Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

In a bit of news from around the Arctic Circle, a film crew caught some footage of another starving polar bear.  Excerpt:

This year, biologist Paul Nicklen published a video online of an emaciated polar bear on Baffin Island rummaging through trash cans, looking for food. The polar bear was likely at death’s door when Nicklen captured the footage in late summer.
Nicklen, who founded the environmental group Sea Legacy, said he wanted to highlight the future polar bears face because of global warming. It worked, and the video has gone viral, sparking media coverage about a polar bear that’s a victim of a warming world.

“We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” Nicklen said, National Geographic reported.

“When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death,” said Nicklen. “This is what a starving bear looks like.”

Yes, bears are going to starve to death.  Mountain lions are going to starve to death.  Wolves are going to starve to death.  It is a sad but inevitable fact in the lives of large predators that some of them never quite get the hang of surviving.  The death rate of young bears in many environments is appalling.

But that’s nature for you.

There are a number of questions that I’d like to have answered that might shed a little more light on the whole thing:

  1. Assuming the bear did die, and it does indeed look inevitable from the film, did anyone do a necropsy on the animal to discover if it was injured, infested with parasites, or diseased?
  2. How old was the bear?  Young bears, especially young males, are frequently injured by larger, older bears as they seek their own territories.
  3. Were any other emaciated bears observed in the area?  If the environmental conditions were the root cause of this bear’s condition, then other bears in the area would be suffering as well.
  4. Where, exactly, was the bear?  Near a human habitation?  Polar bears are creatures of the coast and pack ice, but one hanging out near human habitations may (again) be a young one still learning how to survive, and maybe doing poorly.

In other words, there are just too many possible explanations to just go off and go “RRHHHEEEEE!  Global climate change!  We must cripple our economy now!”  Large predators almost never die peaceful deaths.  They are killed in fights with other predators, they are injured trying to take down a prey animal, they die of disease or by accident, or they just plain starve.  It’s a damned tough world out there, and in the Arctic, it’s several quantum levels tougher.

Blaming this on climate change is some Olympic-level jumping to a conclusion.

Rule Five Bitcoin Friday

I don’t know a lot about Bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrency.  Fortunately my fellow Glibertarian “Richard” has provided a pretty neat primer on the topic.  Excerpt:

There is no such thing as a bitcoin. When someone says “I own a bitcoin,” what they mean is “I know the code or codes that can authorize the transfer of up to one bitcoin.” If you buy a “loaded” physical token for 0.01 bitcoin on eBay, the token contains a code. Neither the token nor the code is “bitcoin,” but the code enables you to transfer amounts adding up to 0.01 bitcoin to other accounts.

Bitcoin’s foundation is a public transaction ledger called the blockchain. Every bitcoin transaction is recorded on the blockchain and anyone can inspect the transaction history going back to the creation of the first block of the chain. Because the blockchain is public, bitcoin transactions are not as anonymous as some people currently in prison had hoped. Every new account is anonymous, but that anonymity will probably be compromised by the first transfer of bitcoin into it because the bitcoins in the source account probably have a history–and there are companies whose business plan is to delve through the blockchain to link accounts to owners and sell the information.

Here’s how the blockchain works: people with codes that control bitcoin create transactions. Transactions can have one or more input accounts and one or more output accounts. Newly created transactions are sent to the cloud of computers running bitcoin protocol clients and added to a list of pending transactions. Anyone can download a bitcoin protocol client and run it on their computer, but running a full “node” takes a lot of disk storage space and Internet bandwidth.

Some of the computers running bitcoin protocol clients are “mining” bitcoin. To mine bitcoin, one selects transactions from the pending list and packs them together into a binary blob called a “block”. The block is then scanned to create a “hash” value. The last digit of a 16 digit credit card number is a hash value calculated from the first 15 digits. This is how web sites can automatically determine if you’ve mistyped a credit card number.

By all means, read the whole thing.

I’m not sure I get the whole thing.  Somewhere in my IRA portfolio there are a few shares of a stock that trades in bitcoin futures, and it’s turned a modest profit for me, but that’s probably as far as I’ll go in dealing with the fiat-iest of fiat currencies.

It’s not at all clear to me how you pay for things with bitcoins, how you obtain them or how you store them.  You can’t put them in a bank account – or can you?  Can I use them to put a tank of gas in my truck?  Can  I buy guns with them?

Supposedly fortunes have been made by those smart enough to buy bitcoins when they sold for pennies apiece, or even a few dollars apiece.  Now the value of a single bitcoin hovers between seven and eleven thousand dollars.  If you had bought a thousand of them for a dollar each, you’d be virtually wealthy now – if you could find a buyer to take those bitcoins in exchange for a more tradable currency.

As a libertarian I love the idea of an untraceable currency that isn’t controlled by any government.  As a child of the pre-Internet era, I can’t quite bring myself to engage fully with a currency that I just don’t understand.

Richard’s article answered a lot of my questions.  But I still have more.  I suppose I’ll keep looking for answers.

Animal’s Daily Pistol Carbine News

Pistol-caliber carbines are a coming thing, it seems – and have been, for over a hundred years.  The more things change…  Excerpt:

Submachine guns are incredibly potent firearms in close quarters and in the hands of a skilled operator. They have fallen out of favor with modern militaries for two major reasons: their limited effective range, and the rise of the short-barreled assault rifle.

These fully automatic or select-fire pistol-caliber firearms offer the individual soldier increased firepower over a sidearm, with better maneuverability than a full-sized rifle in close combat.

Many firearm manufacturers have capitalized on the strengths of these designs, offering civilian-legal, semi-automatic sub-guns in the form of pistol caliber carbines. This idea is not new—Auto Ordnance developed semi-auto versions of its (in)famous Thompson SMGs in the 1970s.

A decade later, H&K engineered an ATF-approved semi-auto version of the MP-5, and RPB Industries developed the M-10 and M-11 open-bolt versions of the MAC-10 and MAC-11 sub-guns. While most of these pistol-caliber carbines were based on famous SMGs like IMI’s UZI carbine, semi-auto-only variants of lesser-known SMGs like the S&W M-76 (the MK-760) also surfaced on the civilian market.

Interestingly, some designs followed the exact opposite path, like the Beretta CX4. Instead of evolving from a submachine gun, the CX4 began as a semi-auto pistol-caliber carbine, before being developed as a select-fire weapon for the government of India as the Mx4 SMG—with more than 36,000 examples manufactured for that contract alone.

Winchester 92

But this is anything but a new idea.  Not all that long ago the well-equipped guntwist frequently carried a carbine that digested the same fodder as his revolver, such as the above-pictured ’92 Winchester.  It’s a handy combination.  I’ve been looking around some for one of the modern replicas of the 92 in .45 Colt (which the originals were never chambered for) to match my favorite woods-bumming revolvers.  There are some replicas of the 66 and 73 Winchesters available in that chambering, but I prefer the Browning design.  The 92 is slimmer, lighter, handier.

Rossi makes a good replica but it’s worth searching to find an old Interarms import version, rather than the new models on sale today.  Why?  The old Interarms guns are direct copies, which the new versions are burdened with an idiotic crank-type safety atop the bolt.  There is probably some lawyerly reason for this, but in reality a gun with an external hammer should need no other safety, and the only really effective safety is the one between the shooter’s ears.

The new modern guns are doubtless handy, efficient and accurate, as the tests in the linked article would seem to indicate.  But lever guns have one significant advantage – they are legal in jurisdictions where semi-autos are restricted by ignorant pols.  And, in the eyes of yr. obdt. at least, they are nicer to look at.

And besides – if it’s good enough for the Duke, it’s good enough for anyone.

 

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

National concealed-carry reciprocity is headed for a House vote.  But there may be a catch.  Excerpt:

A measure expanding carry protections slammed by gun control advocates is set for a full vote in the House this week but may be merged with other proposals.

The bill, H.R. 38, was marked up by the House Judiciary Committee and is on the weekly schedule for lawmakers to vote on this week, with some 213 signed on to support the move.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans support concealed carry reciprocity. Momentum, common sense, and the facts are on our side,” said the sponsor of the reciprocity bill, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC. “I want to thank Speaker Paul Ryan for his strong support of the Second Amendment, and I urge my colleagues to support this common-sense bill to protect law-abiding citizens.”

Here’s the catch:

One caveat that gun rights advocates warn of with H.R.38 is the likelihood the bill will be amended to include the language of a new “Fix NICS” act, which would add several accountability measures designed to ensure that federal agencies submit the records of criminals, domestic abusers and others prohibited from possessing guns to the FBI-maintained system while giving states incentives to up their own reporting.

“Does the NICS background check system have problems? Yes, it results in tens of thousands of unjustified denials of gun purchases every year. But like many bills in Congress, the fix-NICS doesn’t live up to its name – it will likely do the opposite,” warned U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who restarted the Second Amendment Caucus earlier this year. “It throws millions of dollars at a faulty program and it will result in more law-abiding citizens being deprived of their right to keep and bear arms.”

I’d love to see national reciprocity pass, but I don’t like the idea of screwing around with adding questionable categories to the NICS database.  I have no issue with denying purchases to, say, convicted felons – they have been tried and convicted, so due process is satisfied.  But there are too many nebulous criteria being proposed, like disabled veterans who have been assigned someone to manage their financial affairs.  The worst suggestion is the addition of people on the “no-fly list” – a list which requires no due process to be included on, and to which there is no recourse if you are put on it by mistake.

Still.  This is grist for the sausage mill; such is the state of affairs in politics, in that you have to give some to get some.  I just hope we aren’t giving away a fundamental natural right for many Americans who do not deserve to lose same.

Animal’s Daily Marginal Literacy News

Now here’s a hell of a thing; one in five Americans, according to Pew Research, have not read a book in the past year.  And it gets worse!  Excerpt:

Last fall, Pew Research found that 27 percent of Americans had not read a book in the preceding year.

Unfortunately, our friends across the pond aren’t much better in this respect. According to a 2014 survey, roughly 26 percent of adults in Great Britain admitted to not reading and finishing a book for pleasure.

One might be able to dismiss such statistics to busyness or other similar factors. But is it possible that the growing numbers of the non-reading public are instead a sign of the decline of knowledge about books and the canon of literature in general? A March 2017 survey suggests such might be the case. Produced by The Royal Society of Literature, the survey asked nearly 2,000 British adults about their literature reading habits. Similar to the aforementioned 2014 survey, roughly 1 in 4 British adults had not read a piece of literature in the previous six months.

But even more interesting were the responses when researchers asked respondents to name an author of a literary work. As it turns out, 20 percent of respondents were unable to name even one. Of those who were able to name an author, more than half selected a modern, living author, such as J.K. Rowling.

Writers tend to be avid readers, and yr. obdt. certainly fits that stereotype.  (I’m currently on my ninth or tenth read-through of Asimov’s Foundation series.)  I can’t for the life of me imagine a life so intellectually impoverished as a life without books.

That must be a really good book.

Writing is, after all, probably the greatest innovation of civilized man.  It is the means by which we pass knowledge on down spans of generations.  It is through writing that Aristotle, Cicero, Mill, Hamilton and Jefferson speak to us over the centuries.  Books take us to distant times, to imagined futures, to far-away places, to other dimensions.

How, then, has it come to this, where so many people are without the joy of reading?

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and, while we forgot to send in our links to The Other McCain this week, check out their Rule Five links.  Also, thanks to our blogger pal Doug Hagin over at The Daley Gator for the linkback.

Here is Reason on the recently-passed Senate tax reform bill.  Excerpt:

The Senate bill makes major changes to both individual and corporate taxation. It permanently slashes the corporate tax rate from 35 percent down to 20 percent, alters the way that businesses can expense new equipment, and reduces taxes on income earned by pass-through businesses, a tax structure in which corporate profits are taxed as individual income. Those changes could create an incentive for many businesses to restructure as pass-throughs as a form of tax arbitrage, which is what happened when the state of Kansas attempted a similar change. An analysis by the Tax Foundation found that the Kansas provision encourage tax avoidance but not economic growth.

The bill also cuts individual tax rates, nearly doubles the standard deduction, gets rid of the personal exemption, expands the child tax credit, and eliminates or caps several major tax code deductions, including the state and local tax deduction. It modifies, but unlike the House plan does not repeal, the alternative minimum tax, which disallows some deductions by high earners. Over the next decade, filers at all income levels would see a tax cut.

However, unlike the corporate tax reduction, which is permanent, the individual rate reductions are phased out by 2026, creating a major policy cliff, and nearly guaranteeing high-stakes legislative showdowns. The sunset was designed largely to ensure that the bill conformed with Senate budget rules, which require that legislation passed via the reconciliation process not increase the deficit after a decade. Republican leaders have argued that Congress is not likely to let those tax cuts expire. That, in turn, would result in a significant long-term deficit increase.

Full disclosure:  My consulting business, as in all of Mrs. Animal’s and my business ventures, are set up as pass-through businesses.  This bill (while Mrs. A, who manages our financial affairs, hasn’t had the chance to read the bill yet) will help us, assuming the pass-through rate cut stays in place in the final product.

Now, I may not be in the 1%, but I sure as hell am in the 10%.  Schumer and Company are predictably bemoaning the “wealth transfer from poor to rich,” which is laughably clueless – not that this is anything new for Congressional liberals.  But it is the categorization of lower-income people as “the working class” that bugs me.

This characterization of white-collar or higher-income earners as somehow not being “working people” has always been a peeve.  Sorry, but I work – part of the reason my consulting business has been a success is because I’ve worked pretty damn hard to make it one, including (especially in the beginning) a hell of a lot of unpaid hours.  I’ve produced a lot of value for a lot of businesses, and after a few years of building a reputation in my industry, have ended up earning a pretty good living at it.

So, yes, the idea of lower marginal tax rates is pretty damned appealing.  The RHEEEE from the professional Left on this issue is pretty entertaining, given their sudden concern with deficit spending – to which my response can only be “cut spending.”

Rule Five Hawaii Screws Over Gun Owners Friday

Hawaii has legal medical marijuana, but be careful, because if you’re a gun owner, and you legally use marijuana, Hawaii proposes to give  you a good one right up the tailpipe.  Excerpts with my comments follow:

Hawaii is one of 29 states that allow medical use of marijuana, but it is the only state that requires registration of all firearms. If you are familiar with the criteria that bar people from owning guns under federal law, you can probably surmise what the conjunction of these two facts means for patients who use cannabis as a medicine, which Hawaii allows them to do only if they register with the state. This month many of them received a letter from Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, instructing them to turn in their guns.

“Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition,” Ballard says in the November 13 letter, which Leafly obtained this week after Russ Belville noted it in his Marijuana Agenda podcast. “If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit, and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) or otherwise transfer ownership. A medical doctor’s clearance letter is required for any future firearms applications or return of firearms from HPD evidence.”  (Emphasis added by me.)

Voluntarily?  Voluntarily?  Fucking voluntarily?  My ass – the state of Hawaii is using the full force and power of the state government to confiscate the property of law-abiding gun owners.  You know, in direct contrast to every pro-gun control prog who ever bleated “oh, we don’t want to confiscate anyone’s guns!”  Oh, and “oh, registration won’t lead to confiscation!  You’re just being paranoid!”  Well, Hawaii is giving a huge upraised middle finger to those claims – aloha, my middle-aged butt.

As authority for disarming medical marijuana users, Ballard cites Section 134-7(a) of Hawaii’s Revised Statutes, which says “no person who is a fugitive from justice or is a person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition.” The relevant federal provision prohibits possession of firearms by anyone who is “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” Since federal law does not recognize any legitimate reason for consuming cannabis, all use is unlawful use, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives makes clear in a boldfaced warning on the form that must be completed by anyone buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer: “The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

And yet 28 other states, in a rare display of Federalism, have decided not to give a rat’s ass about this particular Imperial restriction, since marijuana is legal within their borders.  And in any case, that restriction applies to new sales of guns; it doesn’t give a state government license to confiscate the property of private, law-abiding citizens.

Most people probably do not realize how casually the federal government strips Americans of their Second Amendment rights, because enforcement of these longstanding rules is spotty and haphazard. Federal law notionally bars gun ownership by all of America’s 38 million or so cannabis consumers, along with millions of other unlawful users of controlled substances, including anyone who takes a medication prescribed for someone else or uses it for a purpose different from the one specified by a doctor (for back pain rather than tooth pain, say). But enforcing that ban is difficult because the FBI and the ATF generally don’t know who the unlawful users are. Hawaii has begun to lick that problem and therefore can give us a sense of what “enforcing the laws that are already on the books,” as the NRA frequently recommends, would look like in practice.

There’s an obvious answer:  The Imperial government should decriminalize, if not completely legalize, marijuana, as I’ve been saying for almost 40 years.  It’s a stupid and senseless use of law-enforcement resources, for one thing; for another, marijuana was in fact legal until the 1930s, and somehow for all that time society as we know it didn’t end.

Then Hawaii’s gun grabbing state government could do the appropriate thing and fuck right off.

Animal’s Daily Matt Lauer Can Suck It News

The latest in the creepy sexual predator hit list:  Matt Lauer.  Excerpt:

Matt Lauer, a familiar face in morning news as the anchor of “Today” for two decades, was fired by NBC News on Wednesday after a female colleague made a detailed complaint accusing him of inappropriate sexual behavior during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The accusation also noted that the alleged behavior continued in the workplace after the games, NBC News confirmed.

Later on Wednesday, The New York Times reported that two more women had made complaints about Lauer after he was fired; NBC officials confirmed that two more accusers had come forward on Wednesday. And Variety published a more sweeping account of Lauer’s sexual misconduct with at least three women over several years.

“Today” co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb were emotional as they announced Lauer’s firing Wednesday, telling viewers at the top of the live broadcast that they were “heartbroken” over his departure but didn’t yet know all of the details.

But it gets better:  Apparently he had a secret button that locked his office door from the inside.  He could literally turn his office into a prison.  That’s a whole new level of creepy.

Still – at least I get to trot out this video:

When will this all end?  More to the point, what will the backlash be?  Will we get to the point where the Pence Rule is universally in place, and no man will be willing to ever be alone with any woman not his spouse or related to him by blood?

That may be precisely where we come out at.  And that won’t be good; it’s going to deprive a lot of women of opportunities, and make relations between the sexes stilted and awkward.  All because of a few men who are, apparently, creeps on the level of Algernop Krieger.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.