Well, 2015 just keeps getting suckier. Leonard Nimoy has passed away at age 83. He created one of the most memorable characters in science fiction history and remained a class act until the end. RIP.
Archives for: February 2015
Well, the site went tits up. I posted comments on two separate threads, neither showed up in the comments section. I imagine everyone is now unable to post comments. Thus, we find ourselves adrift.
“What in Hell goes on in New York?”
As opposed to emailing the relevant folks for status and in the interest of addressing any uncertainties as to who now has the car keys to the blog and what changes cosmetically are afoot, I thought I would post a repository, a place where those in charge can identify themselves.
The last few posts related to the subject intimated that either Thrill or Alex (or both jointly) would handle the admin duties and tackle the Herculean task of exorcising all the gremlins that have taken up residency on our blog. Not an enviable chore, but necessary. A number of good suggestions were offered up in the other post, but for now just getting the basics to work would be nice.
So far only Cress and Xetrov have volunteered to guest author, how do we get these guys author privileges? I still have the author template that Jim sent me originally, I would be glad to forward it over to both and help them get started, but they need permission from the admin guy.
On my “dashboard” to the site I have access to all the commenter’s email address. Since the PM services and the “contact” button are still busted, if anyone has questions or concerns they can shoot me an email, I have gotten a few already. I don’t mind being a buffer for admin so they don’t get overwhelmed, but since somebody needs to be “The Man”, he can come here and post anything he wants to disseminate to the group.
Just a quick post today on guns. Or, rather, a link to a great post at the Federalist that details 14 things people should know before they write about guns. Excerpt:
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” may be widely mocked by ignorant gun controllers, but it’s true (also true is the fact that guns don’t kill people, bullets do, if we want to be really pedantic). A gun cannot load a magazine by itself. A gun cannot secure a loaded magazine by itself. An empty gun cannot chamber a round or rack the slide by itself. A gun cannot pull a trigger by itself. Each of these actions requires agency by a human being.
These are all reasons why I personally dislike the term “accidental” shooting, because it suggests a lack of accountability and responsibility. A more appropriate term is “negligent” shooting, since human action is required to load a magazine, secure the loaded magazine, chamber a round, and pull the trigger. It’s why the basic gun safety rules are so important: if followed religiously, they reduce the probability of negligent shootings to 0%.
Radley Balko has talked about this in the context of police shootings. The press coverage will frequently say something like “the officer’s gun discharged” as though the gun unholstered itself, undid its own safety, floated through the air and shot someone.
He also gets into supposed “safe gun” technology which is not terribly reliable and not nearly as useful as the gun rules that I and every other gun owners learned the second one was shown to us:
1. Treat all guns as though they are loaded.
2. Never point the muzzle at anything you don’t intend to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you’re prepared to fire.
4. Always confirm your target, as well as what’s in front, behind, and around it.
Each rule is effectively a backup in case you ignore a previous rule. If you always assume a gun is loaded, then you’ll never have to say, “Your Honor, I didn’t know it was loaded.” If you screw up the first rule, the rule #2 will prevent you from shooting someone unintentionally, because your muzzle will always be pointed in a safe direction. If you screw up the first and second rules, rule #3 will ensure that the weapon is never actually discharged. And in the event that you believe your life is in mortal danger, rule #4 will prevent you from firing on an individual who’s a non-threat, or prevent you from firing through a threat into an innocent person.
It’s good stuff for those of us who have been continually frustrated by incompetent media coverage and politicking on the subject of guns. If a Republican says anything remotely wrong about anything, he gets no end of shit about it. But Democrats and the media constantly make statements about guns that are equivalent to saying the Earth is flat.
One of the fantasies being pushed around in progressive circles is the idea of “national food policy”. I’ve been mulling this article for a few months and have finally decided on a response. Here is their case:
The food system and the diet it’s created have caused incalculable damage to the health of our people and our land, water and air. If a foreign power were to do such harm, we’d regard it as a threat to national security, if not an act of war, and the government would formulate a comprehensive plan and marshal resources to combat it. (The administration even named an Ebola czar to respond to a disease that threatens few Americans.) So when hundreds of thousands of annual deaths are preventable — as the deaths from the chronic diseases linked to the modern American way of eating surely are — preventing those needless deaths is a national priority.
The national food policy could be developed and implemented by a new White House council, which would coordinate among, say, the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA to align agricultural policies with public health objectives, and the EPA and the USDA to make sure food production doesn’t undermine environmental goals. A national food policy would lay the foundation for a food system in which healthful choices are accessible to all and in which it becomes possible to nourish ourselves without exploiting other people or nature
They then go on to list a smorgasbord of Nanny State desires: restrictions on advertising, farm policies guided by environmental concerns (because starvation is a good cure for obesity), a “fair wage” for people in the food industry (because food made at minimum wage makes you fatter), humane animal treatment, sequestering farmland for global warming purposes and making sure “all Americans have access to health food”. The last one is particularly odd because all Americans do have access to healthy food. The so-called “food deserts” are a myth. The problem is that too many people choose to eat junk.
Reading it again, I’m struck by the ignorance and panic-mongering. To give one example: farming has become much more environmentally friendly over the last couple of decades thanks to improved methods, technological advances and genetic engineering. We are feeding more people on less land than we used to.
I have to agree with Daniel Payne.
As a practical matter, this plan is utter nonsense and transparently authoritarian. In the past I have used the term “food system” as shorthand for the industrial paradigm of food production, but for Bittman et al. to talk about the “food system” in such a way exposes it for the ridiculous concept it really is. There is no “food system,” not in the sense of a truly unified body of fully interdependent constituent parts: the “food system” is actually composed of millions of individuals acting privately and voluntarily, in different cities, counties, and states, as part of different companies and corporations and individual businesses, in elective concert with each other and with the rest of the world. To speak if it as a single “system” is deeply misguided, at least insofar as it is not a single entity but an endlessly complex patchwork of fully autonomous beings.
Here’s the thing. We don’t have to speculate whether government food policy would be a good thing or a bad thing. We know. We already have a raft of government food policies and they have been a disaster. Our government has spent decades pushing food policies that helped create the very problems these authors lament. And it was based on special interests, nannyism and junk science.
Our government spent years telling us how bad salt was for us. The health nuts wanted dietary salt restricted by law. They have now been forced to admit that the salt guideline they pushed on us for decades was unhealthily low and that salt intake is only important to high-risk individuals.
After years of telling us that cholesterol was evil, they’ve had to admit it’s not that harmful. After years of pushing us away from animal fats toward trans fats, they had to reverse course when it turned out trans fats were worse than animal fats. Ron Bailey today summed up just how wrong the nannies were.
Most of the government’s recommendations were derived from “consensus statements” based largely on the results of observational epidemiological studies. The new revisions tend to be based on prospective epidemiological studies and random controlled trials. Observational studies may be good at developing hypotheses, but they are mostly not a good basis for making behavioral recommendations and imposing regulations.
(I would add that the low-fat fad had its origin in the seriously flawed and possibly fraudulent Seven Countries study.)
The thing is that all these supposed menaces were presented with absolute certainty. Salt was evil. Animal fats were killing us. Cholesterol was destroying America. Organizations like the Center for Pseudoscience in the Private Interest would label foods as lethal and scream for restrictions and bans. People who dared to question them were branded as tools of “industry”.
We’re still not done. Our government spends billions of dollars subsidizing food production and targets subsidies toward the foods that are the least healthy. It is spending enormous amount of money and destroying our freedom to get us to burn ethanol. That is, it wants us to burn food in an engine-destroying, atmosphere-polluting, greenhouse-gas belching special interest orgy.
Under Obama, school lunches have been made almost inedible and high schoolers are going hungry. Day care centers will soon be forced to limit juice and ban fried foods. The condescending privilege is so thick you can taste it. The Obama people think every school and daycare in the country can run down to Whole Foods and pick up some low-fat, low-sugar organic produce that never casts a shadow. And then they wonder why daycare is so expensive.
Yet somehow, these decades of failure, decades of misguided policy, decades of junk science, decades of lunacy are seen not as a reason to hesitate but as justification to exert more control over America’s diet. Because with the progressives it never really is about facts; it’s about control.
The latest demon du jour is sugar. Progressives are calling for restrictions on sugar based on the rantings of crackpots like Robert Lustig, who claims sugar is a “dangerous drug” and “poison”. With more junk science in tow and such insane abuse of the English language, the nannies are now advocating for a sugar tax, specifically on the most vile of concoctions — sugary drinks — to … well, it’s not clear what.
The stupidity of that is simply mind-boggling because our government already spends billions of dollars driving down the cost of sugary drinks through farm subsidies. So they want to tax us once to make sure we have enough high fructose corn syrup to keep us fat and happy. And then they want to tax us again to keep us from drinking our subsidized drinks.
(Lustig, in a moment of sanity, at least acknowledges that we eat lots of sugary stuff because the government subsidizes it and advocates for eliminating those subsidies.)
That’s to say nothing of progressive opposition to genetic engineering, free trade and other innovations that have made our food safer, healthier, cheaper, more plentiful and more environmentally friendly than ever before.
I’m with Penn. Fuck these busybodies. Let’s put aside the arguments about freedom and personal responsibility — even though those are the most important ones. Let’s concentrate on this: they have been wrong, over and over again. If the had the power twenty years ago that they want now we’d have less food, less money, more obesity, worse health and a dirtier environment.
During the Cold War, there was a predictable pattern to Eastern Bloc environmental concerns. The Communists would engage in some awful mind-boggling environment-destroying big project like draining the Aral Sea. Not because it made any economic sense to do so but because it glorified the state. Then the greens would say absolutely nothing about it.
How times haven’t changed:
Nicaragua’s plan to build an Interoceanic Canal that would rival the Panama Canal could be a major environmental disaster if it goes forward. That’s the assessment of Axel Meyer and Jorge Huete-Pérez, two scientists familiar with the project, in a recent article in Nature.
In their article, Meyer and Huete-Pérez explain how the $50-billion project (more than four times Nicaragua’s GDP), would require “The excavation of hundreds of kilometres from coast to coast, traversing Lake Nicaragua, the largest drinking-water reservoir in the region, [and] will destroy around 400,000 hectares of rainforests and wetlands.” So far, the Nicaraguan government has remained mum about the environmental impact of the project. Daniel Ortega, the country’s president, only said last year that “some trees have to be removed.”
Have you a word about this from Greenpeace? Or the Sierra Club? Or any of the organizations that are currently throwing a fit about Keystone XL, a far far less destructive project? That’s to say nothing of the unconstitutional way this project was approved, the fact that all proceeds from it for the next 50 years will go to the Chinese company building the project, the lack of experience for the team building, the extremely dubious economic case for the canal and the farmers being evicted off their land. If even one of those things were happening in the US, we’d be hearing about it on MSNBC every night.
I’m not usually one for the Balloon Juice Fallacy. But the study about the environmental devastation was published a year ago. And there’s a history here, as I noted above. Ortega is a former communist and Chavez-type socialist. The greens have been reluctant to criticize far-left politicians for their environmental destruction. And that’s a polite of saying the completely look the other way. Because environmental damage cause by industry is bad. Environmental damage done for “the people” even when the people are far-left politicians lining their pockets? That’s OK.
I expect everyone has read Jim’s post and his subsequent frustrations in getting the site glitches fixed. The good news is that the author tools appear to be restored. But the appearance of the site has been altered. No progress has been made on fixing the Registration issues, so as it stands now no new members can be added.
As a community we need to decide what is to become of this blog. I suspect that just about everyone would like it to survive, and beyond that, to thrive. None of this will happen without some effort.
Jim needs to turn over the admin reins to someone willing to maintain the site. The way I see it, the admin guy does not have to be an author. I think once everything is up and running, very little work will actually be involved, but there does need to be someone in charge of this. I would volunteer but my computer skills are somewhat limited. I am going to look into WordPress and try to figure it out so eventually I could help out with the admin duties, but right now I am pretty worthless in this area. Are there any on the regulars that would like to take this on, even on a temporary basis? I have reached out to some one in particular and am awaiting his reply but a contingency plan is always beneficial.
The other issues we need to discuss is author duties. The consensus of the comments in my Suggestion Box post was that more authors are needed, could not agree more. A suggestion, how about we find out who wants to contribute, get a list of volunteers than choose 2 from the last to start, see how that works out with the option of adding more at a later date, thus keeping it somewhat controllable and not too cumbersome? A process also needs to be decided on who gets authorship duties.
Once a new admin is chosen and things are functional again, I am all for tinkering with the look and its ability to mesh with other social sites. Of the blogs I visit regularly, they all morph with the times, evolve, and get better, more user friendly.
So there you have it. Hopefully we can get input from everyone, put the suggestions to practice and make this a blog that will grow in time and be relevant.
Hi. I’m sorry I let the blog technically malfunction so often and for so long. Working on fixing it. I just wanted to explain where I am stuck right now.
- I think I have restored the author writing tools to working order.
- Something I did broke the registration form completely. At one point I was able to register a new account for myself, but now it;s broken again. Still working on that.
- Comment form now has a 90% working editor. The link button does not pop up and become useful yet. Something in the customization from the redesign ages go is interfering between the preview and the link buttons.
I don’t have a ton of time to devote to this, so if I can’t get it working soon, the odds are that I will scrap the entire design and all customization and install a new wordpress theme and enough plugins to get it working, then turn it over to Hal and Alex or whoever we all decide is a good technical admin. Fingers crossed that I can find the frigging cuplrit. It’s something in the AJAX vs JQuery stuff. I hate blog software.
*EDITED TO ADD*
I do not know what the fuck is going on here and to be honest I can’t devote the time or money to fix it. Everything I tried broke something else and when I tried to put it back the way it was I broke the entire site. Hence this new blank template. I’m ready to turn this over to someone else and see if they can fix it and get things running in a useful way.
In the last ten minutes I have had
5 6 emails telling me new users registered. ALL SPAMMERS. Registration has been turned off for now.
I’m not going to deal with this for very long, so y’all need to decide fairly quickly what is going to happen to this blog. I’m pretty much done. I’ll work with someone to hand it over. I can still host. I just cannot work on it.
A couple of years ago, we talked about Brian Aitken, the man who was convicted of violating New Jersey gun laws because he had guns in his car while he was moving. He was released from prison by Christie and his convictions were eventually thrown out (in part because the judge gave poor instructions to the jury; proper instructions might have resulted in acquittal).
Then it was Shaneen Allen, who faced felony charges for having a registered gun in her car while driving through New Jersey. After enormous public pressure, the prosecutor relented and let her go into a diversion program for first-time offenders.
These things keep happening because New Jersey’s gun laws are insanely complicated and ignore any idea of mens rea:
Carrying a firearm in a locked container in checked luggage in an airport terminal to declare it to the airline constitutes unlawful possession and is not protected under the law.
This decision was a direct result of a 2005 incident where Gregg C. Revell, a Utah Resident with a valid Utah Concealed Firearm Permit was traveling through Newark Airport en route to Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Because of a missed flight, he was given his luggage, which included a properly checked firearm, and was forced to spend the night in a hotel in New Jersey. When he returned to the airport the following day to check his handgun for the last portion of the trip, he was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm.
Revell lost his lawsuit after The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in Gregg C. Revell v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,  held that “Section 926A does not apply to Revell because his firearm and ammunition were readily accessible to him during his stay in New Jersey.”
This opinion will apply to NJ airports. If you miss a flight or for any other reason your flight is interrupted and the airline tries to return you luggage that includes a checked firearm, you cannot take possession of the firearm if you are taking a later flight.
Well, meet the latest victim:
Gordon Van Gilder is a retired New Jersey school teacher and collector of 18th century memorabilia. That innocuous hobby could land the 72-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life.
Van Gilder owns an unloaded antique 225-year-old flintlock pistol, the possession of which carries a potential 10-year prison sentence and mandatory minimum sentence of three to five-and-a-half years with no chance for parole.
When a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy pulled over Van Gilder last November for a minor traffic violation, Van Gilder—after consenting to a search—volunteered the information that the unloaded pistol was in his glove box. The next morning, according to Van Gilder’s account in a video posted by the National Rifle Association (NRA), four officers showed up at his home with a warrant for his arrest.
New Jersey’s strict gun laws explicitly include antique firearms, despite the fact that federal laws exempt them from most gun control regulations.
The local cops are doing ballistics tests on the flintlock just in case Van Gilder used it to commit the world’s slowest robbery or something.
Most federal gun laws exempt weapons made before 1898. The reason is that antique firearms are usually the province of collectors and historians. When was the last time you heard of someone holding up a liquor store with a musket?
There’s no question that Van Gilder broke the law. But there’s little question in my mind that the law is an ass. A Republican state legislator has introduced a bill to exempt antique weapons from New Jersey’s gun laws, but that won’t stop this prosecution. Even if he pleads out, a conviction could jeopardize his pension. I don’t know the ins and outs of New Jersey law, but if Van Gilder is eligible for the diversion program, he should absolutely get it.
This is an inevitable consequence of overly broad gun control laws. They are passed in the wake of some awful act of violence and wind up snaring law-abiding people who pose no danger whatsoever. And any opposition is written off as the result of NRA mischief.
With recent pushes into Kurdish territory and the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya, there is a growing fear that ISIL is growing more and more powerful. The President has asked for an authorization for the use of military force (finally). I’ll get to that in a moment. But my first concern is that he’s been making the argument, yet again, that ISIL doesn’t represent “real” Islam, even dragging out the old arguments about the Crusades as a moral equivalence.
The thing is that ISIL doesn’t agree with him. They are not like Al-Qaeda, which was an amorphous terrorist movement dedicated to bringing about the caliphate but operating within the modern world. ISIL wants to create the caliphate right now and the caliphate they want to create is violent, barbaric, medieval and based heavily on old-school Islam and literal interpretations of the Koran:
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
(You really should read that entire article. Think Regress has posted a lame response that basically ignores Wood’s point: that while many Muslims don’t take the Koran’s more violent texts at face value, organizations like ISIL do.)
When the President says that violent extremists like ISIL are not the real face of Islam, he is both right and wrong. The face of Islam can be one of tolerance and peace. But it can also be one of intolerance and violence. Islam has gone through periods of enlightenment and gone through periods of horrific fundamentalism. At this point in history, it hangs in the balance caught between hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims and violent sects that, while a minority, wields enormous power and influence. We’ve seen in pre-war Afghanistan and in the ISIL-controlled territory what these people want: beheadings, slavery, crucifixion, stoning. Their ideology recognizes no authority other than “pure” radical Islam. Whether they represent a minority or not is beside the point. The Nazis were never a majority in Germany. The Communists were never a majority in the countries they ruled with an iron fist. But they were able to control massive parts of the world and enormous armies through violence, intimidation and bloodshed.
The “most Muslims are good” argument, while based in truth, has no practical meaning. Most Germans are good people. We still had to defeat them in two wars. Most Russians are good people. We still had to fight a dangerous and tense Cold War against the Soviet Union. Most Japanese are good people. We still had to drop two atom bombs on them. It doesn’t really matter what the vast majority want when the monsters have the floor. The problem is that while most people are good, they are also easily persuaded or coerced to do bad things or stand aside while bad things are done. This is true of everyone in the world. There is not a religion or country that isn’t capable of doing horrible things. The question is: who is in charge? We’ve seen what happens when people like ISIL are in charge: entire regions of the world become unspeakably violent.
The President has finally asked Congress to recognize the semi-war we’ve been fighting for a while. I think they should do so, but with some limitations. A land war is not necessarily going to solve ISIL (although letting them overrun Baghdad or Kurdistan — as they’ve threatened to — would be a disaster). In fact, it could play right into their apocalyptic prophecies. But I do know that we can not disengage. It’s important that we keep ISIL and AQ from reconciling (which the President’s rescue attempt threatened to do). The longer ISIL survives and the more territory they conquer, the more legitimacy and power they will accumulate in the eyes of radical Muslims. Stopping them might mean air support, training, weapons and/or money to the forces opposing ISIL. If that means what we end up propping up one side in a bloody decades-long struggle for the soul of Islam … well, that’s what it means. We have a national interest in preventing the rise of ISIL to a real caliphate. The only way it will end is when this supposed peaceful majority rises up and ends it.