Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Different worlds

"...the government is pitching in ... for Romney's and other rich people's presidential runs." (because the money spent is lost to the inheritance tax.)
Stop right there. The only way this makes sense is if all the money belongs to the government and they just let us use it for a while. Which, I guess, sums up the view of the redistributionists.
This is the same class-warfare rhetoric that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I will about to this, talking to me about "fair shares" or "equality" of anything in the real world, whether it be taxes, consumption, duties, &c, is a good way to get me to tune you out.
Games are fair, life is not. In certain sports, there is the concept of the "handicap," where some more-skilled contestants are artificially penalized, some less-skilled contestants are artificially enhanced, or a combination of both, either directly on the field or through score manipulation afterwards. In effect, the better you do, the heavier you are penalized. This works for sports because the participants are volunteers who want to compete on a level playing field. That doesn't make it applicable for real life. Sports are zero-sum games, for every winner there is a corresponding loser. But we've known since at least Adam Smith that the real world is not a zero-sum game, that all sides in a transaction can "win." We need laws and governments to provide for punishing frauds, and enforcing contracts (the civil and criminal court system). They also enable common defense (armies for external defense and the police and criminal court system for internal defense) and facilitate trade.  But beyond that, government should not be in the business of "fairness."

Monday, September 24, 2012

It just went off

I just bet it went off "when the officer came over" without him doing anything at all to it. Finger never went near the trigger, &c. And it looks like I win that bet with myself.
(Remarkable use of passive voice in both articles, as well as "allegedly" in the first.)
For more amusement, the NY Daily Noos claims that the weapon is an S&W revolver, and that sources say the officer discharged the weapon "trying to put the safety on."
I don't have an image of a facepalm epic enough for that, wherever the fail inherent in that series of statements came from.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Desktop from Seattle

All the kids are doing it. Below is my desktop for my work computer, and sometimes my tablet. Click for source, from which you can embiggen.


As an aside, it never really occurred to me that basically you cannot escape seeing the Renraku Arcology from a heck of a large chunk of the Seattle Metroplex until seeing this picture. Wow.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Doing the job

I see a common statement among the jibes that certain supporters of President Obama make towards their political enemies, that President Obama “killed Osama bin Laden",” or that President Obama “killed the Somali Pirates.” Sometimes it’s more accurately described as President Obama ordered it done. (I’ve been tempted at least once to reply to one of the first set of claims with “He didn’t kill that.” Petty, I know. But the President didn’t pull the trigger, or fly the helicopter, or do anything more than sit in an air-conditioned room and say “do it,” or words to that effect.)

At any rate, the “point” of the claims is that President Obama did what Bush did not, and that this establishes his national security credentials, as though authorizing these actions were exceptional actions. It wasn’t. It’s on the level of offering your seat to a pregnant woman; it’s what you do if the requirement comes up.

Finally, I find the claim of “he did it” to be a bit distasteful from another standpoint; it’s bragging about killing someone. People who “needed killing” if anyone did, but you don’t brag about doing so, it’s unseemly.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Spleen, Vented

The whole brouhaha in North Africa and now Yemen. The reaction from both sides of my RSS feeds and social media, it’s just pissing me right the hell off. Yeah, sure, the US has no business apologizing for the expressions (no matter how distasteful) of an American. I cannot express my displeasure at this to a sufficient level without using profanity I won’t use in public. (Call me unimaginative if you like, I’m just too tired to come up with exotic euphemistic phrases). Whipping up mobs of angry young men as a cover for attacks on United States diplomatic personnel and facilities disgusts me even more. This is the behavior of barbarians, and we don’t apologize or cater to barbarians. The US Ambassador to Egypt’s statement was rightfully disavowed and deserves to have her career ended by it; and if it was her decision to disarm the Embassy Marines in a country full of angry young men, this goes twice.
But it is no excuse for jingoistic chest-thumping and calls for blockading, invading, or nuking the host countries. There’s damn little evidence that any of this was planned or executed by either the current Libyan or current Egyptian governments. Invading an accredited diplomatic mission is an act of war; but these incidents were not perpetrated by agents of the governments. It’s looking like this was a carefully plotted series of attacks by a group with which we are already in a state of armed conflict with! The dead Ambassador was a good friend of the current Libyan government, by all accounts; and the Egyptian government is in the middle of negotiations to buy additional tanks from the US. It is extraordinarily unlikely that either government had a hand in this. (I don’t know as much about the Yemeni situation, but I was given to understand the government there was co-operating in the War on A Noun, as much to suppress their own rebels as anything else). The plotters are enemies of the host governments, and the attackers their tools – but having fugitive murderers on yur soil is not a casus belli, at least not by itself.
Moving along to internal politics – by all accounts the purported spark for these incidents is an “expose” along the lines of a Jack Chick tract or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, if with a little more unkind truth than these things usually have. Despite this, the producers are well within their legal rights to have made it, and they are in no way responsible for the actions of barbarians. Nobody has the right to remain unoffended, and any governmental effort to squelch the film or the producers would itself fall afoul of both the right to free speech and the prohibition of respecting an establishment of religion.
Finally, there’s been a certain amount of grousing that the Egyptian mob was “allowed” to take the US flag, destroy it, and replace it with the flag of a group with which we are at war. This is, again, the actions of barbarians, beyond the bounds of civilized behavior, &c. But I want you to put youself at the window of an Embassy, watching an angry mob tear down Old Glory (but without visible arms). for the sake of this example you have an M4 and as much ammo as you can carry. How are you going to stop them from carrying out their plan? Are you going into the courtyard to reason with them? Or are you going to machine-gun them? You’re over a hundred miles from the Mediterranean Sea, and 60-70 from the Red Sea, in a building that’s probabluy rather less defensible than the Peking Legation Quarter, surrounded by a city with abundant supplies of bottles, gasoline, rags and Ronsons, and more than a few people who have heard of Finnish Ingenuity. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. The flag is a symbol of the United States, a tangible representation of the honor of the nation. But it is a symbol, and not the thing. And if your life is so unimportant, consider that of your comrades who will be fighting down the Nile or across the desert from the Red Sea; and the lives of all the rest of the occupants of the Embassy.
I’m no multiculturalist. In my opinion, there is no finer nation or society than the American one. I hope I have made myself clear as to my opinion of barbarians and their apologists. As for the ones who actually attacked and killed the Ambassador and others, let them run far and fast, and it will help them not.

Update: Thank you, Oleg Volk, for expressing what I couldn't about the tools in Libya

Proud questions

As somewhat more information has trickled out about the shooting at the Pathmark in Old Bridge, NJ, there are some questions in my mind about this. The rifle used was first described as an automatic AK-47, then as an assault rifle "similar to" an AK-47. I have been unable to find a more precise description than that. The AK-47, even in semi-auto only, is a banned-by-name "assault weapon" in NJ, but there are similar weapons that are not banned. At one point, the authorities alleged that the shooter obtained the rifle in PA, but I haven't seen anything more on that. This is important, because it affects judging NJ's assault weapons ban. Was this a banned weapon? The authorities are implying so, but not directly saying it.
Second question. The number of rounds fired is said to be around 16. Some sources say "at least," some "as many as," some "more than." 15 rounds happens to be the maximum legal magazine capacity in NJ. Add one round in the chamber, and you get 16 rounds as the maximum before reloading. Again, this is important to know in judging the effectiveness of the laws. Was the shooter using an illegal magazine?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just and lawful are not exact synonyms

I hear people say we have a legal system, not a justice system, as though this is a Bad Thing™. Robb Allen gives an example where a just outcome was not the legal one. We grant agents of the government the awful power to seize, search, arrest, imprison, enslave, and kill malefactors, but only after they have complied with due process of law.

In Robb Allen’s example, the malefactor was one of Sumdood’s merry band, a rascal and a man of low character. But his legal rights were violated in the name of Justice. And as Robb points out, the violation of this man’s legal rights is a loss of rights for everyone. It gets easier to break the rules once you’ve done it once, and in this case, when you’ve been officially blessed by the Powers That Be.

So, the next time you hear someone say we have a legal system, not a justice system, remember that we have a legal system for our protection.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


There's been a lot of chatter recently about various federal agencies making ostensibly large buys of ammunition, supposedly for training purposes. Until you divide by the number of armed law enforcement agents these agencies turn out to have, and it turns out to be rather less impressive - I hope (for example) that an armed federal agent expends at least 500 rounds a year for training purposes. The next level of panic is "ZOMG all these agencies have Armed Agents!!11!!Eleventy111!!" To which, again, my response is "shrug." A couple hundred people to cover the entire country per agency isn't a lot, after all. The US is a big place, with lots of people, some of whom commit crimes, and a fair number of those may be violent and armed themselves.

Which then leads to "why does each agency have their own armed agents instead of getting them from $CENTRAL_FEDERAL_LEO_AGENCY$?" Which I would hope by phrasing it that way makes it a self-answering question, but let me unpack. It's a matter of priorities and focus. $CENTRAL_FEDERAL_LEO_AGENCY$ has one goal - put people in federal prison so they can show Congress a count of how many people are in federal prison, so they can get more money to put people in federal prison. This means when they show up on your doorstep, they're looking for anything they can get you on. Each separate agency's enforcement arm has the same goal (show that they deserve more money), but they are trying to get money out of their parent agency, so they're going to want to make sure that their actions are related to the mission of the agency, because their bosses are going to Congress to get more money for their agency's mission. To make an (admittedly silly) example, if BATFE shows up on your doorstep, they're not going to care (much) if the ebony furniture on your rifle is in compliance with the Lacey Act, since that's a Customs violation (unless you really piss them off to the point they want to nail you for something, and even then they'll probably need to get the Customs Department involved); but they are going to care if it's a 922(r) violation. The BATFE's bosses don't get money from Congress for enforcing the Lacey Act. The agents may not even know anything about the Lacey Act, after all, they don't need to, that's not their baliwick. Which is another reason to separate the law enforcement groups to each agency - so that each agency's agents can focus and learn their own agency's regs and laws, not to mention the specifics of any domain-specific safety information. "When moving high-pressure-gas cylinders, make sure the safety cap is firmly attached," for example, is not one I'd necessarily expect an FBI agent to remember, but I really hope the FDA's enforcement agents do. And if you have one $CENTRAL_FEDERAL_LEO_AGENCY$ that manages all the agents, and each agent specializes in supporting a specific agency, you run into all sorts of problems regarding measuring performance across specialities, transferring between arms of $CFLEOA$, etc. There's a reason the Navy has its own aviation and land-warfare departments (and it's not JUST to poke a stick in the eye of the Army and Air Force), as an example, nor why the Air Force fought so hard to get out from under the Army's thumb.

Finally, in the case of a central government that is truly hostile to freedom, having the armed agents split up among several different and competing agencies is going to make opressing the people by federal agent MUCH harder, as you don't have one unified chain of command, or good operational integration. The phrase "herding cats" comes to mind, in fact.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Seen in a tube


I don’t know about other people, but I answer that with “a Federal Military is a constitutionally-defined mandate of the Federal Government of the United States, and providing health insurance is not.” There are many ways to deliver health insurance, but the Constitution does not authorize the Federal Government to do so. (The states are free to do so on their own resources, if they like, subject to the limitations of their own constitutions).