Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Turns out planets are just every frickin’ place.  Excerpt:

Experts have long known that planets would not be confined to our galaxy, but this is the first time that a celestial body has been discovered outside of the Milky Way.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma used microlensing – an astronomical phenomenon that allows scientists to use gravity from huge objects such as stars to peer hundreds of billions of lightyears into the universe – to detect the planets.

The scientists say they have detected up to 2,000 planets beyond the Milky Way, in a galaxy around 3.8 billion light years away from Earth and ranging in mass sizes from the moon to Jupiter.

University of Oklahoma researchers used NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory and were even able to see a quasar – a large celestial object – up to six billion lightyears away.

Xinyu Dai, professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences, said: “We are very excited about this discovery. This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy.

“These small planets are the best candidate for the signature we observed in this study using the microlensing technique. 

“We analysed the high frequency of the signature by modelling the data to determine the mass.”

Microlensing, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is a technique based on gravitational lensing, which happens when light passes near to a super-massive object on its way to us; the massive object can bend the light, focusing it like a titanic telescope lens.

While this is a pretty cool technique, and assuming the detection of these planetary bodies are accurate, then it’s neat but not too surprising.  Our own galaxy is known to be chock-full of planets, so there’s no reason to think that other galaxies would be any different.

No aliens yet, though.  Could our galaxy be like the one in Asimov’s Foundation, Robot and Empire mega-series, where life is common but intelligent life is limited to humanity?  There’s no way to know at the moment; maybe one day we’ll find out.

Animal’s Daily Damned Bureaucrats News

There is at present a bill in Congress, H.R. 878, known as the “right to try” bill.  The summary reads as follows:

This bill requires the federal government to allow unrestricted manufacturing, distribution, prescribing, and dispensing of experimental drugs, biological products, and medical devices that are: (1) intended to treat a patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and (2) authorized by state law. The federal government must allow unrestricted possession and use of such treatments by patients certified by a physician as having exhausted all other treatment options.

A manufacturer, distributor, prescriber, dispenser, possessor, or user of such a treatment has no liability regarding the treatment.

The outcome of manufacture, distribution, prescribing, dispensing, possession, or use of such a treatment may not be used by a federal agency to adversely impact review or approval of the treatment.

The treatment must: (1) have successfully completed a phase 1 (initial, small scale) clinical trial; (2) remain under investigation in a clinical trial approved by the Food and Drug Administration; and (3) not be approved, licensed, or cleared for sale under the Federal Food, Drug, or Cosmetic Act or the Public Health Service Act.

Seems logical, right?

Well, a whole bunch of folks are against it.  Here’s why:

“Patients with terminal conditions who access unapproved therapies outside of clinical trials may be at risk of hastened death or reduced quality of the life that they have left, and deserve protections similar to patients taking part in clinical trials,” the authors wrote.

Andrew Powaleny, a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical industry organization PhRMA, which hasn’t taken a firm stance on the legislation, said, “It is crucial that any right-to-try policy proposals protect patient safety and the integrity of the clinical trial process along with U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight. PhRMA appreciated the opportunity last fall to work with Sen. Johnson on his proposal and is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with his office and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Walden.”

Honestly, (language alert) fuck these assholes.

If a patient is dying and has exhausted all other treatment options when it’s apparent that they have nothing else to lose, then the decision to try something else is up to them, not some bureaucrat in the Imperial City.  This is short-sighted beyond belief; I’m as adamantly against snake oil salesmen and Gwyneth Paltrow-style horseshit as anyone, but if a patient is dying and all hope is exhausted, then to hell with it – if there is some new treatment that hasn’t been through all the levels of red tape yet, I say let them try it.  These aren’t untried buckets of Paltrow-style woo that’s being discussed, after all.  The bill refers to treatments that have at least been through preliminary clinical trials with positive results.

Are these people afraid that the multiple levels of red tape required by FDA might be shown to be excessive?

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links, and to blogger pal Doug Hagin over at The Daley Gator for the linkback!

There is plenty of woo going about with regard to “alternative medicine” and other such horseshit.  We’ve discussed nutbar Gwyneth Paltrow and her line of Goop garbage, but there are plenty of other purveyors of snake oil about; one of the more blatant lines of horseshit involves “pH balancing.”  Excerpt:

Alkaline Water

You can buy alkaline water or make your own. It is said to detoxify (a meaningless alternative medicine buzzword), hydrate (all water hydrates), oxygenate and act as an antioxidant (these are opposite effects: how could it do both?), change your body’s pH (no, it doesn’t), and enhance the immune system (based on the ridiculous claim that acidic foods cause the body’s cells to suffocate, break down and die, and this suffocation weakens the systems that support the immune system). Alkaline water is also said to help you lose weight, prevent diabetes, and cure psoriasis. None of these claims are supported by any scientific evidence. You can pay anywhere from 3.1 cents to $1.36 per ounce for alkaline water; even the least expensive products are a waste of money.

The Bob Wright Protocol

This protocol uses 11.5 pH water made with a Kangen machine. In this view, cancer is caused by microbes; there are many of these microbes in every cancer cell. They excrete highly acidic waste products called mycotoxins. When the microbes are killed, the cancer cells revert to normal cells. Killing them too quickly or too slowly are both counterproductive, and the Bob Wright protocol is designed to kill them at the optimum rate.3 I don’t think I need to point out how monumentally silly all that is.

Robert O. Young

All this nonsense about pH is more than just a harmless fad. Here’s where it gets really scary. Robert O. Young is a naturopath and author of the “pH Miracle” series of books. He says acid is the cause of all disease, alkalinization is the cure for everything, and there is no such thing as a cancer cell. Cancer surgeon and researcher Dr. David Gorski has debunked those ideas handily on the Science-Based Medicine blog.4 And on Quackwatch, Stephen Barrett has taken a critical look at “Dr.” Robert Young’s theories and credentials.5

Young appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show claiming to have cured a woman named Kim Tinkham of breast cancer. She died of breast cancer not long after she appeared on Oprah and told the world that she was cured. A number of other cancer patients have died under Young’s care.

Now, hot/crazy matrix resident Paltrow’s line of woo is, at least, mostly harmless.  It may separate rubes from their cash, but healing crystals and vagina stones aren’t likely to result in anything worse than a nasty yeast infection.  But the two assholes named above are doing actual, real, fatal damage, in promising to cure cancer with their horseshit.

I’ve made a good living over the years helping private companies deal with the heavy regulations FDA places on medical and pharma manufacturers (and no, I’m aware of the oddity of myself, a staunch libertarian, being involved in such work; the irony of that is not lost on me) and I would argue that in most cases the industry is too micro-managed by the Imperial government.  With that said, I’m honestly surprised that the FDA hasn’t cracked down on these utter quacks yet; if anyone ever comprised a threat to public health by dispensing bullshit, these two fit the bill.

The ideal solution would involve a bereaved family suing these shitheads into the next time zone.  Why hasn’t that happened yet?

Animal’s Bonus SHTF Memo News

Out on a limb.

I was going to wait until next week to absorb all this memo business and post some thoughts, but my ‘tween-projects hiatus has gifted me with more free time than normal, so what the hell.

First, some links; here is what Drudge offers this morning:

Trump attacks integrity of FBI and Justice Dept…
‘Politicized’ probe in favor of Dems…
‘Lot of people should be ashamed’…
Spy Warrant Relied On Dossier…

Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s take on it, and American Greatness, and our friends over at Maggie’s FarmPirate’s Cove has weighed in, as has The Other McCain.  Over at PJMedia, Roger Simon also has some sharp words on the topic.

Now, my thoughts:

This, True Believers, is coming out to have been a cluster-fuck of the first magnitude on the part of the Clinton campaign, the DNC and elements in the FBI.  The plan seems to have been “if you can’t uncover evidence, make some up.”  As Robert Stacy McCain points out:  “In the case of the make-believe “Russian collusion,” it appears that practically everybody involved in trying to get the Trump campaign tangled up in this embarrassing mess was, in one way or another, working for FusionGPS, which was being bankrolled by the Clinton campaign and the DNC.”

Heads should roll over this.  Heads probably won’t roll over this, sadly; a few minor functionaries will be the designated fall-takers, and some fines and maybe some jail time will be meted out.  But while common sense may tell us that it’s impossible to believe that the highest levels in the Clinton campaign and the Obama Justice Department didn’t know what was going on (clandestine taxiway meetings, anyone?) it’s widely known that Her Imperial Majesty and the former President Obama and his higher-level staff are untouchable.

Why?  Because equal treatment under the law is a dead letter in our nation, and has been for some time.  The Dowager Empress and her favored minions will skate.  The scandal will blow over, and most of the Imperial apparatus will continue with business as usual.

Still:  Let us watch closely over the next few weeks.  This thing isn’t over yet, and this is an occasion where I’d love to be proven wrong.

Rule Five Horse Squeeze Friday

A few days back, noted author and our good friend Jillian Becker had this piece over at her blog The Atheist Conservative.  Please do go read the entire article, but there is one specific quote I want to discuss here, that quote being from (formerly) radical leftist professor Bret Weinstein:

I explained in numerous interviews and essays, I was not a Trump supporter; I was never a right-winger, or an alt-right-winger; I was never a conservative of any variety. I wasn’t even a classical John Stuart Mill liberal.

In fact, for several years, I had identified as a left or libertarian communist. My politics were to the left (and considerably critical of the authoritarianism) of Bolshevism!  (Emphasis added by me.)

Now, take a look at that bolded portion.  Digest that for a moment.

Ready?  Now, I’ll tell you what I think of that:  It’s pure, unadulterated horseshit.  You can not say again not be a libertarian communist, any more than you can be a feathered fish.  The two are utterly incompatible.  Communism is a statist system, with government in control of the entire production system; in a pure communist state there is no enterprise, no entrepreneurship, no private property, no liberty.   My response to the original blog post was this:

I keep seeing this, “libertarian socialist” and similar horse squeeze being bandied about by idiots. The two are contradictory; you can not be a “libertarian communist” or a “libertarian socialist” any more than you can turn right and left at the same instant.

Liberty is antithetical to totalitarian systems like communism or socialism. Rectenwald is, in this sentence, talking out of his ass.

As Rand pointed out, contradictions in assertions of fact do not exist. One of the contradicting premises is always false; in this case, it is his claim to be libertarian.

Now, here’s the good news, and it’s news that gives me a little more hope for my fellow man; Dr. Weinstein responded himself to Ms. Becker’s commentary:

I am no longer a communist, nor a leftist of any stripe, believe me. I consider myself a classical John Stuart Mill liberal now, and thus, by contemporary standards, a conservative.

A John Stuart Mill liberal, or “classical liberal,” is closer to a libertarian than a conservative as the term is used today.  But that’s as may be; to Dr. Weinstein all I can say is, sir, welcome!  Welcome to the cause of liberty.  Please do all you can to spread that cause throughout academia, because as I am sure you know, that vocation needs all the exposure to the cause of liberty that we can send it.

What would be interesting to know is the story behind this conversion to the side of freedom.  Any thinking person can look at the history of socialist and communist governments:  The enduring misery that was the Soviet Union, the crash-and-burn economy of Venezuela, the brutal oppression of dissenters in communist/socialist nations from Cuba to Red China.  Did Dr. Weinstein read this history and apply his own capacity for reason to the observations of fact?  Did he stop to contemplate the prosperity enjoyed citizens of nations with free-market economies?

Whatever the reason, his conversion is a good thing.  Let’s hope for more like him.

Animal’s Daily Unintended Consequences News

Welcome to the wonderful world of minimum wages!  Excerpt:

Red Robin, a popular burger chain, will cut jobs at all 570 of its locations because, chief financial officer Guy Constant said, “We need … to address the labor [cost] increases we’ve seen.”

To put it differently, Red Robin is cutting these jobs because of bad government policy: namely, hikes in the minimum wage. On January 1, some 18 states — from Maine to Hawaii — increased their minimum wage.

Founded in Seattle but headquartered in Colorado, Red Robin hopes to save some $8 million this year by eliminating bussers from their restaurants. (Bussers, or busboys, clear dirty dishes from tables, set tables, and otherwise assist the wait staff.) According to the New York Post, the company saved some $10 million last year after eliminating “expediters,” who plate food in the kitchen.

The Impact of an Increase in Wages

Despite what many people, including policymakers, would argue, this is an altogether painfully predictable response to increased labor costs. It’s basic economics. The “first law of demand” teaches us that when the price of a good or service increases, people will tend to buy fewer units. Conversely, when the price of a good or service decreases, people will tend to buy more. This idea is usually presented no later than chapter 3 in any econ 101 textbook.

Full disclosure:  I like Red Robin.  I like Red Robin a lot.  I took the family there for a nice family lunch only last Monday.  The food isn’t outstanding but it’s good, always reliably so, the prices aren’t bad, and the service (at least at our local outlet) is always good.

But yes, they want to make money:

Some might say, “Well, why can’t Red Robin just make a smaller profit and stop being greedy?” Consider, however, that pretax profit margins for the restaurant industry typically range between 2 and 6 percent. This means that there isn’t a lot of room for error or cost increases before realizing a loss.

Welcome also to the wonderful world of unintended consequences.

Our own Colorado just had a state-imposed minimum wage hike on January 1st, raising the wage floor from $9.30 to $10.20 an hour.  Note that this state imposition didn’t make a single worker more productive, or gain them additional skills to justify their arbitrary imposure of a higher wage; this forces still more low-skilled and entry-level workers out of the market, resulting in Red Robin (and doubtless many other low-margin businesses) into cutting staff and increasing automation.

Red Robin has already installed little kiosks at each booth and table, enabling diners to quickly and conveniently order appetizers and drinks without waiting for a server.  You can also settle your tab at the kiosk.  This allows wait staff to cover more tables, enabling the restaurant to employ fewer servers in each shift.

Now the bussing staff has paid the price for the arbitrary new wage floor.

The actual minimum wage remains what it has always been – zero.  Labor, like any commodity, is a supply/demand proposition; more to the point, it is an exchange of value.  If an employee does not and can not return value at least equal to their cost of employment, then there will be no employment.  Government-imposed wage floors raise the bar for the employee-side side of that exchange, pricing entry-level and low-skill workers right out of the market.  Examples abound – this is but the latest – but pols and agitators never learn.

Feature or bug?

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

The National Interest has produced a list of the five best revolvers, and I have to say it’s a little baffling.  Here is the list, with my comments:

Ruger LCR  The Ruger LCR was introduced in the mid-2000s as a lightweight, concealable self-defense weapon. Just 13.5 ounces and 6.5 inches long, the LCR fits easily into a pocket, hip or ankle holster. Like most small revolvers, it has a five-round cylinder.

Really?  The LCR was designed to meet a need already admirably met by a bunch of other guns, like the Colt and Smith & Wesson snubbies.  It’s just a more affordable version of guns that have been around for decades, and I can’t see how that qualifies the LCR for this list.

Smith & Wesson 686  One of the most popular revolvers in production, the Smith & Wesson 686 revolver is a medium (“L frame”) revolver chambered in the powerful .357 Magnum caliber. The 686 is designed to handle the heavier magnum round while pairing it with a heavier barrel and a six-round cylinder.

Again, not sure about this selection.  Don’t get me wrong; the 686 is a damn fine piece.  For quite a few years my woods-bumming rig included a S&W 586, the blued-steel version of the 686, and I liked it a lot.  I carried it for a long time until I went in for .45s in a big way, leading to my purchase of my current favorite, the big Smith 25-5 in .45 Colt.  But top five?  I’m not sure the good but pedestrian 686 fits.  If a Smith & Wesson piece belongs in the top five, it would have to be the famous .44 First Model Hand Ejector, better known as the Triple Lock.  No less than Elmer Keith called it the finest double-action handgun ever made, and good examples still command huge prices today.

Ruger GP100  Sturm Ruger’s answer to the Smith & Wesson 686, the Ruger GP100 was introduced in the early 1990s. The GP100 was the successor to Ruger’s Security Six and Speed Six pistols, but uses a large frame very similar to the 686’s L frame.

My comments on the 686 also apply here.  The GP100 is a fine piece, but really just a generic .357 double action.  There is a piece from Ruger that really does belong on this list, though, and it is:

Ruger Blackhawk  Sturm Ruger’s other line of popular revolvers has a distinctly Old West flavor to it. The Ruger Blackhawk line of pistols look similar to the old Western Colt Single Action Army revolvers of the nineteenth century, but with a host of modern features to keep them viable in the twenty-first.

Now here’s a piece I can recommend for the top five without reservation.  Bill Ruger hit a home run with the Blackhawk; a traditionally styled single-action with modern lockwork and metallurgy, a fine-handling firearm that, for the first time, combined the best of both the 19th and 20th centuries.

Taurus Model 85 Ultra-Lite  Although the semiautomatic pistol market has a large number of foreign competitors, Taurus is the only major overseas player in the revolver market. Among the Brazilian company’s many offerings, the most popular is the Model 85 Ultra-Lite. The Model 85 is a good choice as a home-defense handgun or concealed-carry piece, in the same class as the Ruger LCR.

Ann-Margaret had the right idea, although a lousy stance.

Yes, the Taurus is a decent, well-priced sidearm in the same class as the LCR, but as with the LCR, there is nothing that stands out  with the Taurus; its inclusion on the National Interest’s list is nothing less than baffling.

Here, for the entertainment and edification of all True Believers, is my list of the top five revolvers, in no particular order:

  1. Colt Single Action Army
  2. S&W 1st Model Hand Ejector
  3. Ruger Blackhawk
  4. N-Frame Smith & Wesson
  5. Colt Python

Feel free to offer suggestions.

Animal’s Daily There They Go Again News

Thanks again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five link!

Moving on:  Go on, tell me you’re surprised.

One wonders (as suggested by one of my fellow Glibertarians) if these boneheads think they will be getting some sort of alimony settlement in this “divorce.”   They won’t.  Here’s a hint to the CalExit folks:  Go talk to South Carolina and see how well secession will work for them.  Not only will Californey not get a settlement, in any fair break-up they would be required to pay the Imperial government come kind of compensation for not only the various military bases but also all of the other Imperial lands and installations in the state.

Granted these days there’s no Lincoln who will send the Union Army into California to compel their return; President Trump may well grin and wave good-bye.  Nor is there a General Billy Sherman waiting to “make California howl,” and maybe burn a few of their major cities.

Having just spent a year in loony California, watching the once and former Golden State frantically pursuing Venezuelean economic policies, I’m inclined to grin and wave good-bye myself.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links, and to our blogger pal Doug Hagin over at the Daley Gator for Rule Five linkage and the post linkback!

Now that people are learning what the lately-passed GOP tax reform bill actually does, it’s getting more popular.  Big surprise.  Excerpt:

This week, Home Depot (HD), Starbucks (SBUX) and Walt Disney (DIS) announced that they were handing out bonuses or raises — or both — as a direct result of the GOP’s tax cut.

Home Depot is giving hundreds of thousands of hourly employees what it calls “tax reform bonuses” of up to $1,000. Starbucks is lavishing $250 million in pay raises and stock grants on 150,000 workers, also crediting the tax cuts. At Disney, 125,000 workers are getting a $1,000 bonus, and the company is investing another $50 million in employee education programs.

These companies join more than 240 others — many of them household names like Apple (AAPL), Wal-Mart (WMT), AT&T (T), Auto Nation (AN), Boeing (BA), Comcast (CMCSA), Southwest Airlines (LUV) and Verizon (VZ) — that have already done so, putting more money in the pockets of at least 3 million workers.

This string of tax-cut-related good news is just beginning. In February, millions of workers will suddenly see their paychecks get bigger, as the law’s new, lower withholding schedules take effect. And this is to say nothing of the indirect effects of the tax cuts — more investment, faster economic growth, more jobs.

Even before all this, the GOP’s tax bill was growing increasingly popular, according to the New York Times, which found that support jumped from 37% to 46% in one month, with disapproval dropping from 58% to 49%.

Putting more money in people’s pockets is always a good thing, but there’s a key difference in what you’re seeing happen since the tax reform bill was signed into law as opposed to what the Democrats wanted – and it’s important to note that not one Congressional Democrat voted for tax reform.

What you are seeing here is private companies voluntarily putting cash in the hands of their employees, case freed up by the passage of long-overdue corporate tax reform.

What the Democrats wanted was income transfer; using the confiscatory power of government to take money by force from those who have earned it to give it to those who have not.

That’s a fairly huge difference.  Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, and government should not be in the business of rescuing people from the consequences of their own poor decisions.  With the passage of this tax reform law, we are taking a step in the right direction to the former, since the tax rate cuts were across the board and not targeted.  The latter?  Well, we’re probably not going to win that one.

Next year will tell the tale.  Dame Nancy Pelosi, speaking from her ocean-view mansion in San Francisco, is talking down the raises and bonuses, calling them “crumbs.”  They may be crumbs to her, but to middle America, a thousand dollars is still pretty substantial cash.  And if the economy explodes in 2018, and it well might, she may find her safe Democratic seat rather lonely.

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