreds if not thousands of feet deep. But.. you can't hand pump water from much depth. You've got to lift the entire column of water and if it's very deep that takes a lot of power to lift the weight. That means either a lot of gearing, giving not a lot of water for a good deal of work, or wells that aren't really that deep. Why do I suspect that the overhead of this benevolent company might be just a bit high?

@12:21 PM

The inability to admit that mental illness is a major part of what causes homelessness in San Francisco (and a lot of other big cities around the country) means that the leftist screeching about "housing" ends up obscuring that for many of the homeless, having housing only solves one small part of the problem--and then, only as long as they can manage a place of their own.

The pleasant little theory about deinstitutionalization was that the severely mentally ill would end up back in their communities, receiving community-based psychiatric treatment. It didn't happen, because many of the mentally ill are not sufficiently well--or at least, not consistently so--to hunt up all the social services that they need to keep from freezing to death, or dying of pneumonia, or getting murdered by either other mentally ill homeless people, or common thugs looking for a thrill. As much as the mental hospitals of the 1950s were denigrated as horrible institutions, they at least simplified the providing of basic services to many of the most seriously disturbed parts of our society. What we are doing today in places like San Francisco is not only cost inefficient, it is profoundly inhumane.
I didn't think there was much debate whether many street people are mentally ill. Rather, I think the debate lies in what to do about them. You don't have to see too many of the ravers down on the 16th Street Mall to come to the conclusion that they're crazy as bed bugs. But should they be scooped up and forcefully medicated? Considering the potential for abuse, I'm less than sanguine about giving the government that power.

Ps. Here's the counter-argument, a 55-year-old chronic schizophrenic who froze to death under a bridge. The WSJ bemoans: Nevertheless, civil libertarians seem more concerned with a patient's civil rights than his very survival. This, I think, is what bothers me, the idea that we should violate someone's civil rights, if that's what it takes to save his life. This line of reasoning has little limit. Should we outlaw sky diving? Bungy jumping? Cars that go faster than 55 mph? Some of the more nanny-minded would answer "yes" to all those and all of these measures would undoubtedly save lifes, and with less intrusion than involuntarily institutionalizing someone.

I'm not sure what the answer is and, having had to make the decision myself, it's not as if I've not given the issue serious consideration. I chose not to involuntarily commit and I've suffered the not inconsequental results of that decision for my loved one. I don't know if I made the right decision. But I do know that I erred on the side of freedom. Quien sabe?

@11:56 AM

The wussification proceeds..
The principal at my own son's school expects--and I kid you not--that [when attacked by a bully] students will curl up on the ground into a fetal position and hope that someone else goes running for help.
This sort of thing really annoys me. Next thing you know, when you're mugged you and the mugger can share a cell. Wouldn't want to be judgmental and maybe your nice wristwatch provoked the confrontation, no?

@10:50 AM

Cheaper, better, and more fun!
The InstaPundit points to this post by Clayton Cramer on cheap solar power. When I first started looking into solar power it would cost around $12,000-15,000 for enough solar capacity to power a small house. Now it's looking like it could be done for perhaps $2000. Park one of these 90 mph/300 mpg electric/plug-in hybrids in the garage of your passive solar house and you could be very nearly free from heating and electric bills, and $3 gas.

All of this has a way to go yet, but the technology is getting there and, more important, the technology is becoming economically competitive. Best of all, when private, for profit enterprise drives the innovation there's a strong incentive to avoid hair shirt solutions. The command-and-control environmentalist movement is gonna hate that.

@8:46 AM

Huggermugger in the hills..
Several conservation and recreation groups have accused the U.S. Forest Service of trying to do administratively what couldn’t be accomplished in Congress: changing the rules about access to forest lands to benefit outfitters and guides, to the detriment of self-guided recreationists.

Representatives of River Runners for Wilderness, Wilderness Watch and Wild Wilderness say the Forest Service has taken allocation of wilderness permit concepts from a bill crafted by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and are trying to introduce those concepts via countrywide rule-making.


Early versions of the Craig bill viewed nonprofit outfitters such as the Lander-based National Outdoor Leadership School as competing with for-profit outfitters for a limited and increasingly precious commodity -- permitted days to operate in wilderness areas. That’s one reason the bill never went anywhere, Nickas said.

Craig’s bill did succeed in pressuring agencies including the Forest Service to consider administrative changes, Nickas said, and that’s when nonprofit outfitters became allies, rather than foes.
I've got mixed feelings about measures like this. On one hand, the official, congressionally designated Wilderness is being loved to death. As one of those self-guided recreationists, I've pretty much quit hiking in those areas. First, it's no fun hiking on a path that's 6' wide and 6" deep in fresh horse poop, to get to a favorite fishing spot and find there's 3 big commercial groups camped in the only three decent camp spots. You can avoid the crowds to some extent by hiking in the off-season (bring crampons!) and by avoiding the main trails, but..

The wilderness areas are being hammered and it would be nice to find some mechanism to reduce overall use, and perhaps some sort of permit system is the way to go. From this point of view, I see very little difference between for-profit and nonprofit enterprises, and the self-guided. When you take 10-20 people up to some lake every other week all summer the area will become positively trampled and there's always somebody who doesn't bury/burn the TP (burning is better, little animals dig up anything buried). The self-guided are usually in smaller groups, but they tend to be even worse in terms of their ecological 'footprint'.

Also, some of our better known "nonprofit" environmental organizations are pretty much a scam -- the Nature Conservancy springs to mind. Thus, I'm opposed to giving any organization a special deal based on their corporate status. I tend to agree with Tom Reed, backcountry organizer for Trout Unlimited in Wyoming and Montana, who "... said his concern is that public access to public lands be “fair for all.” From his initial reading of the proposed rule change, “it might be OK,” if there’s no exclusion of general public access."

Unfortunately, special deals that exclude the public aren't anything new. For several years at least the Forest Service has been.. renting? leasing? giving exclusive use of some developed campgrounds to outfitters. Drive up to the campground and there won't be a soul in the place, but there's a big sign saying "Reserved for xx outfitter!" At first gasp I find this immensely annoying, but I imagine it would be difficult to provide a quality outdoors experience for the paying customers if one could not rely on having a place to camp. There are currently only a few of these areas that are regularly reserved and there are plenty of other places open to the public, including camping areas that can be reserved, so it's not a major problem.

In the past, "fair for all" has been interpretted as "free for all," but I can't see that continuing. The trick will be to insure fairness while reducing overall traffic, and there I think it will be a big mistake to give preference to nonprofit groups, or to any one interest group. But I'm not surprised that all the interest groups jockey for position whenever the rules are changing. Rent seeking is an age old tradition.

Perhaps the solution would be to point out that there are thousands of square miles of wilderness that aren't congressionally designated. Spreading the herd over a wider area would reduce impact. On the other hand, I rather enjoy being able to hike into an area where no one has been in months, on trails so faint they're a challenge to find. In a way, I view the designated wilderness areas, like parks, as sacrifice areas for the riffraff to go so they'll stay away from the truly untrammeled areas that haven't been 'discovered'.

@6:52 AM

Saturday, December 22, 2007- - -  
Snicker! Snort! Guffaw!!
Just got back from running a few errands and as I'm walking to the house I hear the church down the street getting in the Christmas spirit with their carillon.. Playing Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

@8:30 PM

Curating the artifacts..
Here's one of the nicer bits we've found in that last couple years. It's a thin piece of sheet iron or steel rolled into a tiny cone. Native Americans threaded dozens of these on the ends of the fringes on their clothing to make a jingling sound. We still see these employed on fancy dance costumes today, but only rarely do we find one in an archaeological context.

It's that time and I'm preparing all the loot to send off to the University of Wyoming's Archaeological Repository. Remember the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when they wheeled the Ark into this vast warehouse? Then this should look familiar. Thousands of boxes of stuff.

@10:14 AM

Friday, December 21, 2007- - -  
Everything old is new again!
First thing I thought when I saw the InstaPundit's photo of the new 300 mile-per-gallon Aptera was 'It's a Messerschmidt!'

Ps. Good lord, it's a belt drive! Even motorcycles have shaft drive now..

"Aptera founder and CEO Steve Fambro says sticking your hand out the window of an average car driving 55 mph creates more drag than the Aptera’s entire body." Well that's nice, but can they market it without 5 mph bumpers? (Turns out that with three wheels it's classified as a motorcycle so probably bumpers won't be required. But with a cab a helmet won't be required either.)

And something tells me I'd find seeing the license plate of the semi behind me somewhat frightening in their rear-view camera system. I love the high-tech gadgetry of it, but what I really want is a heads-up thermal imaging system to warn me at night when deer are about to merge with traffic. The little buggers are a real hazzard around here.

Oooh! Aaaah! Okay, I wants it!

@7:47 AM

David Sirota is outraged!
Just a few weeks ago, Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University released a little-noticed study showing that one-third of Americans now "believe in a broad smorgasbord of conspiracy theories" revolving around government complicity in everything from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Kennedy assassination.

The same survey last year found that "anger against the federal government is at record levels." It would be easy to chalk up these troubling findings to the unending propaganda of fear. America has been experiencing the searing blast of politicized terror warnings and breaking news graphics for the better part of six years now, and populations living under such constant government and media shock treatment can go a wee bit berserk.
I suspect that Mr. Sirota is too young to remember duck & cover drills. Be that as it may, what's he on about now? Is it secret wiretaps? Lies that led to war? Any of the usual liberal litany? Well, no, he only mentions those things to set the stage. It's the FCC's move to relax media ownership regulations that's tripping his outrage trigger. This time they've gone too far!

The guy's too much.

@6:01 AM

Oh, lighten up!
Aspen, Colorado -- "Fire," two toddlers shout, tugging their parents toward the community hearth in the heart of downtown Aspen. Little do these tykes know, as they warm their mittened hands, that these flames represent a burning controversy.

Should the community hearth on the Cooper Avenue mall keep burning fossil fuel, wasting energy and emitting carbons, or should it be snuffed in the interest of doing what's good for the Earth?
Years ago, on a particularly hot day in July or August, my field crew spent Saturday at the beach and I learned a valuable lesson about human nature from one of my professors. He built a roaring fire of driftwood and then stood back and watched it. Soon all of us had gathered around the fire. Then others walking on the beach joined us. Pretty soon we had quite a group standing around the fire, chatting and staring into the flames. It was HOT that day, no need for a fire to stay warm and we were staying pretty far back from the blaze. But we gathered around The Fire. That's as close to an instinct as we humans have, I believe. And it's something that's missing in our centrally-heated, surgically sterile modern lives.

@5:33 AM

Wednesday, December 19, 2007- - -  
Here there be dragons..
That's what it always says in those unexplored, white areas of maps. You know, like where we're all headed right now. Totally unexplored new territory.

Over-arching this dim tunnel is the light at the end, The Singularity. But is it blue sky or an on-coming train?

The technological singularity is a hypothesized point in the future at which the rate of technological growth approaches infinity. Moore's Law is often cited to assist in the prediction of the date of the singularity. Theorists are increasingly of the opinion that the singularity will occur via the creation of artificial intelligence (AI) or brain-computer interfaces, of smarter-than-human entities who rapidly accelerate technological progress beyond the capability of human beings to participate meaningfully in said progress. Futurists have varying opinions regarding the timing and consequences of such an event and "The Singularity" has featured prominently in work by a variety of science fiction authors.
Yes, to paraphrase Sir Arthur Eddington, the future, if we choose to go there, is going to be not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. And it's by no means a sure thing that we, the human race (at least as we know it), will live to see that future.

Some have posited that we will soon, quite soon, cure old age. The common cold! Even, perhaps, the sort of sinus-pounding, Sudefed-gobbling headache that's got me up at 3 am creating this hash o' cliche. But are we, like Icarus, about to fly too close to the sun of knowledge? There are parables about partaking of the fruits of that tree.

Consider that the same laboratory that can produce a vaccine against aging can most certainly create a plague to wipe out all human life, or everyone except blue-eyed blond cowgirls over 6'. And for every Aubrey de Grey there's an Idi Amin. Except there's only one de Grey and there's assuredly going to be more than one Idi Amin Dada in our future.

Will Ambrose Bierce ultimately be proven wrong? That would seem to be the promise of the Singularity.
That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
Will we finally reach a state of perfect understanding? Or, as Bierce suggests, will we learn that we still have much to learn? Or will we wipe ourselves out? Or will we evolve to the point where we won't recognize our future, all-knowing selves? And how would that eventuality differ from wiping ourselves out? Will we become as gods, or will some cyber-Luddite unleash the mother of all viruses and give us a terminal case of digital sinusitis? Or will Microsoft continue on their current technological trajectory and finally create an operating system so useless that the IBM Selectric comes back in fashion [sigh, I've still got mine]?

It appears that we are already evolving at quite a rapid rate to adapt to the ecological niches our technology has created. We're told that drinking the milk of the cattle we've domesticated took a little genetic adaptation. Resisting malaria also took some work, but came with the ugly price of sickle-cell anemia. Will The Singularity punctuate our equilibrium? Will we swan-dive into the future, or will it be more of a belly flop?

It's hard to make predictions. Especially about the future. Interesting times we live in.

Here's a little ditty that pretty well expresses my feelings on the subject. And a fitting tribute to Lefty Wilbury.

Update: Signs of The Singularity? Do Great Minds really think alike? Or am I not the only one who woke with a headache this morning? The InstaPundit links to Vernor Vinge discussing The Singularity:
It seems plausible that with technology we can, in the fairly near future, create (or become) creatures who surpass humans in every intellectual and creative dimension. Events beyond this event—call it the Technological Singularity—are as unimaginable to us as opera is to a flatworm.

The preceding sentence, almost by definition, makes long-term thinking an impractical thing in a Singularity future.

However, maybe the Singularity won't happen, in which case planning beyond the next fifty years could have great practical importance. In any case, a good science-fiction writer (or a good scenario planner) should always be considering alternative outcomes.
Read the whole thing!

Ps. I swear (cross my heart and hope I never die) that I've never read Vinge's article before just now, even though his "century of really crummy software" sounds familiar somehow..

[A bit later] Vinge opines: "Even without the Singularity, it seems reasonable that at some point the species would become something greater." I'm afraid this isn't necessarily so. From our exalted position at the top of the family tree we tend to think of evolution as a process of improvement, but it's not. It's simply a process of adaptation to changing conditions. We may as easily evolve into Morlocks or Eloi as into Vulcans. It's entirely dependent on environment, including the technological environment we create for ourselves.

[And later yet] Vinge opines: Sooner or later, even with the best planning, megadisasters happen, and civilization falls (or staggers). Now we're getting into an area difficult to foresee, but again I'd say not necessarily. We've been striving to control nature ever since we first wrapped ourselves in skins and started a fire. We've gotten a bit better at it since then and I can foresee the time when we could adjust the output of the sun, the orbit of the earth, and the volcanic rumblings in Gaia's tummy. At the point where technological growth approaches infinity, it seems plausible that we'd be able to avert most natural disasters. Man-made disasters perhaps not so much.

[Later..] Hey! I like the idea that 'archeologists and software dumpster divers could become the most enduringly important players' in a non-Singularity future. And think about it: Archaeologists are just college-educated dumpster divers. People's cast-off garbage is our stock in trade.

[And later, I'm still reading.] Vinge wonders "How fast could humanity recover from major catastrophes? Is full recovery even possible? Which disasters are the most difficult to recover from?" It depends on the disaster, of course. The biggest disaster that the genus Homo has so far weathered was probably the Wisconsin Ice Age. We entered the ice age as Homo erectus, or some such, and came out of the crisis as Homo sapiens. Perhaps it is true that whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. But what we didn't do is "recover". We changed. [I should stress that, while that change may look like an improvement, it was really just an adaptation to changing conditions. In that case, conditions appear to have favored greater intelligence. Next time the result may not be so pretty.]

[Later yet] Vinge ponders "How close is technology to running beyond nation-state MAD and giving irritable individuals the power to kill us all? Pretty close I'd guess, and I'd intended to speculate on this at greater length earlier. As our technological abilities increase it will become easier and easier for some kook like me to decide the world would be a better place if all women were tall and blond, and all men were left-handed. Just as someone hacking from mom's basement can now annoy the world, a kid with a gene splicer could make a hell of a mess, accidentally or on purpose. We currently worry about nuclear proliferation and are short on ability to stop it, and I suspect we may see the time when many other forms of WMDs come in a handy Shake & Bake box and become a serious problem. Then again, we may develop the equivalent of innoculations, firewalls, and virus scanners to protect us from such. Quien sabe?

[Hmm..] Vinge: "Self-sufficient, off-Earth settlements as humanity's best hope for long-term survival". Indeed! And this raises another interesting issue. When a species' gene pool becomes divided into isolated populations, as it was on the islands Darwin studied, what started out as a single species can evolve in different directions in each isolated group, in response to prevailing conditions that effect each isolated population. Now that would be interesting.

@3:33 AM

I agree with the InstaPundit. If Fred Thompson runs this ad he's got my vote. But then he's pretty much got my vote anyway.. I think.

I'm pretty much in the libertarian non-agression camp when it comes to punching hippies.. I'd like to slap a couple of them from time to time but I restrain myself.

@3:16 AM

Tuesday, December 18, 2007- - -  
Here's a song you've heard before..
But probably not quite the way Jake Shimabukuro plays it: The Star Spangled Banner.

Ps. Yes, the punk can play that uke. Here's Let's Dance. Incidentally, the instrument is made of Koa, a wood native to Hawaii. Gorgeous.

Okay, one more. I've linked to this one before but it's just too, too nice. George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

@7:38 PM

For your easy-listening pleasure..
Here's a guy who's featured in the Fretboard Journal ever since day one: Skip Heller and his trio, playing Train Rhythm Blue. Living out here in the hinterlands I've never been exposed to much jazz, but I find I like it and it's way fun to play.

Here's another, Skip Heller sitting in with Billy Swan, playing I Can Help. Bet you've heard this one.

Ps. Okay, one more. Here he is, sitting in with Wanda Jackson and Rosie Flores on Rock Your Baby.

@5:58 PM

But I need that cheesecake!
The InstaPundit points to an interesting article on smart machines and dumb designs.

I'm reminded of the talking Coke machines that came out in the early '80s. They sure didn't last long. Nobody likes it when a vending machine takes their money. When the machine takes your money and then gives you lip to boot? Beaten like a rented mule, I don't think a one of them lasted a year.

I am disappointed to hear that the digital photo frame is difficult to use as I'd been thinking about getting them for my dad and mother-in-law. I'll be reminded to check them out carefully for user-friendliness.
To get along with machines, Dr. Norman suggests we build them using a lesson from Delft, a town in the Netherlands where cyclists whiz through crowds of pedestrians in the town square. If the pedestrians try to avoid an oncoming cyclist, they’re liable to surprise him and collide, but the cyclist can steer around them just fine if they ignore him and keep walking along at the same pace. “Behaving predictably, that’s the key,” Dr. Norman said. “If our smart devices were understandable and predictable, we wouldn’t dislike them so much.” Instead of trying to anticipate our actions, or debating the best plan, machines should let us know clearly what they’re doing.
Absolutely! I absolutely hate all the oh so helpful stuff that goes on "in the background" on computers. It would be fine if the system update or virus scan ran in the background and didn't interfer with what I'm doing, but it runs in the background and has the effect of locking up the computer -- or slowing it to such a crawl that it might as well be locked up -- with no indication of what's going on. Maybe I'm not doing anything that requires much in the way of computing resources, but sometimes I am, and when I'm working on a bedsheet-sized map of a couple hundred Mbs, hurrying for a deadline, I really hate it when I have to stop and diagnose a "problem" and whack the stupid computer back in line. I hate it even more because it was unnecessary. The software should let you know what it's doing and give you the option of delaying the activity. It often doesn't. "Smart machine, stupid design" is exactly right.

Update: "Ve haff vays of making you unload the dishes." Man, ain't that the truth.

Another Update: "I own a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and I like it a lot. But I bought it without the fancy satellite navigation system, a decision on my part that cost Toyota about $2000. The reason is that I wanted to buy a car that didn’t come with a built-in lawyer.


"Now, more and more gadgets are programmed to tell us what to do rather than follow our orders."

Yep. Easily the most obnoxious feature I've encountered in a computer was the screen in Windoz 98 that came on when you'd been forced to execute a hot reboot because Windoz had locked up, yet again. This message roundly chastized you for not shutting the machine down properly, something that wasn't possible under the circumstances. At least the folks at Microsoft are capable of learning, as none of their subsequent operating systems bawl you out when they screw up.

The InstaPundit is right too: The big fear isn't the lawyer-in-a-box, but that these things will turn into a cop-in-a-box. Monitoring your behavior and notifying the manufacturer or the authorities if they think you've done something wrong. Just recently on some comment thread someone was wondering why their hard drive was running constantly. The response from some wag was 'Oh, it's probably scanning your computer to make sure you haven't downloaded any music it needs to report to the RIAA."

@9:49 AM

No wonder I'm confused
I'd overheard a bit about this eavesdropping on the TV news from the next room, but it didn't make sense. Now I understand that the victim is from Montana and the shooter's name is Montana. An odd coincidence for a shooting that occurred in Denver.

We don't know all the facts, but it looks like an off-duty police officer got in a fist fight and then shot his opponent when in danger of gettin' an ass whoopin'. The victim had several broken bones in his hands and we don't have to look far for the hard object he was hitting (look at the photo of the officer).

Many of the comments to the article feel that this is a case of the police protecting their own, but this is a hard one to call. The victim was 25 and looks huge [6'2" @ 250# according to this], while the shooter is 49 and doesn't appear to be in terribly great shape, so there's a disparity of force issue at play here, even if the driver of the victim's vehicle wasn't involved. A Jefferson County grand jury did not indict the officer, but an internal investigation is underway and you can bet there'll be a civil action.

Update: Whew! I've been reading through the comments and I'm startled at 1) how very little is known about this incident; and 2) how many people assume the worst of the officer involved, often citing various other cases where law enforcement in and around Denver have killed others. It appears that many folks are very distrusting of the police.

It strikes me that the news media have done a terrible job of investigating and reporting this incident, and that the police, DA, and other authorities involved have done a terrible job of justifying the shooting and their subsequent actions. Our law enforcement officers work for us. When an officer shoots someone the public quite justifiably wants to know what happened, yet very few details are being released. Granted there are still investigations on-going, but the silence is not doing law enforcement any good in the eyes of the public.
DENVER (AP) -- A grand jury declined to indict an off-duty sheriff's deputy over a roadside fight that left a Montana man dead, all but eliminating the possibility that charges will be filed, prosecutors said Monday.

David Rossiter, 25, of Sheridan, Mont., was shot to death Nov. 2 in a fight with Arapahoe County Deputy Daniel Montana, 49.

The grand jury didn't issue a report that might have explained the decision. Prosecutors said the case is essentially closed unless new evidence surfaces, and they are not actively investigating.


District Attorney Scott Storey said he did not know the grand jury's reasoning and could not comment even if he did because state laws require the process to be secret.

"This was a very, very thorough, complete and meticulous investigation from start to finish, and the grand jury assisted in that process and the investigation," he said. "They had all the information. Nothing was left out."

Storey said more details of the shooting could be disclosed, but he declined to elaborate.
Just as a matter of public relations, I'd think not releasing some sort of report from the grand jury and admitting you're not actively investigating are bad moves. Telling people you could release more information but declining to elaborate on what that information might be? Priceless.

A lawyer for the family is making much of the fact that the victim was shot "at a distance". However, it appears that the distance was about 3-4 feet. That's consistent with self defense doctrine: Make some space between you and your assailant before you draw your weapon because you sure don't want to grapple for the gun.

Unfortunately, that tidbit from the autopsy is about all we know in addition to the original article I've linked above. A very, very poor show on the part of the media and the authorities that inspires no confidence in either. I'm sure we're going to hear more about this.

Update #2: Here's an article that adds a couple details. Apparently the driver of the victim's vehicle was not injured, but taken into custody for investigation of possible DUI, and the shooter was treated for facial injuries at a hospital, as had seemed pretty obvious from his photo.

A cigarette was thrown from the victim's vehicle, words and then blows were exchanged, and then shots were fired, and now a man is dead. It's hard not to agree with the comments at the DenverPost that if this exchange had happened between three citizens the shooter would be in jail. We'll see.

[Finally!] More details of the altercation are coming out today and, yes, it sounds like the shooter was getting his butt kicked. A very tough call whether this was justifiable. Considering the outrage in yesterday's comments I've still got to wonder why the police and DA didn't come out with this information immediately and avoid the shit storm.

This situation raises several questions though: It appears that the shooter could have driven away. Instead he instigated a confrontation. To what extent are you liable if you get into a brawl along the roadside? If you instigate a brawl and find yourself getting a whoopin', at what point can you justifiably escalate the brawl into a gun fight? I've seen people beaten a lot worse that this officer and they didn't draw their knives and guns. Apparently the answer to that last, in this case, comes from the standard self defense doctrine -- the shooter says he was afraid for his life. It's very hard to argue with that as we can't get inside his head. What we can wonder about is why the shooter put himself in that position.

The moral of this story is don't get in brawls. Someone carrying a handgun has a particular obligation to avoid confrontations if at all possible, rather than strapping on a handgun in the anticipation that someone might not be impressed with your trash-talkin' l'il self. The results of the internal investigation and the inevitable civil suit should be interesting.

@7:28 AM

Concealed carry in the parks?
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso have joined with 45 colleagues in the Senate in pushing to allow gun owners to carry their firearms into all national parks and wildlife refuges.

Among the Wyoming Republicans' allies: Montana Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester.

Forty-seven senators signed a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Friday asking him to lift restrictions that prevent citizens from carrying their readily accessible firearms onto lands managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The effort is being led by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.


Opponents of the change argue that it would lead to more poaching and accidental shootings in the parks.

The letter noted that the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service allow transporting and carrying of firearms on their lands in accordance with the laws of the host state. It added that a similar exception for parks and refuges "would respect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, while providing a consistent application of state weapon laws across all land ownership boundaries."


"If you live in Cooke City and you go hunting near Bozeman, there's a pretty good chance you're going to transport a gun through a national park," he said. "Jon believes law-abiding Montanans have a constitutional right to haul firearms through parks without having to break them down."


Current regulations only state that weapons must be rendered inaccessible, said Jerry Case, chief for regulations and special park uses for the Park Service. That means they do not have to be disassembled, but instead simply must be put somewhere not readily accessible, such as in a car trunk, he said.

"They don't have to be broken down, but they have to be inaccessible," he said. "Preferably they're in your trunk and unloaded. Our regulations do allow people to transport weapons through a park as long as it's not accessible."
Frankly, I wouldn't want to tangle with most of the dangerous critters we've ever encountered in the National Parks with my Chief's Special. Might make them mad. That said, I'm entirely in favor of the free exercise of our rights, including the right to keep and bear arms.

There are some pretty specious arguments on both sides of this issue. "Breaking down" a hunting rifle is pretty much limited to removing the bolt (if any) and magazine (if any). Some rifles like the Ruger No. 1 can't really be broken down at all and for those that can, removing the bolt and/or magazine takes about 10 seconds, not terribly onerous even if it were required.

On the other side of the argument, those who set out to poach in a National Park aren't going to be detered even by an outright ban on firearms. There may be the occasional nose-picker who sees that big bull moose and just can't help himself, but I'd guess that's fairly rare. Poaching is a problem, but requiring that the poacher keep his rifle in the trunk isn't really an effective way to address the issue.

There were 112,012 accidental deaths in the US in 2004, the last year for which statistics are available, according to the CDC (pdf file). Of these, only 649 were from accidental discharge of firearms. This compares to 48,053 "transport accidents" most of them car crashes; 20,950 poisonings; 18,807 falls; 3308 drownings, 3229 died in fires; and 17,016 miscellaneous deaths. In fact, of all the types of accidental death listed by the Centers for Disease Control, firearms accidents are the least frequent. So if saving lives is the issue, it would appear that cars, beanie weenies, rock climbing, swimming, and campfires ought to be banned first. [Incidentally that CDC report is very interesting reading.]

But, of course, neither ease in traveling to hunting camp nor saving lives is the issue. "Shall not be infringed" is the issue and I applaud our brave Senators for upholding that principle.

@6:10 AM

Monday, December 17, 2007- - -  
If George Monbiot hates it..
I figure the Bali deal can't be all bad. He's not the archetypal moonbat for nothing. Best part? He blames Al Gore. Pure essence of moonbat:
Most of the other governments insisted that the cuts be made at home. But Gore demanded a series of loopholes big enough to drive a Hummer through. The rich nations, he said, should be allowed to buy their cuts from other countries. When he won, the protocol created an exuberant global market in fake emissions cuts. The western nations could buy "hot air" from the former Soviet Union. Because the cuts were made against emissions in 1990, and because industry in that bloc had subsequently collapsed, the former Soviet Union countries would pass well below the bar. Gore's scam allowed them to sell the gases they weren't producing to other nations. He also insisted that rich nations could buy nominal cuts from poor ones. Entrepreneurs in India and China have made billions by building factories whose primary purpose is to produce greenhouse gases, so that carbon traders in the rich world will pay to clean them up.
Poor Al, he can't please everybody and some days it appears he can't please anybody.

HT: Benny Peiser

@2:32 PM

Okay, I tried the "How will you die?" quiz linked by Dr. Helen. Not sure why they think I'll die of a drug or alcohol "accident" as they didn't ask any questions about drug or alcohol use. But I do like the idea that I'm slipping over the edge into "heart attack during sex". At the ripe old age of 108 would work for me..

You'll die from a Drug or Alcohol accident.
Let's face it - when you get drunk/high you lose all control and do stupid stuff. Unfortunately in your case those propaganda anti-escapism commercials prove true.

'How will you die?' at

@1:23 PM

Billy Mayes would be hard-pressed..
Via the Drudge Report we learn of the new Clinton campaign out to show her likability.

@1:00 PM

Welcome to the Panopticon..
Interesting articles on high tech surveillance. It's everywhere! Yes, watch that last and you'll even see me stroll by on occasion. And now you'll know how to recognize me..

Update: Some are looking into ways to fight back.

And another update: Following the InstaPundit's Slashdot link we learn about Sousveillance. No, that has nothing to do with being watched by drunks..

@11:53 AM

How predictable..
The DenverPost offers up the usual. In the wake of the church shootings they're calling for a renewal of the federal "assault weapons" ban. And they make it a twofer:
Such a ban was approved in 1994 under the Clinton administration with the support of former Presidents Reagan, Carter and Ford. Yet, President George W. Bush, who declared his support for the ban in 2000, caved to the gun lobby and allowed it to expire in September 2004.
Yes, President Bush single-handedly failed to push this legislation through both houses of Congress. How dare he!

Silly shits.

Of course, Dave Kopel is absolutely right: The media don't televise the streaker at the ballpark because it encourages copycats. Yet they print article after article on these mass shootings, including photos, and copies of the suicide notes and rantings of the perpetrators. Then when the copycat killers go on their predictable rampages the press call for more useless, feel-good gun control.

Now I'm not in favor of infringing on any part of the Bill of Rights, but I did suggest in the comments that perhaps what we need is a little reasonable press control. I'm sure they won't see the humor in that.

Ps. do read all the comments at the DenverPost. I find it encouraging that the vast majority of the comments are pro gun. More than a few also point out the blatant errors of fact in the DP OpEd, which is also a good thing.

@6:17 AM

Saturday, December 15, 2007- - -  
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
-- Ben Franklin
So far the comments on gun grabber Gail Schoettler's OpEd are running about two-to-one pro gun. I've been doing my part!

I particularly enjoyed this quote from Carl in Chicago:
"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those only who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty--so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator--and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree."
-- John Adams, quoting Cesare Beccaria's 1764 "On Crimes and Punishments"
It appears we've been fighting the nannies for a long while.

@10:28 AM

Heatin' that yurt was getting expensive, huh?
DENVERDenver International Airport is looking into ways to cut its multimillion-dollar electricity bill.

@8:31 AM

What goes around comes around
I remember the moans of the vinyl affectionados when eight-tracks and cassettes started becoming popular, and later when CDs came along to put the kibosh to LPs. Much of this was due to the loss of the great old album art. What was displayed in large format on those old record sleeves was only palely reproduced in the bitty sleeves and folders that accompany the new media. So..

I find "The Lone Prairie" -- in the "Fret Files" department of the Winter 2007 issue of The Fretboard Journal -- fairly interesting. It extols the virtues of a three-CD set, closing with this observation:
In the future, most providers of online music will not likely go to the effort to create comprehensive liner notes like the ones that accompany Folksongs of Illinois -- or to hire artists like McAdams to do the cover illustrations. While the recordings will survive as a series of 1s and 0s, the often lavish packages they used to come in will fade away. And while the brave new world will be more efficient -- and will use up fewer natural resources -- I'm still going to miss well-designed, thoughtfully produced efforts like this.
I'm one of those folks who resisted going over to the CD format. I'd been burned by eight-tracks and was unimpressed by cassettes (other than as a way to save wear and tear on my precious vinyl), so I waited a good while to make sure CDs weren't just the next fad. Now I've accumulated a respectable collection, maybe 1000 CDs, so I'm unamused by predictions of their demise.

I understand why digital downloads are so popular. They allow you to buy just the cuts you want, for a buck or so apiece, rather than springing for a CD with that one good cut and 10 tracks of filler crap. If the CD goes the way of the eight-track, the record companies, producers, and musicians will have no one to blame but themselves. On the other hand, I too would miss the liner notes and artwork, puny as they may be compared to those glorious old vinyl jackets. On the third hand, I won't miss sorting (when I get around to it which isn't often) and storing all the bulk of vinyl and CDs (yes, I've still got a pile o' vinyl).

On the fourth hand, I'm a little leery of spending a lot of money on digital formats that provide no backup hard copy although, yes, I laugh at my dad printing out emails. I would be most upset if my entire music collection were wiped out by the crash of my hard drive. Then again (even a monkey only has four hands) I'd also be unamused if I had to reload a mass of digital files from CDs.

Due to the shear size of the pile of CDs, I'm leaning toward loading them all on an iPod and backing them up to a pair of external hard drives (they're cheap after all). At that point the CDs can join the vinyl in boxes in a closet, and I'd probably not buy nearly so many CDs in the future. I'm less than enthusiastic about that project though, simply because I am bad at backing up my stuff and sorting and indexing the backups. At least I could sort the CDs and they're not going anywhere unless the house burns down. And I would miss the notes and artwork.

Of course, all of this is just idle rambling. By this time next year we'll probably have subscription services where all the books, music, videos, and virtual reality-based media that's ever been created will be sorted, cataloged, and stored by someone else who's paid to do the scut work, and available on our handy brain implant at the click of an eyeball. Or something. Because it's always something.

@7:19 AM

Friday, December 14, 2007- - -  
Something for your reading list..
Browsing the intertubes, I've come across a batch of articles by Massad Ayoob. Ayoob has long been recognized as one of the premier law enforcement and civilian self defense trainers. A very, very knowledgable guy and anything he writes is well worth a read.

@7:01 PM

Coincidence? I think not..
I've noticed several pieces lately comparing our Congress to Animal House. When you've embarked on one long toga party I suppose that's better than being compared to Caligula.

@7:06 AM

Poor Will Smith..
Now everyone will compare him to Charlton Heston. Quite favorably I'd imagine.

Update: If I recall correctly, the original book was pretty good. I also enjoyed Matheson's Incredible Shrinking Man.

[Snort!] And now I won't be able to visit Amazon without a suggestion that I might like one of these or something similar. To think that until a few days ago I lived in blissful ignorance of such gadgets. Be careful what you search for, they'll insist that you get it!

@6:25 AM

Nice shoes!
An interesting look at our often confused relationship with the animal world. For the record, I'm opposed to beating cows.

Update: Nothing even slightly amusing about this though. Too bad it's only a misdemeanor. 'Course the guy has a life sentence to the stupid farm. I'm continually amazed that people post incriminating information on the internet.

@6:00 AM

Three electoral votes!
It's a heavy price to pay:
DenverPost -- The Democratic Party chairman in Wyoming is predicting that Democratic candidates throughout the Rocky Mountain region will be damaged if his party selects Hillary Clinton for president.

"Every Democratic candidate in Wyoming will be painted with that same liberal, big-government brush. We will also be the target of the locker room jokes that rightfully belong to Bill Clinton," John Millin wrote in a letter to The Denver Post.

"While I don't agree with this view of Mrs. Clinton, I have to accept that this is the truth. It has become the dirty little secret in the Democratic Party," he wrote. "Westerners have an independent, libertarian spirit and Democrats can make Republicans pay a heavy price for years of pandering to the social conservatives. None of this will happen if Hillary wins the nomination."
I hate to be the one to point this out, but if you don't want to be painted with the "liberal, big-government brush" don't be a big-government liberal. Easier said than done though; far as I can see there are no small government conservatives running for the Democratic nomination.

Come to think of it, Hillary is probably the most conservative of the bunch. The article goes on to note that Millin supports Barack Obama, so his analysis could be a bit biased.

@5:38 AM

Thursday, December 13, 2007- - -  
Time for some common sense gun laws!
Gail Schoettler, former United States Ambassador*, former Colorado Lt. Governor, and former Colorado State Treasurer, has an interesting OpEd on the church shooting in yesterday's DenverPost that's drawing a lot of comment. She seems to think that gun ownership is completely unrestricted in the US and it's time to do something. What she would propose she doesn't say. (I guess being a politician doesn't necessarily make you smart or knowledgeable, huh?)

As I responded in the comments (and do read the comments!) I completely agree. It's time for a common sense gun law: One that removes the restrictions from the right of the peaceful citizens like Ms. Assam to possess the weapons of their choice. That's the only proven method of stopping these mass killings, so indeed, let's do something!

*To the 2000 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) held in Istanbul, according to her website.

@9:40 AM

Race-ness in America
Kathleen Parker -- In the politics of race, black and white isn't so black-and-white anymore.

Rather than a matter of skin tone and pigmentation, race has become a question of blackness and whiteness — a calculation of attitude, experience and cultural identity.

Our first hint that the race card had found a new game was when writer Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton "our first black president." "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and- junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas." At the risk of contradicting Morrison, but for the sax, those are white-trash tropes. Toss in a banjo and you've got "Deliverance."


This race business is complicated.
For sure. An interesting article, read the whole thing.

@7:58 AM

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