Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

A long day yesterday finds yr. obdt. back in northern Indiana today, for a three-week stint.  The traveling life is many things, but settled and boring aren’t among them.

I’ve always kind of liked San Francisco Chronicle columnist Deb Saunders, all the more so after a few years ago when I actually had an informative and pleasant email exchange with her on the topic of schools.  Today we have this from her Bay Area keyboard:  Government Can’t Say No.  Excerpt:

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is in big trouble. In 2016, the program’s trust fund is expected to run out of money. When that happens, there will be “large across-the-board cuts for all beneficiaries,” warn James Lankford, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees entitlements, and Jackie Speier, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat. Those cuts will be painful for the “truly disabled,” whom the system originally was designed to serve.

Washington has a choice to make: provide for the truly disabled or the newly disabled.

CongressLet’s be honest; Social Security as a whole is in big, deep, no-shit trouble, and nobody in Washington has the stones to try to fix it.  But the disability program has been a problem for years due to massive overreach.  And here’s the real money quote, in which Ms. Saunders nails the problem:

There’s such a huge backlog that the SSA has yet to review cases approved by infamous “red flag” judges Charles Bridges and David Daugherty. According to their regional chief, Bridges awarded benefits to nearly all the 2,000 claimants who came before him each year. Daugherty approved 99.7 percent of cases before him, to the benefit of 8,413 individuals. Estimated lifetime cost: $2.5 billion.

…The professor thinks the SSA should get rid of all 1,400 administrative law judges. “They are counterproductive. They introduce more errors than they eliminate,” Pierce told me. “They have absolutely no relevant training, no expertise, and they’re overruling people who have relevant training and expertise.” What’s more, he wrote for Cato in 2011, the $2 billion freed up by their removal could be used to “hire a large number of talented people to manage” important programs.

Angry-BearThis is the continuing problem with bureaucracy in general; there is little consequence for the lazy and incompetent.  One sees it in microcosm in the issue of handicapped parking permits; every community, it seems, has at least one physician who will sign off on such a permit for anyone who asks, on any pretext – sore feet, an aching back – and that causes problems for the truly disabled.  So it is here, with the “red flag” SSDI judges referred to in this article.

But there’s one big difference.

These damned red flag judges, through either deliberate malfeasance, laziness or stupidity, are costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars.

They shouldn’t just be cashiered.  They should be jailed.

Rule Five Friday

2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (1)Some interesting work done on crime rates vs. regional gun control laws to go along with some summery Friday Rule Five:  An examination of the effects of concealed weapons laws and assault weapons bans on state-level murder rates.  (link leads to a pdf document.)  Key excerpt from the abstract:

Using data for the period 1980 to 2009 and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area, most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).

2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (2)And another from the conclusion:

Given that the average gun related murder rate over the period in question was 3.44, the results of the present study indicate that states with more restrictive CCW laws had gun-related murder rates that were 10% higher. In addition, the Federal assault weapons ban is significant and positive, indicating that murder rates were 19.3% higher when the Federal ban was in effect. These results corroborate the findings of Lott and Mustard (1997). These results suggest that, even after controlling for unobservable state and year fixed effects, limiting the ability to carry concealed weapons may cause murder rates to increase.

There may, however, be other explanations for these results. Laws may be ineffective due to loopholes and exemptions. The most violent states may also have the toughest gun control measures. Further research is 2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (3)warranted in this area.

Further research may be warranted, but the evidence that gun control has little to no effect on crime rates is better supported now than, say, anthropogenic climate change.  The positive effects of liberalized concealed-carry laws is just as well documented.

Which makes the arguments – the tired, stale, old arguments – of gun control proponents all the more baffling.  When Colorado’s concealed-carry law was being debated in the State legislature, we heard them all:

  • 2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (4)There will be shootouts over parking spaces.
  • People will be killed with their own guns.
  • More handguns in the hands of citizens will mean more crime.
  • Carnage will ensue from untrained people carrying guns.

None of these dire predictions came true – not anywhere.  In fact, CCW permit holders are, as a group, some of the most law-abiding folks you’ll find anywhere.

But statistics aside, there is a matter of principle involved.  Studies such as the one referenced above are useful in making arguments 2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (6)for public policy, to be sure, but the fact is that a free citizen should be able to make the choice for him or herself as to whether to carry a firearm for self-defense or defense of others.

I carry a gun for a variety of reasons; I’m too young to die and too old to get my ass kicked, I can’t carry a cop, I’d rather take my chances with twelve jurors than six pallbearers, and so on.  But the primary reason I carry is this:  I am a free, law-abiding citizen and it suits me to do so.

If we truly are a free country – if individual liberty still has any meaning – what other reason should be required?

2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (5)

 

Animal’s Daily News

brown-bear-1024x768Late night last night and a long day ahead, so here are a few quick tech tidbits from an abbreviated morning news crawl.  One of the big things in the tech world right now is the passing of Windows XP, or, at least, the passing of Microsoft’s support for that long-lasting OS.  A few stories:

Windows XP Support Ends:  Survival Tips to Stay Safe.

Why You Should Ditch Windows XP Now.

Why I Won’t Miss Windows XP.

Governments and Businesses Are Paying Millions to Cling Onto Windows XP.

And two related stories:

The Most Hated Browser in the World is Finally Dead.

The Windows 8.1 Update Finally Makes Microsoft’s Metro Future PC-friendly.

We started using Windows XP pretty much on its release, coming off of Windows 98 (a pretty solid, stable OS) and a brief flirtation with Windows ME (an unmitigated disaster.)  I liked XP, but there’s no doubt it’s pretty dated now.  It was a solid, reliable OS, and lasted a long time.

Smiling BearMy current travel laptop came with Windows Vista, which was dangerously close to being a Charlie-Fox like ME.  But shortly after that purchase I was able to take advantage of a free upgrade offer to Windows 7, which had the whiz-bang of Vista and the reliability of XP.  Now the laptop and the Frankenputor desktop both run 7, and it seems to be a fit replacement for XP – solid, reliable, easy to use.

So, goodbye, Windows XP.  With your grandchild Windows 7, I think we’re in good hands.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Energy policy rates an entire section in the Animal Manifesto, so it was with considerable interest that yr. obdt. noted this story in Forbes:  Fossil Fuels Still Rule But Don’t Worry — We Have Plenty Of Uranium.  Excerpt:

The 2014 Annual Report of the AAPG Energy Minerals Division Committee (Michael D. Campbell, Chair) just came out and its findings are quite interesting (EMD Uranium 2014). It’s a good read if you want to know the state of uranium in the world, but also covers a lot of material on all energy fronts. I have taken freely from it for this post. Full disclosure – I am on the Advisory Group to this committee.

Energy minerals focus on ores of uranium, thorium and helium-3 as materials useful for fission and fusion reactors. But rare earth elements (REE) and other energy-important or high-tech materials are also included (see figure below).  Although coal is the most developed of all energy minerals, it has its own category and is not included in EMD analyses. Oil and gas are not minerals as they do not have a defined three-dimensional arrangement of their atoms in space, the definition of a mineral.

The common wisdom, that limited uranium supplies will prevent a substantial increase in nuclear energy, is incorrect. We have plenty of uranium, enough for the next 10,000 years. But uranium supplies are governed by the same market forces as any other commodity, and projections only include what is cost-effective today. Like natural gas, unconventional sources of uranium abound.

Fishing BearWhat is interesting in the world nuclear power picture is the use of thorium as a reactor fuel – something both India and China are aggressively pursuing.  Thorium is more abundant than uranium, the by-products of the thorium fuel cycle are far less weaponizable (a serious consideration, when you consider nuclear rogue states like Iran and North Korea.)

So why isn’t the United States pursuing nuclear power?  There are some nuclear plants in the start-up or approval process right now, but that process is difficult and heavily regulated.  The newest generations of reactors are as close to baka-yoke as is possible.

CongressOne wonders what the holdup is.  But then, our energy policy for the last 30-40 years has generally been incomprehensibly stupid; the Keystone pipeline, for example, remains in limbo, and that tiny few miles of pipeline requiring the signoff of the Imperial Federal government is the sticking point.

Still, that’s Washington, where stupidity all too frequently abounds.

Animal’s Daily News

Facepalm-bearToday, from News of the Stupid:  Anti-Vaccine Movement is Giving Diseases a Second Life.  Excerpt:

Recent measles outbreaks in New York, California and Texas are examples of what could happen on a larger scale if vaccination rates dropped, says Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s director of immunizations and respiratory diseases. Officials declared measles, which causes itchy rashes and fevers, eradicated in the United States in 2000. Yet this year, the disease is on track to infect three times as many people as in 2009. That’s because in most cases people who have not been vaccinated are getting infected by others traveling into the United States. Then, Schuchat says, the infected spread it in their communities.

The 189 cases of measles in the U.S. last year is small compared with the 530,000 cases the country used to see on average each year in the 20th century. But, the disease — which started to wane when a vaccine was introduced in 1967 — is one of the most contagious in the world and could quickly go from sporadic nuisance to widespread killer.

But here’s the real kicker from this story:

Such measures offend Sarah Pope, a Tampa mother of three, and Shane Ellison, a father of three in Los Angeles. They both decided against vaccinating their kids because they fear the potential side effects.

In 2006, all three of Pope’s children — now 9, 11 and 15 — contracted whooping cough, the same disease that killed Brady. Seven years earlier, Pope had decided against vaccinating any of her children. After seven weeks of coughing, and with treatment by a holistic doctor and natural supplements, all three recovered without complications, she says.

There’s a word for people like Sarah Pope – and it’s “moron.”  Her children are lucky to be alive, and owe no thanks to their idiot mother for their survival – not with her horseshit New Age “holistic doctor” and “natural supplements.”

Yes-YOU-bearFortunately her kids had decent immune systems.  But that doesn’t excuse Pope’s overweening stupidity in subjecting her kids to a potentially fatal disease – and what’s worse, possibly spreading that disease to who knows how many other kids?

Charlatans like these “holistic doctors,” more accurately described as liars and purveyors of snake oil, should be reviled and ridiculed, not held up as authorities.  And Mrs. Pope is – let’s make no mistake about it – a careless and stupid parent.  She should be ashamed of herself, and hopefully her example will serve only as a deterrent.

In sudsier news, here is a tidbit on the Geography of Beer.  Enjoy.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Another week begins, and with it an interesting definition of libertarian ideology regarding race, this one from Reason.com.  Excerpt:

I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force. According to this view, the philosophy sets out a prohibition on the initiation of force and otherwise has nothing to say about anything else. (Fraud is conceived as an indirect form of force because, say, a deceptive seller obtains money from a buyer on terms other than those to which the buyer agreed.)

How can libertarianism be concerned with nothing but force? This view has been dubbed “thin libertarianism” by Charles W. Johnson, and it strikes me as very thin indeed. (Jeffrey Tucker calls it “libertarian brutalism”; his article explains this perhaps startling term.)

As I see it, the libertarian view is necessarily associated with certain underlying values, and this association seems entirely natural. I can kick a rock, but not a person. What is it about persons that makes it improper for me to kick them (unless it’s in self-defense)? Frankly, I don’t see how to answer that question without reference to some fundamental ideas. Different libertarians will have different answers, but each will appeal to some underlying value.

Race is an interesting topic, especially given today’s political culture.  There is a distinct tendency on the political Left to shout “racism!” whenever anyone, for any reason, opposes President Obama’s policies.  But what’s interesting that the most pervasive, actual racism in the United States today is espoused by these same people on the political Left.

How?

Sad-BearBy thinking that race is defining.  By thinking and believing that individual people, for no other reason than the incredibly shallow, stupidly irrelevant fact of skin/hair color, should think a certain way, believe certain things, and vote for certain political parties.  The Left – and plenty on the Right, too, let’s be honest about it – ascribe to the idiotic notion of “group” or collective rights and interests.

But a group can not have interests.  A group can not have rights.  Only individuals can have interests or rights.

It’s baffling why so many people don’t understand that.

Rule Five Friday

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (1)To go along with some summery Friday Rule Five totty, we have an interestingly timed follow-up to Wednesday’s post regarding the Koch brothers comes today in the form of a Wall Street Journal article from Charles Koch himself.  Excerpt:

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (2)A truly free society is based on a vision of respect for people and what they value. In a truly free society, any business that disrespects its customers will fail, and deserves to do so. The same should be true of any government that disrespects its citizens. The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

There are plenty of pols on both sides of the aisle who fit the mind-set bemoaned by Mr. Koch, namely, that the typical American is incapable of managing his or her own life.  Example:  I favor 2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (3)privatizing Social Security at least to the extent that taxpayers should be able to manage their own money – that we do away with the idea of a “trust fund” that may be raided by Congress at will for whatever boondoggle strikes their fancy at the moment, the taxpayer’s “contributions” (use of scare quotes intentional; “contribution” implies that the transaction is voluntary.)  Instead, the taxpayer’s withholding would go into a fund, with their name on it, that they can manage and even pass on to their heirs.

“But Animal,” comes the inevitable question, “what if some people manage their funds badly and lose money?”

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (4)The reply:  “How am I responsible for other people’s poor decisions?”

This is the kind of thing Mr. Koch is describing; the explosion of intrusive, overbearing government.  He concludes:

Those in power fail to see that more government means less liberty, and liberty is the essence of what it means to be American. Love of liberty is the American ideal.

If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off—not just today, but for generations to come. I’m dedicated to fighting for that vision. I’m convinced most Americans believe it’s worth fighting for, too.

I don’t know about most Americans – not any more – but I think it’s worth fighting for, too.

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (5)

Animal’s Daily News

16 gauge Browning White Lightning
16 gauge Browning White Lightning

Our own dear Mrs. Animal takes a deal of pride in being contrary, at times, and her choice in shotguns reflects that; her arm for trap and sporting clays is the Browning White Lightning in 16 gauge.

Why 16 gauge?  Because she likes it, and sees no need to explain herself beyond that.  Doug Oliver, the keeper of the 16 Gauge Society, has a more detailed explanation.  His thoughts were recently detailed in Shotgun Life.  Excerpt:

“The 16 gauge is absolutely the perfect shotgun,” he explains. “It has a perfect load for wingshooting. Plus a 16 gauge will typically be a pound lighter than a 12 gauge if you’re carrying it all day in the field. The 16 gauge shoots like a 12 gauge but carries like a 20 gauge. It’s a great gun.”

When Doug turned 50, for his midlife crisis instead of a Porsche he bought himself a shotgun. It was a 16-gauge F.A.I.R. Rizzini over/under. It was a better gun than he had known at that point.

On a flight from Los Angeles to New York, he had been reading an article in Double Gun Journal about dove hunting in Argentina. Until that point he had every intention of buying a 20 or 28 Beretta, but the article deflected him to the 16-gauge F.A.I.R. Razzing.

Doug found himself smitten by the lovely 16 gauge. In doing his “homework” for that 16-gauge F.A.I.R. Rizini he realized “that 16 gauge was a stepchild,” he explained. “Information at the time was so hard to dig out and that’s where the 16 Gauge Society web site came in. I though I’d just design and throw up 16 gauge web site and maybe sell a couple of hats. The project itself was fun and informative.”

Relaxing BearOne of my oldest friends is a big 16 gauge fan as well; Dave has been insistent on the virtues of the 16 since we were in high school, back in the 1970s, even as yr. obdt. went along with the Old Man’s preference for 12-bore guns.

Browning Citori Satin Hunter and Mountain Quail.

Still; the 16 is an intriguing size.  A round ball of 16-bore diameter weighs exactly one ounce; a one-ounce shot charge fills the bore nicely, without excessive stacking which can, in smaller bores, lead to long shot strings and blown patterns.  But perhaps one of the nicer things about the 16 is that older guns in this bore size are relatively cheap and easy to find, precisely due to the shrinking popularity of the gauge.

I’ve been scouting around for a WW2-vintage, solid rib 16 gauge Winchester Model 12 to accompany my 12 gauge gun of those specs in the rack. It will be interesting to fact-check Mrs. Animal’s and Dave’s 16 gauge advocacy for myself, both on the range and in the field.  If it matches up to my various 12 gauge guns I’ll be well pleased.

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