Thursday, February 24, 2011

Marriage heresy

I had a long rant rattling around my head all ready to jump out and savage the unwary reader, but I changed my mind.

Instead, in the tradition of Joe Huffman’s One Question I ask my own question:

Why do we allow sterile, divorced, atheistic serial adulterers who happen to be of opposite sex to enter into legally recognized marriage; but prevent people who truly love one another to do the same, if they happen to be of the same sex?

Your answer may not include any reference to religion of any kind – not in a country where the 1st amendment limits the federal government and the 14th binds the state governments to it.

An embarrassment of riches

It’s neck and neck between the comments of Elmo Iscariot and Tamara to this post of Markos' about the Old Guard of the Republican Party and their gay cooties.

Tam wins in the laconic competition, but the last line of Elmo’s puts him over the top.

Today’s snark of the day award goes to Elmo Iscariot

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Apple brings the economic fail

Seriously – what is Apple thinking? Anyone who is selling content both in and out of the app store is going to flee the platform, since most people don’t have 30% margin they can give up to apple for the privilege.

Technical note in re LightSquared

It is irrelevant that LightSquared is planning to operate an LTE network in their assigned spectrum. They could be operating any type of broadcast network in this spectrum and generate the alleged interference. Likewise, the current cellular (including LTE) networks in use globally are not anywhere near the GPS spectrum and won’t interfere with GPS. Verizon Wireless’s current LTE network, or AT&T ‘s upcoming LTE network, operating in the 700 mHz spectrum, or even Sprint’s WiMAX network in the 2100 mHz spectrum,  will not be jamming GPS.

GPS FUD – Part 2

Now the USAF is apparently weighing in on the GPS/LightSquared controversy.  This is a little more significant. As I mentioned in my previous post, DoD would be one of the leaders of the torchlit pitchforking if LightSquared’s system does interfere with GPS signals. And if this system does interfere, it will be shut down – one upstart satellite owner doesn’t have the juice to fight all the other users of GPS.

Seriously, look at what happened to broadband over power lines. Notice that we don’t have it and probably never will (outside of the home). Interfering with other people’s spectrum is Not Done, at least not by private parties. (The Russian Woodpecker would be a governmental counterexample).

Incidentally, this is one of those cases where I think that governmental interference in the operation of radio transmission might be justified. As near as I can tell, the proposed system is not deliberately operating outside its own spectrum; rather that the laws of physics cause undesirable interference. This interference could (theoretically) be filtered out. The GPS manufacturers appear to be upset because their cheaper systems don’t have the capability to filter (having been designed in a period in which the LightSquared spectrum was only being used for satellite-to-surface communication). The principles by which this interference will happen are evidently well-known, so the cheap receivers are depending entirely on there never being a (relatively) powerful terrestrial transmitter in a position to generate such interference. I don’t know if that’s a reasonable assumption in a pure free-market spectrum allocation. Initial allocation of spectrum was done on both an ad-hoc basis and one taking into account certain physical constraints (for example certain spectra are unsuitable for certain uses due to atmospheric properties, and especially well-suited for others). The LightSquared frequencies are evidently not economically unsuitable for terrestrial operation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

An interesting point about the First Amendment

From the Plaintiffs Brief in Reply and Opposition in the NJARPC and SAF suit comes an interesting argument (p34 of the linked document). Italics in original, though I have concatenated a footnote onto the end of the paragraph

Moreover, the “safety” distinction offered by State Defendants and Brady Amici relies on a false assumption – that the conduct protected by the First Amendment does not raise significant risks and concerns for society. But this is not the case. While there is no doubt that guns can be dangerous, words can be powerful, and words have the ability to motivate large groups of people – for better or worse. While the rights of speech, petition, and assembly intrinsically raise public safety risks – sometimes acutely – modern First Amendment jurisprudence forbids the preclusion of these activities notwithstanding these risks. (It was speech, petition, and assembly – not guns – that recently overturned the Mubarak regime in Egypt. On the contrary, all of the guns in the army could not contain the power of speech, petition, and assembly. To the extent Amici would like to hang legal arguments on clich├ęs, they would be well advised to remember that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”)

The brief then goes on to argue that the Supreme Court directly analogixed Heller to Skokie (the Illinois Nazi decsion) and stated that the Second Amendment’s protect “is no different”.

Quick note

Range report soon – and I will never again forget to bring the plastic gizmo for loading the Glock magazines. My thumbs would like to register a protest.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I ran across, in comments at Tam’s about her new robotic minion, some handwaving freakoutery concerning The Death of GPS As We Know It. I dug up a slightly less panicked article via Google.

I am not claiming to be an RF guy – it’s been 20 years since I took E&M in college and while I occasionally think about getting my ham ticket, I haven’t bothered to put the necessary knowledge into my on-board storage. So I have to take the claims of interference on faith. The theory doesn’t seem to be too badly Out There, at any rate.

I’m not all that worried, in the end, about this, though. If they turn on their network, and it wipes out GPS in a radius measured in 10^2 meters around each of the transmitters, there will be metaphorical torch and pitchfork marches on LightSquare’s HQ. Other elements of government, starting with DoD and continuing with USCG, FAA, Commerce, and NASA will be leading the wave, followed by every owner of a commerical GPS system and their congresscritters; and the incumbent cellular carriers will be cheerfully handing out the torches and pitchforks from the sidelines to bring down an upstart competitor.

GPS doesn’t just tell you to turn left onto the missing ferry across a parking lot. Cellular networks are at least partially dependent on the precise timing signals available from the network, for one. The FAA has more or less replaced all their navigation aids with GPS-based ones, likewise the Coast Guard. The military uses it all over the place. None of these users have the spare money to retrofit filters just because some bright boy found a loophole in the FCC rules. For the purely commercial users, it’s probably cheaper to rent a congressman, and the governmental ones probably have a timeshare in one office or another.

And LightSquare either has to know this or is too stupid to be in this business! They’re pouring Non-Recoverable Expenses into this; at least part of which is their own money. If they do end up degrading GPS to unusability, their ass will be in a sling on a ride to bankruptcy court, regardless of how many waivers they have from the FCC. With only marginally bad luck, they get to be blamed by NTSB for being the last link in a chain of error that brings down an airliner. That could be federal criminal negligence charges AT BEST.

I know it’s not fashionable – but the Hitchhiker’s Guide said it best:


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

OK – now my head hurts

While doing research for the previous post, I ran across this little gem:

2.  The Springfield M1A rifle is not one of the enumerated firearms which are specifically prohibited under the State assault firearms laws. It has been prohibited in this State as being substantially identical to a named firearm. However, according to the manufacturer's specifications, the M1A has been modified. The modified M1A, which became available in 1994, is not considered to be substantially identical to a prohibited firearm under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-1w(2) and these rules. However, earlier versions of the M1A, which contain at least two of the criteria identified in the Attorney General's Guidelines Regarding the "Substantially Identical" Provision in the State's Assault Firearms Laws dated August 19, 1996 and reproduced in paragraph 2 above, are considered to be substantially identical to a prohibited firearm and continue to be defined as an assault firearm

See N.J.A.C. 13:54-1.2  Definitions

Was the change made from 1994 that significant? (I am not up on my M1A lore).

This is a question that shouldn’t need to be asked

the #3 search term this month for my blog, per Traffic Sources, is “are inherited unregistered handguns in nj house legal?”

Short answer is “Yes.”

I’d like to be able to say “there’s no such thing as an unregistered handgun” in NJ; except that NJ does offer a way to “voluntarily register” handguns purchased legally out of state with the authorities, and, of course, registers handguns purchased in-state via the Permit To Purchase system. That having been said, the law does not distinguish between a registered firearm and an unregistered one (barring machine guns, and, possibly, “assault weapons).

Inheritance appears to be a way to transfer firearms without obtaining a permit to purchase or FID card. NJ 2C:58-3 j: (Follow the chain from this link)

Firearms passing to heirs or legatees.  Notwithstanding any other provision of this section concerning the transfer, receipt or acquisition of a firearm, a permit to purchase or a firearms purchaser identification card shall not be required for the passing of a firearm upon the death of an owner thereof to his heir or legatee, whether the same be by testamentary bequest or by the laws of intestacy.  The person who shall so receive, or acquire said firearm shall, however, be subject to all other provisions of this chapter. If the heir or legatee of such firearm does not qualify to possess or carry it, he may retain ownership of the firearm for the purpose of sale for a period not exceeding 180 days, or for such further limited period as may be approved by the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality in which the heir or legatee resides or the superintendent, provided that such firearm is in the custody of the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality or the superintendent during such period.

Anyway, that disposes of the “inherited unregistered” part of the question. Essentially, the law does not care how you came into possession, as long as that route was legal at the time (and the weapon is not otherwise prohibited – there are no grandfathered banned weapons or magazines).

Keeping firearms in your house is one of the expectations to NJ’s blanket firearms ban, of course.

So the long answer is “Yes,” as well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

QotD: Why the criminal life is not for me

Steve Skubinna says that as a law-abiding citizen, “…there's the fact that you're not likely to be recreating a Benny Hill skit minus the Yakety Sax.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The reason rail doesn’t work

Plotting a trip to Pittsburgh. Amtrak says 30th St station Philly to 1100 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh is 7 hr, 23 min and $50 per head. Google says the same trip by car is 5 hrs 11 minutes, and 304 miles. Assume $0.50/mile (IRS deduction rate) and that’s $150 per car (round numbers). For one person, the extra 2 hours in transit may be worth saving $100 and a serious case of iron ass. (I did a ~300 mile drive with no stops recently, and it wasn’t exactly my favorite way to spend 5 hours, an hour of which was in traffic.)

With 2 automobile riders, though, the marginal cost of of the drive is $50. 3 makes it even, and 4 makes the trip cheaper by car. If there are 2+ drivers, the iron ass issue is lessened.

But wait, there’s more. There is exactly 1 train per day that makes that trip, leaving at noon and arriving at 8 pm. The return train leaves at 7 am and arrives at 3 pm. Miss it and you’re done. And, if you want a car at the other end, you still have to rent. Sure, you have to park your car, but it’s usually cheaper than renting at the destination.

All this assumes you don’t need to transport a firearm – all bets are off in that case.

As a comparison, an airline flight is $130 or so and 1.5 hrs, plus probulation time.

Great to see that Amtrak subsidy working out.

There are places passenger rail makes sense – I understand the Eastern Corridor from Washington DC to Boston would turn a profit by itself, and the train schedule is more convenient, with multiple trips daily, and notably faster and easier than driving. Not sure it makes sense anywhere else though.

Rules Lawyering and Constitutional Munchkins

Megan McArdle on the PPACA: “I think it's pretty obvious that it doesn't fit within the text of the constitution as written, but that's only one of the possible meanings of "unconstitutional" in modern political discourse.”

That’s a problem. Some background on the title: I play wargames and role-playing games. Rules Lawyer is an epithet there (as I understand it is in other sports and competitions). It’s a name for someone who squeezes their interpretation into grey areas of the rules and twists them to their individual advantage. To be fair to actual lawyers, this is what they arguably have a duty to their clients to do, and their clients’ opponents have lawyers to do the same. But I digress. In a game not played in the courtroom, rules lawyers is a negative way to play the game, but you can still be inside the Rules As Written and be a Rules Lawyer – so you’re playing the same game as everyone else, just in a less-than-positive fashion.

There’s a step beyond rules lawyers, though, and that’s the Munchkin

Munchkins are infamous for various degrees of cheating, willfully misinterpreting rules that work against them while boisterously proclaiming ones that work in their favor. As a matter of course they selectively obey the letter of rules while perverting the spirit blatantly. The worst munchkins will cheat shamelessly, ignoring inconvenient numerical modifiers and fouling dice throws till they get the result they want. During character creation, munchkins engage in ruthless min-maxing, leading to exceptionally unrealistic or unusual characters who make no sense except in terms of raw power.

We’ve gotten to the point at which lawmakers (on both sides) have gone beyond rules-lawyering the Constitution and well into Munchkin Con-Law (MCL). Gonzalez vs. Raich would be an excellent example of bipartisan Munchkin Con-Law, along with most of the laws and jurisprudence that have been chipping away at the 4th amendment. The PPACA is merely an example on partisan MCL, which in some ways makes it more pernicious. The supporters have started with the premise that PPACA must be passed, and have gone looking for only the “rules” that support their desires. When shown the “rules” that prevent it, they blatantly ignore their opponents.

The solution, in a game, to a munchkin, is to not play him. We don’t have that option day-to-day in the US. We have to vote them out. And keep voting them out until the replacements stop playing silly buggers with the Constitution.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shocked Face time

U.S. report finds no electronic flaws in Toyotas that would cause acceleration

Government investigators have rejected claims that electronic defects caused Toyota cars and trucks to accelerate out of control, a finding released Tuesday that offers a measure of long-awaited vindication for the world's largest automaker and shifts blame to the drivers who reported the incidents

(emphasis mine)

Some cases were due to mechanical design fail (the floormats jammed under the pedal), and this problem had already been identified and corrected by the time the news broke. Most were operator error; confusion of pedals. Evidence was drawn from data recorders on board the vehicles (normally used for control-assist electronics, I understand).

Every few years it seems we get another spate of these stories, normally involving “furrin cars”.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Regulatory Capture

The BATFE is about the platonic ideal of the opposite of agency capture – where a regulatory agency operates for the benefit of the regulated industry and incumbents.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Documented stupidity

If this article is correct, Camden may have just found a way to ensure they can’t afford to pay the remainder of their police force after the settlement for civil rights violations and employment law violations are done.

The money (quite literally) ‘graphs:

In the federal lawsuit filed last week, Davila claims officers are required to approach random residents and ask for personal information and, in some cases, take photographs of the individual or even run a warrant check without probable cause.

Officers are required to document the encounters and are then evaluated on how many reports they take during a shift, the lawsuit alleges.

Believing the practice to be a violation of citizens' rights, Davila objected to the initiative in a March 2009 roll call after Deputy Chief Michael Lynch allegedly stated "no resident of the City of Camden should be able to come out of their home and not expect to be engaged by a Camden Police Officer," the lawsuit claims.

Davila was subsequently "retaliated against" by being transferred to a different squad and charged with departmental offenses, according to the lawsuit.

The city denies the allegations.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No lasting friendships, no lasting enemies

The first implies the second. Kyle’s Far East Round-Up points out that we may be doing what might have been unthinkable a few years back, namely, basing ships out of Vietnam…