Friday, February 25, 2011

From a Bottle of Pills to God's Ear

Emerging momentarily from a drug induced haze, Living in Babylon poses an interesting question vis-a-vis a common anti-Second Amendment argument. I'm sure you've heard or read at least one variation on the notion that the Second Amendment is obslete because the authors could never have imagined what future developments would bring to firearms technology.

Using a similar argument, LiB asks all you ostensibly liberal First Amendment advocates, do you think the Founders ever envisioned this when they wrote the First Amendment?

Natural Harvest - A Collection of Semen-Based Recipes

Well, did they?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are We Thwarted?

If you are reading this blog you probably already know that Western Civilization is screwing itself and the operative question is how badly. I know there still some who think/believe we can vote our way out of this mess. I used to be one but I'm not so sure any more. Last year Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax and, according to the article,
The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.
I'll wager the ratio is even worse now. How to you think those who pay no taxes are going to vote?

So it's bad. What are you going to do about it?

Do I know the answer? No. You want answers join a cult. The best I can so is offer an observation from history.

In the 1,000 year period from about 5th through the 15th Centuries -- which used to called the Dark Ages but is now known by the more neutral term Middle Ages -- the Christian Monasteries preserved a lot of knowledge by copying Roman and Greek manuscripts.

The monastic life was communal and organized. It spread the necessary labor of feeding the monks and maintaining the monastery over many hands. In the pre-industrial world this was an efficient use of resources and led to a life with sufficient leisure to pray up to eight times a day (Lauds, Prime, Sext, Nones, Terce, Vespers, Compline, Matins). If the histories are to be believed. the average monk, living as he did without benefit of wine, women or television, had a lot of potential free time. So, idle hands being the Devil's workshop, it was necessary to keep the monks busy when they weren't at prayer or working at tasks necessary for the survival of the monastery. Copying of texts was a good way to accomplish that.

I seriously doubt this was, originally, a deliberate attempt to preserve the knowledge -- it just worked out that way. However, the lesson is that knowledge stored in a lowtech format like books can be preserved for centuries if need be. There are books out there that are full of the useful information needed to build a civilization. Not having to relearn it all from scratch will give any group with access to such books a huge advantage.

If our species is lucky, the coming endarkenment will not last 1,000 years like the last one did. If we are really lucky, it won't last more than a generation. If some of us can preserve the knowledge in physics, chemistry, engineering, etc we've learned since Galileo I think the interregnum will be shorter than it will be otherwise.

Some Suggestions:

The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
Mechanical Engineers Handbook (AKA Mark's Manual)
Grey's Anatomy.
Mercks Manual of Differential Diagnosis
The Way Things Work.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Mercenary Prophecy

In an unfortunately timely discussion, American Mercenary offers some thoughts on the morality of warfare and, while left unstated, why "No Fort Sumpters" may be a strategy for defeat. I'm not sure I agree with him but I do think he accurately perceives why insisting the enemy strike first is so seductive to the "freedom movement".
One of the reasons that we don't have a shooting civil war is that those who would fight are not murderers. Not because they fear jail, but because they know that murder is wrong.
Whether for religious or secular reasons, every person I know in the movement has the above integated into their moral foundation. Frankly, I wouldn't want it any other way. Some won't make exceptions for warfare and I'm not convinced any legitimate exception exists there either.

If you are a Christian you might say to me "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). I don't believe in your gods so I will counter with a simple truism that has served me well:

Integrity is most important when it is hard.

H/T to Artic Patriot

Monday, February 21, 2011

Anonymous versus Westboro Baptists

Yesterday there was a minor buzz that a "hacktivist" group calling itself "Anonymous" was threatening to attack the Westboro Baptist Church.
We, the collective super-consciousness known as ANONYMOUS - the Voice of Free Speech & the Advocate of the People - have long heard you issue your venomous statements of hatred, and we have witnessed your flagrant and absurd displays of inimitable bigotry and intolerant fanaticism. We have always regarded you and your ilk as an assembly of graceless sociopaths and maniacal chauvinists & religious zealots, however benign, who act out for the sake of attention & in the name of religion.

Being such aggressive proponents for the Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Information as we are, we have hitherto allowed you to continue preaching your benighted gospel of hatred and your theatrical exhibitions of, not only your fascist views, but your utter lack of Christ-like attributes. You have condemned the men and women who serve, fight, and perish in the armed forces of your nation; you have prayed for and celebrated the deaths of young children, who are without fault; you have stood outside the United States National Holocaust Museum, condemning the men, women, and children who, despite their innocence, were annihilated by a tyrannical embodiment of fascism and unsubstantiated repugnance. Rather than allowing the deceased some degree of peace and respect, you instead choose to torment, harass, and assault those who grieve.

Your demonstrations and your unrelenting cascade of disparaging slurs, unfounded judgments, and prejudicial innuendos, which apparently apply to every individual numbered amongst the race of Man - except for yourselves - has frequently crossed the line which separates Freedom of Speech from deliberately utilizing the same tactics and methods of intimidation and mental & emotional abuse that have been previously exploited and employed by tyrants and dictators, fascists and terrorist organizations throughout history.

ANONYMOUS cannot abide this behavior any longer. The time for us to be idle spectators in your inhumane treatment of fellow Man has reached its apex, and we shall now be moved to action. Thus, we give you a warning: Cease & desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas, & close your public Web sites. Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS: We will target your public Websites, and the propaganda & detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated; the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover. It is in your best interest to comply now, while the option to do so is still being offered, because we will not relent until you cease the conduction & promotion of all your bigoted operations & doctrines. The warning has been given. What happens from here shall be determined by you.
The alleged challenge did not make too much sense to me. Firstly, announcing an intent to DDOS a website it not too bright. That only gives the government time to set up sniffers and begin tracking down the attackers. Whatever I may think of Anonymous they are not, on the evidence, that stupid.

Secondly, the insults are pedestrian. No belittling of Phelps as a technological ignoramus. No implying he is a closeted homosexual. It was just too pompous to be credible.

Thirdly was the absence of grammatical and spelling irregularities peculiar to hacker culture.

I could go on but you get the idea by now or you don't.

Turns out it was probably a hoax. A press release on denies the charge and implies that Phelps was behind the whole thing.
Dear Phred Phelps and WBC Phriends,

So we've been hearing a lot about some letter that we supposedly sent you this morning. Problem is, we're a bit groggy and don't remember sending it. Our best guess is that you heard about us on that newfangled TV of yours and thought we might be some good money for your little church.

You thought you could play with Anonymous. You observed our rising notoriety and thought you would exploit our paradigm for your own gain. And then, you thought you could lure some idiots into a honeypot for more IPs to sue.

This is not so foreign to us; as you may have heard, we trade in Lulz. You just do not have enough to offer right now.

While Anonymous thanks you for your interest, and would certainly like to take a break and have some
fun with you guys, we have more pressing matters to deal with at the moment. But, we will keep this application on file, and will certainly contact you if any openings become available in future.

Next time, don't call us. We'll call you.

Additionally, as your "Press Release" failed to understand: When Anonymous says we support free speech, we mean it. We count Beatrice Hall among our Anonymous forebears: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Do some among our number hate you and your cynical exploitation of your human rights for monetary gain? Of course. But the MoralFags are also the first to admit that they are, in fact, your rights to exploit.

In closing, let us assure you: We are not BAWWWING sissies, nor are we afraid of your false god; we're just really busy. Stay tuned, and we'll come back to play another day. We promise.

To the Media: Just because it was posted on AnonNews doesn't mean every single Anon is in agreement, in fact in this case it doesn't even mean a single Anon is in agreement. Next time, if you could give us a few minutes to put all our paperwork in order, we'll be sure to let you know what we're up to. (LOL)

To Anonymous: It's a trap. They've got their ports wide open to harvest IPs to sue. Don't DDoS, and boycott Operation Westboro. If you really want to continue messing with them, just send them a few male prostitutes and faxes of goatse. Nothing more.

(Note: This letter was written by more than 20 Anons, at the same time, and none of them were inbred
family members. Unlike that other, shitty "Press Release".)

We are Anonymous.
We are legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us.
Baptists are not always my favorite people and the Westboro subspecies can be particularly obnoxious, However, I firmly believe the best antidote to bad speech is better speech. Attacking Phelp's website may be an ego boost but he'll just spring back or some other self righteous prick will take his place. Discredit his ideas and he becomes an impotent voice. Phelp's is nothing. Ideas are everything.

If humankind, collectively, cannot appreciate the value of Reason and the Enlightement values then human intelligence will join the Saurians in the trashcan of Evolutionary history. Naturally, I think that would be a great loss and I work to prevent it but, in the final analysis, anyone claiming that the Universe cares is deceiving himself. Homo Sapiens has the tools to acheive immortality and the stars but whether it fails or succeeds, Reality will still be there.

Curiously, the best known Westboro site -- God Hates Fags -- is very slow to load right now. I don't know if this is an attack or just a example of the Slashdot Effect.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Something You Don't See Everyday

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on a Mr. Patrick Rodgers who is forclosing on his mortgage company. Well, not quite but it's still a man bites dog kind of story.

Frustrated by a dispute with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and by his inability to get answers to questions, the West Philadelphia homeowner took the mortgage company to court last fall.

When Wells Fargo still didn't respond, Rodgers got a $1,000 default judgment against it for failing to answer his formal questions, as required by a federal law called the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
The dispute is not over late payments, a defaulted mortgage or any other of the usual causes.
Rodgers owns a three-story, six-bedroom Tudor on a beautiful street not far from City Avenue. He paid about $180,000 for it in 2002, and for years handled his mortgage without dispute.

But in mid-2009, his insurer delivered troubling news: His homeowners premium would more than double, because Wells Fargo was insisting that he insure the home's full replacement value - about $1 million worth of coverage, the insurer told him.
It get interesting when Wells Fargo doesn't pay the judgment.
And when the mortgage company didn't pay - does something sound familiar? - Rodgers turned to Philadelphia's sheriff.

The result: At least for the moment, the contents of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, 1341 N. Delaware Ave., are scheduled for sheriff's sale on March 4 to satisfy the judgment and pay about $200 for court and sheriff's costs.
Based on the article, I think Wells Fargo is clearly outside the boundaries of their responsibility to the stockholders as well as common decency. As long as Rodgers keeps up his payments, pays his taxes has sufficient insurance to pay off the mortgage should the house burn down or something, Wells Fargo has no business making any demands. The guy make his payments on time which is how a mortgage company stays in business. Doesn't anyone there understand the idea of treating a good customer well?

This will probably end with Wells Fargo paying the $1,000 judgment and associated court fees. Hopefully, they will then answer Mr. Rodgers questions like they should have done in the first place. However I admit that small part of me would like to see Wells Fargo being forced to move out of the building as it is sold from under underneath them.

H/T to Surviving California

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Police get SKS "cannon" off the street.

Believe it or not, that is how the police in San Francisco describe an SKS according to the The sfExaminer.
Cops uncovered a “cannon” of a rifle while making a pot bust in the Bayview district earlier this month, police said.

On Feb. 5 at 2:45 p.m., two officers patrolling the area of 20th and Illinois streets pulled over a car that had run a stop sign. When the driver rolled down his window, a “cloud of marijuana smoke escaped,” police said.

The driver was pulled out of the car. The driver handed the cops a small bag of weed, presumably hoping they wouldn’t search his car, police said.

The cops searched the car and found an SKS carbine rifle, “which is very illegal.” The suspect also had a warrant for his arrest out of Merced County, police said.

He was booked at Bayview Station.

“Gotta believe a life [lives] was saved getting this cannon off the streets,” police said.
Facepalm doesn't even begin to cover this. If I was a cop working for the City of San Francisco I'd be mortified with embarassment.

H/T to The Truth About Guns

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Power of Beer

Go here and wait for the glass to start moving (or give it a tug to start it).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

His Eye is Fixed on Rivendell.

Well, not any more. The evil Sauron abandoned his nefarious plans for Middle Earth after getting his ass kicked by a couple of hobbits, a half-dead wizard, some barely organized horsemen and a girl. After that debacle he couldn't hold his head up in the presence villians like Cruella de Ville or Snidely Whiplash. His humliation was complete when Skeletor and the Joker joined forces and literally laughed him out of his seat at the last Evil Emmy Awards. Bereft of whole universes to pillage, Sauron went into politics to salvage his reputation. However, even in a milleu where no one suspects he even exists he makes the same poor choices in his agents.

A recent case in point are the BATFEces. Intended to be vanguard facilitators of the New and Improved Mordor on the Potomac, they prove so inept they cannot even smuggle a few hundred guns into Mexico without getting caught.

Mike Vanderboegh has more details on the developing scandal over at Sipsey Street Irregulars

More from Kurt Hoffman and David Codrea

Monday, February 7, 2011

Knowing My Limits

Grant Cunningham has [s]ome thoughts regarding 'force on force' training that are worth reading.  He makes some good points but I do not agree that FoF is useful only for first shot accountability.

FoF exercises can also be useful, I think, in teaching limitations. I often carry a snubnose revolver despite the common wisdom that 17+1 and four spare magazines is the minimum necessary to check the mail.  This preference can be directly traced back to a FoF exercise about ten or fifteen years ago.  In one of the exercises I was "surprised" by an attacker who then tried to get a chokehold on me from behind.  In the second run I was trying to get the fake gun twisted around so I could get off a shot when, out of frustration, I just pointed it over my right shoulder upside down and pulled the "trigger". Afterwards, the instructor complimented me on my creativity but pointed out that my shoulder would have blocked the slide and jammed the gun after the first shot.

I tried the same trick with live ammo -- without an partner -- next time I was at a private range. As expected, the Glock 17 jammed and bruised my shoulder even through the padding I was wearing. The 442 fired all five times. I eventually sold the Glock for other reasons but I still have and, when I deem it prudent and possible, carry the 442.


Zicam Scam

Amy Alkon, The Advice Goddess, comments on a video of James Randi criticizing homeopathic medicines. If you are not familiar with James Randi, be warned he has little use for homeopathy. Being a libertarian I am not in favor of government regulating medicine beyond punishing negligent or deliberate actions that cause harm to people. However, I do think it a is a good thing that Randi is trying to publicize the essential daftness of homeopathy in general.

Also, some "homeopathic" remedies are not what they claim to be. For instance, Zicam is not really a homeopathic preparation. It has the usual homeopathic crap listed as "inactive ingredients" which is appropriate for something that has been diluted to one less than one part in 1024. However, it also contains zinc acetate and zinc gluconate in detectable concentrations. Whether the combination really inhibits the binding of the rhinovirus to the ICAM-1 receptor is still unproven. There is some evidence that zinc acetate may have the effect of reducing severity of the common cold but not in homeopathic dilutions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Selling Indulgences

Mike Vanderboegh has a posting entitled "Courage is fear that has said its prayers". The quote is from Dorothy Bernard (the author not the actress). Normally I wouldn't pay much attention to it since Mike V is a later-in-life convert and has the "zeal of the converted" typical of that breed. However the following anonymous comment grabbed my attention.
Never was big on praying. Every battle I was in I was scared spitless and I am pretty sure everybody else was too. Some guys prayed. Some guys prayed a lot. Maybe it helped them. Me, I used what time I had to keep my equipment in good repair. I'm sure that helped me.

I guess courage to me is my mind telling there is something I have to do that is more important than being scared.
John Wayne is quoted as saying that, "Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." Courage is a choice a man makes to resist his fear and to master it. Some men pray to their imaginary friend(s) as a means of achieving that; others don't. Courage is something a man has not something he is given and how he finds it is less important that the fact he did.

Then another anonymous poster responds
@ Anonymous 8:38

I'm sure those around you that prayed also prayed for you. So don't pat yourself on the back too hard.
What a load of condescending horseshit. Since when are the Christian rituals so vital that it is not possible the original poster found his personal courage without them? Sounds like the second poster is claiming the first would have been paralyzed by fear if others hadn't been praying for him.

OK, Christianity is grounded in the concept of substitutionary atonement. However, I always thought that was because their God was nailed to a dead tree as payment-in-full for all sins, past and future, in a kind of a celestial welfare state. The above sounds closer to the selling of indulgences.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is Bloomberg Lying Again?

Arizona Central reports on the Arizona AG response to the Mayor of NYC soliciting straw purchases of firearms at an Arizona gun show. Of particular interest to me was,
Bloomberg spokesman Jason Post said the sting was carried out by Arizona-based private investigators, not New York City police.

"According to data contained in FBI reports, New York City is the safest big city in the nation, safer than Phoenix," where the per capita rate of major felonies is twice that in New York, Post said.
First, who cares if the straw purchases were made by "Arizona-based" PI's? A straw purchase is a straw purchase.

Second, the artice doesn't describe describe what games Bloomberg or his spokeshole is playing with statistics but, according to the FBI 2009 report on Crime in the United States, Table 6 the City of New York had 46,357 violent crimes and a population of 8,400,907 which equals 552/100K. The City of Phoenix had 8,730 violent crimes in a population of 1,597,397 for a rate or 547/100K. Perhaps in Bloomberg Arithmetic, 547 is twice 552 but even the average public school graduate should be able to see the error. Maybe NYC public school really are that bad -- I wouldn't know and I hope I never have to find out.

OTOH, that kind of figuring could account for the piss-poor financal state of NYC: For every $547 in taxes collected Hizzoner can spend $1,104 and call it even.

OTGH, maybe he is just lying his ass off. Anyone report finding an unattached Mayoral Ass laying arouund?