Category Archives: News

My thoughts on the news of the day, both local, Colorado, national and international.

Rule Five Friday

2014_02_07_Rule Five Friday (1)Let’s look at a few gun stories today – the first, from our own Colorado.    GOP Attempts to Repeal Colorado Background Checks Law.  Excerpt:

Colorado Republicans revived the most contentious debate of the last legislative session when they tried to repeal gun purchase background checks.

State Sen. George Rivera, the Republican who replaced Democrat Angela Giron when she was recalled from office because of her support of this and other new gun control laws, sponsored the bill.

Most of the testimony revolved around the question of whether or not the new law — which requires background checks not only for gun purchases at retail stores but also in private sales between individuals — will help reduce violent crime. A background check is also required if a gun is loaned to someone for more than 72 hours, such as for hunting, sport 2014_02_07_Rule Five Friday (2)shooting or safekeeping.

What’s interesting about that article and the controversy around it is found in this line:

Opponents of the repeal pointed to 104 instances of potential gun buyers failing background checks during attempted private transactions since the law went into effect on July 1. The reasons ranged from previous convictions for homicide to sexual assault.

Ok, then; one hundred and four people have committed a Federal felony, in attempting to illegally purchase a firearm.

Where are the arrests?  Where are the convictions?  Why did the gang of Mensa dropouts we call the Colorado Legislature pass this law, which obviously nobody intends to enforce?

2014_02_07_Rule Five Friday (3)One of the more idiotic provisions of this piece of legislative stupidity is the requirement to undergo a background check if you borrow a firearm from a neighbor or friend, say for a hunting trip.  This provision is utterly unenforceable and will be roundly ignored.  Combine this with the total ignoring of people who fail the background checks, and we are left with one question:  What the bloody hell was this law meant to actually accomplish?

While we’re on the subject of abject stupidity:  School Officials Deeply Troubled Over Guns Appearing ON SIGNS BANNING GUNS.  Excerpt:

Nolan stressed that she is very concerned with “safety and security” and concerned that, somehow, someone could wrongly interpret an image of a gun emblazoned with the universal sign for prohibiting something.

2014_02_07_Rule Five Friday (5)“I think the general public will be alarmed by it and wonder if people have been allowed to bring guns to school in the past,” Nolan also fretted.

She said she would prefer “something more subtle.”

“You can’t look at this (sticker) and not think about Sandy Hook,” the principal added.

Let’s be honest:  Principal Nolan is a hypersensitive nitwit.

One more, this one a piece of good news; the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the pro-sportsman SHARE Act.  Blind hogs and acorns, as they say.  Excerpt:

2014_02_07_Rule Five Friday (4)(The National Shooting Sports Foundation), along with a number of its partners, has been working closely with members of the House to ensure inclusion of a number of legislative priorities in the SHARE Act including provisions that will protect the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle by hunters and anglers, provide greater flexibility for states to utilize Pittman-Robertson funds to create and enhance public shooting ranges and facilitate greater access to Federal lands and waters for hunting, recreational fishing and shooting.

Of course, this legislation still has to get through the Senate in one form or another, and be approved by the President, who by all indications is no friend of the shooting sports.  But, as mentioned earlier – blind hogs and acorns.  We’ll see.

2014_02_07_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Science Thursday News

Science!Some tidbits from the wonderful world of science!

A Precursor to RNA?  Excerpt:

If RNA was indeed the first biological molecule, discovering how it first formed would illuminate the birth of life. The basic building blocks of RNA were available on prebiotic Earth, but chemists, including (Georgia Institute of Technology chemist Nicholas) Hud, have spent years trying to assemble them into an RNA molecule with little success. About 15 years ago, Hud grew frustrated with that search and decided to explore an alternative idea: Perhaps the first biological molecule was not RNA, but a precursor that possessed similar characteristics and could more easily assemble itself from prebiotic ingredients. Perhaps RNA evolved from this more ancient molecule, just as DNA evolved from RNA.

What’s interesting about this?  We really don’t know much about how life came to be on Earth.  We know quite a lot about what happened once there was life, but the study of life’s origins – abiogenesis – is still working out the basic details.  This may be a step towards a better understanding, maybe even a hypothesis.

Mating With Neandertals Was Hard.  I’ll forgo the obvious joke.  Excerpt:

Uncle.
Uncle.

While past studies have suggested that interbreeding improved immunity and genetics related to disease resistance, it turns out that Neanderthals might have actually passed along some harmful genes, as well.  Studies suggested that genes associated with increased risk of lupus, biliary cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, and smoking addiction were all inherited from the Neanderthals.

Whoops.  While it’s interesting to know that there are traces of these hardy, resilient humans left, we could probably do without the disease aspects.

One more, this one presenting the possibility of a revolutionary material:  Lighter Than Water, Stronger Than Steel.   Excerpt:

Materials shape human progress – think stone age or bronze age. The 21st century has been referred to as the molecular age, a time when scientists are beginning to manipulate materials at the atomic level to create new substances with astounding properties.

Taking a step in that direction, Jens Bauer at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and his colleagues have developed a bone-like material that is less dense than water, but as strong as some forms of steel. “This is the first experimental proof that such materials can exist,” Bauer said.

Hank Rearden could not be reached for comment.

On that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  A Beat-up, Exhausted, and Terrified Republican Establishment.  Excerpt:

On almost every contemporary issue there is a populist, middle-class argument to be made against elite liberalism. Yet the Republican class in charge seems ossified in its inability to make a counter-argument for the middle class. Never has the liberal agenda been so vulnerable, a logical development when bad ideas have had five years to prove themselves as very bad ideas. When Obama is all done he will have taken high presidential popularity ratings, a supermajority in the Senate, and a large margin in the House and lost them all — if only the Republicans can make an adequate case that they represent the middle class, the Democrats only the very wealthy and the very dependent.

The thing is this:  I’m not all that sure that the Republicans really do represent the middle class any more.  I’m not sure anyone does.  The Democrats sure as hell don’t; they represent an odd coalition ranging from radical environmentalists, the Occupy Wall Street nutbars, and the San Francisco latte socialists to labor-union activists and a few last old Truman blue-collar Democrats.  The GOP struggles to gather in what someone a few years back called the “Sam’s Club” Republicans – the small business, entrepreneur folks, the people that drive real economic growth.  But they aren’t doing a very good job of that, either.

Dual-BearsA big part of the GOP’s problem is their failure to adjust to a generational shift in attitudes.  The up-and-coming generation is open to the Republican’s low-tax, small government message, but is resistant to the party’s social wing, which insists on government interference into other aspects of people’s lives.

It’s a pretty problem, and one that neither party seems to be able to wrap their brains around.  Whichever one does first – and the GOP seems to hold an edge on the growing libertarian population – will have a majority advantage for some time to come.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

This is interesting.  Not surprising, but interesting.  Popular Anti-Fracking Study Discredited by Colorado Health Department.  Relevant excerpts:

“It is difficult to draw conclusions from this study, due to its design and limitations,” Dr. Larry Wolk, CDPHE’s chief medical officer, said. “We appreciate continuing research about possible public health implications that may be associated with oil and gas operations in Colorado.

“With regard to this particular study, people should not rush to judgment.”

Why? Because the study didn’t distinguish between active wells and inactive wells. It also did not distinguish between vertical, horizontal, oil or natural gas wells.

“This makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the actual exposure people may have had,” Wolk said.

Further, the researchers never considered outside factors that may have resulted in birth defects, such as drinking or smoking.

“Without considering the effect of these personal risk factors, as well as the role of genetic factors, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from this study,” Wolk said.

Also:

The researchers noted in the study that they never bothered to check where the mother lived during conception or the first trimester. This is when most birth defects occur, so not knowing what was going on in the mother’s life at that time is a significant problem in determining whether fracking was to blame.

In other words, shoddy science.  A case in point; the study mentioned noted a decrease in birth defect among women who live closer to wells, a seeming contradiction that should have raised some alarms on the study’s methodology.  Why?

Because contradictions don’t exist.  When a seeming contradiction is found in a study of this nature, one should check their premises; one or more of them will be wrong.

Here’s the crux of this issue; there can be no absolute right or wrong answer in a policy issue of this nature.   There can only be tradeoffs.  There is a level of mess we will accept in order to increase our energy independence and lower the cost of energy.  Worried about Shy Bearour chronically high unemployment rate?  Stagnant tax revenues?  Runaway Federal debt? Explosion of numbers on welfare?  The answer is economic growth, and cheap energy is a supercharger for economic growth.

And no matter what side of any given issue you might take, relying on shoddy, self-contradictory  science makes for a shoddy, self-contradictory argument.

Animal’s Daily News

Sleepy-BearI didn’t listen to the State of the Union.  It’s nothing more than political theatrics, and no matter who the President is, everyone already knows what he’s going to say.  I’ve read the transcript, and this one was perfectly predictable in its banality and fact-challenged economic presumptions.   Some noteworthy commentary:

SOTU Response From A Veteran:  NO!

Krauthammer: ‘When Obama repeated Guantanamo, you knew he’d sort of run out of ideas’

The State of the Union:  Make it Stop!

Re-State of the Union.

Everything Joe Biden Did, Besides Listen to the SOTU.  Let’s be honest about this at least; daffy old Uncle Joe should have been retired years ago.

Instead of more SOTU discussion, have a read on tax policy, from Brian Domitrovic of the libertarian Cato Institute:  Tax Revolt!  It’s Time to Learn from Past Success.  Excerpt:

The achievements of the 1980s and 1990s stemmed from one source above all: the centerpiece of Ronald Reagan’s economics, the bill that Congress passed in the summer of 1981. This was the great tax cut that had been originally sponsored in Congress in the 1970s by Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and Sen. William V. Roth of Delaware, “Kemp-Roth.”

The tax cut of 1981 — which took all rates of the income tax down by an average of 23 percent, lowered the capital gains rate by 29 percent, and reduced business taxes — was the point of origin of the renaissance of the 1980s and 1990s whereby the economy expanded well in excess of the government.

The tax cut made everything else easy. First of all, it took the heat off the Splashing-BearsFed. The Fed did not have to worry about stimulating the economy, because growth flowed from the tax cut. Furthermore, lower tax rates made loopholes less important as a source of profit, so business focused more on real entrepreneurship.

The 1980s saw the turnaround from years of Nixon/Ford/Carter stagflation and ‘malaise,’ the process began with tax rate cuts (not tax cuts; tax rate cuts.  There’s a difference.) but also saw the Imperial Federal government swallowing a simplification of the tax code that eliminated a lot of exemptions and loopholes.  The result?  Tax revenues soared, the product of increased economic activity.

But there was a problem; Congress increased spending just as quickly.  Now, for about the last ten years, Federal policy has become as hostile to economic growth as it was friendly in the 1980s, and Congress continues to spend.

That, True Believers, is the other side of the tax policy debate.  No change in tax policy will extract us from the current fiscal mess until Congress learns to stop the runaway spending.

Mr. Domitrovic concludes:

Instead of conceding long-term mediocrity under Leviathan, we should take inspiration from our past, indeed our recent past. The last time we were stuck with 2 percent growth for the long term, the 1970s and the early 1980s, we mustered a means of narrowing government. The real results were so stellar that to recite them is to take us back to a world we have lost — but only 15 years ago.

Tax cuts, stable money, and the rendering of spending and regulation as superfluous are the formula of the supply-side revolution — the Reagan Revolution. They stand sentinel right there, not long ago in our history, as the way to advance through our sluggishness and purposelessness today.

He’s right.  But it’s only half of the picture.

Animal’s Hump Day News

2014_01_29_Hump Day
Happy Hump Day!

Coming to us today from the RealClearPolitics site, another winner from the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell:  The Inequality Bogeyman.  Excerpt:

One of the problems with so  many discussions of income and wealth is that the intelligentsia are so obsessed with the money that people receive that they give little or no attention to what causes money to be paid to them, in the first place.

The money itself is not wealth. Otherwise the government could make us all rich just by printing more of it. From the standpoint of a society as a whole, money is just an artificial device to give us incentives to produce real things — goods and services.

Those goods and services are the real “wealth of nations,” as Adam Smith titled his treatise on economics in the 18th century.

The esteemed Dr. Sowell hits to the very heart of the matter with this definition of “wealth,” and in so doing illustrates why government can not – by definition – create wealth.   Government can not create work; the only services government legitimately Peeking-Bear-150x99produces are ‘distributed’ services, such as fire and police protection, services which add value only retroactively following some unforeseen event.  Only private enterprise innovates, developing new goods and services before the need is anticipated.  This creates value; this creates wealth.  The very definition of entrepreneurship, creating value from ideas, is the wellspring of wealth.

Example:  Many of us on the wrong side of fifty remember what things were like before microwave ovens – and yet today, not only does every kitchen have one, most folks can’t imagine doing without one.  Value was created in the form of an entire line of products, producing wealth for millions, because of that innovation.  For a more recent example, see the iPod and iPad, devices that changed the way we listen to music and access information.  How many jobs were created by the production of those two devices alone?

BearDr. Sowell concludes:  Intellectuals’ obsession with income statistics — calling envy “social justice” — ignores vast differences in productivity that are far more fundamental to everyone’s well-being. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg has ruined many economies.

As usual, Dr. Sowell has it exactly right.

Animal’s Daily News

Harp BearSome random notes:

A Pen, a Phone, and a Flailing President. 

The Obama Administration may well be characterized by one word: from the article:  “Uninformed.”  When the administration does admit to knowing about some screw-up or another, it invariably seems to be someone else’s fault.

Moving on to the world of tech, it seems Microsoft is looking for a recovery from the massive Charlie Foxtrot that is Windows 8.  Both of my machines are still running Windows 7, and they will stay that way until Microsoft unscrews this particular mess.   Mrs. A has a hybrid tablet/laptop that runs Windows 8, and she isn’t impressed.   PerfectAs pointed out in the article, Microsoft seems to go through this process about every other major OS release, so maybe there is some hope for Windows 9.

One more, this one from the sexy world of science:  Graphene Condoms.   Advantages?  The thinnest and strongest condoms ever made, which presumably would boost condom use.  An issue with which I have no personal interest, as a happily married man on the wrong side of fifty whose spouse is a frighteningly good shot, but interesting all the same.

Work beckons.  Stay tuned, True Believers; more to come.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

This is an interesting take on current social and political trends from David Harsanyi:  America Isn’t Destined To Be More Liberal.  Excerpt:

Marijuana legalization or support for same-sex marriage is far more likely caused by a growing “live and let live” mindset than it is any burst of leftist idealism. And if the “live and let live” mindset starts bleeding into other areas of American life — say, education, health care and religious freedom — the left is in trouble.

In the end, the progressive agenda demands that you trust the state to control economic outcomes — an idea that is yet to be proved especially popular among Americans. Will it be? Who knows? But right now, what does seem to be growing is skepticism toward government, especially among the young. When Gallup asks about what people “think the most important problem facing this country today is,” it doesn’t bode well for the left that a plurality of people — independents, Republicans and Democrats — say it’s government. Fifty-three percent of Americans claim to believe government does “too many things.”

Facepalm-bearIt probably doesn’t speak well for the current state of affairs that, when you mention “government” to most people, they don’t think of their county commissioners, their city council or even their state legislature; they think immediately of that colossus in Washington, the Imperial Federal government.  Why is that?  Because for decades, it has grown ever larger, ever more intrusive, and far, far beyond its Constitutional boundaries.

The national government has only a few legitimate purposes:  To protect its citizens from foreign attack or invasion, to ensure the security of our borders and deal with international trade.  That’s really about it.  And, for that matter, government at all levels only has a few legitimate purposes; to protect the lives and property of citizens, and to provide a few essential distributed services, such as police, fire protection and basic infrastructure.  And, in terms of accountability, those services are most efficiently provided by levels of government as close as possible to the voters.

Grizzly-Bear-FaceBy way of illustration, look at the Imperial Federal government’s latest major project, the ill-named “Affordable Care Act,” better known as Obamacare.  It is a debacle of the worst sort, rammed through by a parliamentary trick, passed without any of the people who voted on it having read it (remember Nancy Pelosi’s notorious “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” comment?)  Now the Obamacare chickens have come home to roost.  Employers are cutting hours, businesses are maintaining headcount below the magic thirty, and the less said about the healthcare.gov website, the better.

If this is what it takes to turn the country in a more libertarian direction, though, then it may have been worth it.