Saturday, May 31, 2008

Meeting the Mayor

When I was about 4 years old my grandmother introduced me to the Mayor of Austin, Texas. I had a burr haircut and he couldn't resist giving me one of those knuckle rubs. It hurt. I was wearing cowboy boots and I kicked him in the shins. Hard. As hard as I could.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Indiana Jones

I saw Indiana Jones. It has an absurd story line, but the movie is a lot of fun.

It's Rocky, Bullwinkle. Boris, and Natasha meets Edd Byrnes and ET.

I highly recommend it.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The French

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Counting votes

They're showing some democrat discussion of the current committee meeting to decide on seating delegates from Florida and Michigan. It's pathetic. It's nonsensical rhetoric.

Count all the votes. Blah blah blah. The constitution. Blah blah blah. Freedom. Blah blah blah. Baseball, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet. Blah blah blah.

This has nothing to do with the Constitution or with counting votes. Choosing delegates is not a constitutional process. There's nothing in the constitution to even support the idea of political parties, much less outlining how they should vote on candidates.

Political parties can choose candidates any damn way they want. The democrats gave each state party organization a wide range of options in how to pick their delegates who will then vote to select a candidate. That's about party rules, not the constitution.

The state had a choice. They could have statewide elections and apportion the delegates according the the outcome. They could have local caucuses. They could do like they did in California and have winner take all at a county level for election of delegates or like. They could have a mixture of votes and caucuses like they did in Texas. One thing they could not do was pick the delegates earlier than allowed by specified rules.

Florida and Michigan picked an option not available to them -- using a statewide vote for delegates but doing so earlier than the allowable date. That means they just choose to not actually pick any delegates.

It's not about counting votes. It's not about fairness. It's not about the Constitution. But it sure has become about nonsense.

Why does politics seem to always end up being basically about nonsense?


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The US Dollar, price of cocaine, and price of oil

The DEA recently sent out a news release touting a recent rise in the price of cocaine and claiming that it demonstrates success of their interdiction efforts.

Among others, Mother Jones points out that the rise in the price of cocaine has more to do with the value of the dollar than to actual supply restrictions.

While true that there is less drug smuggling into the US recently, it's mostly because the value of the dollar has fallen while the value of the Euro has risen, making it much more profitable to smuggle into Europe.

So I guess if you're a drug warrior that's one of the good things resulting from the Iraq War -- it's caused a reduction in the local supply of cocaine.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, May 24, 2008

High School Graduation

I joined the Navy (actually the Navy Reserves) in November 1966. I was 17 and a senior in high school. I went to boot camp in a 2 week accelerated program over the Christmas vacation, went to weekly drills, made E2 in March, graduated in May. Over the summer I went on a 2 week training cruise and made E3 in September, with a 2 year active duty commitment starting in November 1968. It seemed a better deal than getting drafted.

It never occurred to me to wear a Navy uniform to my high school graduation. They had dress rules for graduation ceremonies. It didn't seem like being in the Navy made me special.

It seems that these days people who enlist in the military think of themselves as special, as someone for whom ordinary rules don't apply.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

How can you tell when they're lying?

When their lips are moving.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq praised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday for cracking down on Shi'ite militias and Sunni Arab militants and said al Qaeda in Iraq had never been closer to defeat.

That's absurd on its face.
When we got to Iraq there was no al Qaeda in Iraq. So certainly they were closer to defeat at some point between then and now.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Indiana Jones

I started making plans to see the new Indiana Jones movie as soon as I heard it was coming out. Then I noticed that Vanity and Poker really disliked the movie.

What's that all about?

Rotten Tomatoes likes it. fans give it a B-.

That doesn't sound so bad.

But some of the yahoo viewers didn't like it at all. They seem to all be insane.

For example, a viewer who gives the movie a D- says

What would you say if I told you I survived a nuclear blast by cramming myself into a frig.
I'd say, "that would make a cool movie".
Another view, who gives it a C, says

As realistic as a cartoon.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, May 23, 2008

Backyard Ethanol

Usually when we think of ethanol we think of a fuel made from corn.

But sugar not only does as well, it's possible to make ethanol from sugar in your backyard.

The US subsidizes the use of corn for manufacture of ethanol, it's a helluva boon for Iowa and Illinois farmers. However, it's not clear at all that it's a good idea for long term energy policy or even immigration policy.

Our government support of diversion of corn from food stocks into fuel has disrupted international markets for corn.
There is another problem with relying on a food-based biofuel, such as corn ethanol, as the poor of Mexico can attest. In recent months, soaring corn prices, sparked by demand from ethanol plants, have doubled the price of tortillas, a staple food. Tens of thousands of Mexico City's poor recently protested this "ethanol tax" in the streets.

Of course we can't grow nearly enough sugar cane to replace all the corn ethanol we produce. Of course we could get some sugar from Cuba by simply recognizing that the Cold War is over and we no longer need to obsess about those dirty, rotten commies. But, if we expanded production of sugar ethanol we'd probably get much of our sugar from Brazil, and it would probably involve killing off more and more of the Amazon jungles.

Energy policy, immigration policy, farm policy, and environmental policy are all interrelated and often at odds with each other.

What we really need is some politicians who think past Who's Giving Them Money This Month.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Let my people go

The official legal argument for seizing all those kids in Eldorado, Texas is that the parents don't practice an approved religion and are indoctrinating the children to believe in a False God.

That's really what Texas is saying. With a straight face. They actually think that's a legal argument.

As you've probably heard by now the Texas Appeals Court isn't buying it.

But I just saw an announcement on TV that Texas intends to appeal this decision. So it's far from over.

As he does most Texas criminal justice boondoggles, Grits for Breakfast is covering this story in some detail.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hillary on the Supreme Court

Ann Althouse thinks Hillary doesn't have the right judicial temperament for the Supreme Court, whatever the hell that means.
And it doesn't even matter that she has no judicial experience and has never done anything to indicate that she is any sort of a legal scholar or has anything like a judicial temperament.

I think it just means that Ann doesn't like Sen. Clinton.

I don't think much of Clinton either and would not want to see her on the Court. But to argue that Hillary isn't qualified is just absurd.

Hillary has a law degree, from Yale. She worked as a government lawyer. She taught in a law school. She then practiced law and spent a few years as a partner of a large firm. She's a United States Senator.

She's never been a judge, but she certainly has plenty of experience in law wearing pretty much every other hat that can be worn. I'm not sure if she has a publication record, but that doesn't really mean much in law -- the academic journals in law are almost all student edited publications, peer review is not part of legal scholarship.

I think Ann is just letting her emotions about Bill having cheated on his wife get ahead of her brain on this one.

As far as temperament goes, 5 of 9 of the current Court believes in a guy who wears a funny hat who talks personally to God. Is that an indication of what Ann thinks of when she talks about judicial temperment?

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Feminist victims

Apparently young girls who have been exposed to feminist thought tend to think that every junior high conflict is sexual harassment.

Feminism -- creating victims out of thin air.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bush and his Saudi friends

What good does it do to have friends when they won't help you out when you really, really need it?

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It must be good if the French like it.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hunger in Afghanistan

Things have gotten so bad in Afghanistan that they're having armed robberies to steal some flour.

How long have we been running things in Afghanistan?


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Patting themselves on the back in Kansas

Kansas seems to have discovered a fundemental truth about prison over-crowding -- if you don't send as many people to prison you won't need to build as many prisons.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, May 16, 2008

A phony warrant

Grits for Breakfast covers Texas criminal justice issues very well and he's pretty much the main source of coverage for the fiasco that's going on in Eldorado, Texas. The Rangers and the state CPS has over-reached in a huge way. The latest is that the Rangers seemed to have known that the warrant they used in their siege of the ranch in Texas was completely bogus.

But they didn't care. I guess that the FLDS just aren't "Real Christians" and the State of Texas has a Duty to God to set them straight. Or something like that.

The whole thing is just disgusting and some Rangers should be in jail.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush misses the point again

The news reports of the Bush speech in Israel all seem to focus on his backhanded way of being critical of Obama while ignoring the actual lack of substance in what Bush is saying.
“Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said.
Well, no, that's not why we should be willing to talk with our enemies. We should talk with them because the act of listening to them can go a long way to defuse anger and resentment.
The purpose of talking is so that we can listen, not so that we can proselytize.
“We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”
Bush is probably right that talking with Hitler would have not done much good. But if Europe had listened to Germany in the 1920's and early 1930's it's very likely that Hitler would have never risen to power in Germany.

Some bloggers seem to miss the point also.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Why we should get out of Iraq now

We need to get out of Iraq now, not slowly, not carefully, but now. The idea that everything will fall apart if we leave abruptly or that it will "embolden" the enemy is a nonsensical idea that should simply be ignored.

That idea comes from the brains of people who originally told us we'd be greeted with flowers, treated as liberators. The people who are telling us that we have to stay so that things don't fall apart in the Middle East simply don't know what they're talking about and we all know they don't. They've been wrong at every thing that's come up and the odds are that they're wrong about this one also.

Just give it up, it's a boondoggle, we don't need it, we can't afford it.
Currently, the Defense Department says it is spending about $4.5 billion a month on the conflict in Iraq, or about $100,000 per minute.

That's a lot of money.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The insanity of religious prejudice

I think all religious thought is insane on its face. None of it makes any sense.

But when one religious group starts persecuting other religious groups because of different beliefs about marriage then we've gone someplace the other side of insanity. This is really the deep end.

I remember my daddy making me cut the grass when I was about 11. Good thing for him that we didn't live in a compound.
But this isn't the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' ranch, which authorities raided last month in Eldorado after receiving reports that underage girls were being forced to marry much older men.

This is the House of Yahweh: a different, even darker sect that the state has been investigating for years. Authorities in February charged the group's 73-year-old leader with performing polygamous weddings and forcing about 40 children — some as young as 11 — to work jobs at his 44-acre compound.

Just leave those people alone.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, May 11, 2008

No one is in panic mode?

From the SF Chronicle a few weeks ago
A small private college lifted a campus lockdown Tuesday evening after police spent the day searching for a man who was seen with a gun in a residence hall, school officials said.

Classes at Ferrum College were canceled for the rest of the week, and students were told they could leave early for spring break, which was to have begun after classes Friday, school spokeswoman Natalie Faunce said.

Earlier Tuesday, Ferrum College President Jennifer Braaten activated an alert system and ordered the school locked down after a member of the housekeeping staff reported seeing a young man walk into a residence hall with a handgun, Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt said at a news conference.


"No one has been hurt; no one is in a panic mode," Braaten said.

All campus buildings had been searched by Tuesday evening and police said they still had no idea who the man with the gun is or whether he is a student.

Students were taken to the gymnasium during the day for security reasons, but were escorted back to their rooms Tuesday evening.

Campus is locked down, classes are canceled for a week, every building on campus is searched, residence halls are evacuated and students herded into a gym. But they're not in panic mode.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Our criminal justice system

Simple Justice, a New York Criminal Defense Blog by Scott Greenfield, inadvertently points out a serious problem with our criminal justice system when he says
Piss off a court clerk and you will learn how important their role is, as you sit and wait for your case to be called for the next 7 hours.

Piss off any functionary in the criminal justice system and you're in trouble. Piss off a jailer and you'll get beat up. Piss off a judge and you'll go to jail for contempt (unless you're a lawyer, then you'll pay a fine). Piss off a cop and you'll get arrested (and maybe get beat up first). In the scheme of things, it seems that pissing off a court clerk should be the least of your worries if you're in contact with the criminal justice system.

But the problem I'm talking about is the level of raw power that government functionaries have and the complete lack of consequences to them when they abuse that power. It's a real problem.

UPDATE: Fixed the link


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Model of burglary patrol allocation

A long time ago, over 30 years ago, I was involved with a research project that taught me something about the typical mindset of police.

I was working at LSU and a friend of mine was a local cop. He had been a homicide detective but got involved in some union activity so was being punished for that by being re-assigned to the Research and Planning Department. He asked me for some help with a research project he was doing in support of a burglary task force. I got a couple of people from LSU to help. It resulted in a publication, Model of burglary patrol allocation, Journal of Police Science and Administration, 5(2) (June 1977). pp 179-184 by Phil Boudreauz, Gary Carson, John Pisa, and Chris Schroeder.

We did a spatial forecasting model, where we forecast the probability of a commercial burglary in the next week at a block-face level -- i.e, the odd street number side of the 700 block of XYZ Street.

The idea was to then rank locations by those probability estimates and conduct surveillance. It didn't really work out as planned. Not because the model didn't work well, it actually did. But because cops think surveillance is boring and they won't do it if they can figure out a way to get out of it.

We should have realized that after our first discussion with the sergeant who ran the task force. Pretty much all he wanted to talk about was the cool cars they got to drive as part of their undercover personas. This was way before forfeitures, which is the way cops get cool cars to drive today. Back then they went to car dealers and extorted loaners from them by implying that if they didn't donate a car they'd be left without police protection.

Then they'd drive around in the cool cars to impress potential informants. (and street hookers, etc, etc).

The reason for our research project was that the cool cars and informant approach wasn't working, they weren't making any burglary arrests. The second day that our forecasting model was in operation there was a burglary at the top ranked prediction location.

They didn't make an arrest then either because they weren't using the model to do surveillance. They just didn't want to do surveillance. It was boring.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, May 09, 2008

When cops are the criminals

-The newsgroup has a thread on those nut-case Phillie cops who pulled some guys out of a car and beat them up (and got filmed doing it).

One of the things I said in that thread is
Cops lie on a regular basis. It's institutionalized.

Do you know what an inventory search is? It's a pretense that allows the
search of a car without a warrent and without any particular reason. When
a cop claims he did an inventory search he's almost always lying. Ask a
cop, any cop, if he's actually ever written down an inventory as part of
an inventory search. They don't. Not ever. It's pretense. It's a lie.

Cops know it's a lie, prosecutors know, defense attorneys know, judges
know. But they all ignore it and accept the lie. It's built into the
system and has been approved by the Supreme Court. But it's a lie, it's
not the truth.

Our system of justice is built on that kind of nonsense. Cops lie. It's
what they do. It's part of their job. If any of them was ever truthful
about an inventory search he'd lose his job.

The Agitator gives us an example from Atlanta that results in a lot more than just somebody getting their car trashed -- cops lie and somebody dies as a result.

We don't seem to expect much from our cops. And, as a result we don't get much. It's really time to raise our expectations. It's time that we demand that our enforcers of the law actually follow the law. We're either a nation of laws are we aren't.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Does the public really need more facts?


That's what Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Jamie Spencer thinks he needs in order to be able to express an opinion on what Texas is doing in Eldorado, Texas.

Why? There's one fact that we all know. The State of Texas seized almost 500 children, so many that they couldn't even get an accurate count for the first week or so they had them in custody, and they had no facts to justify the seizure.

They seized the children, and some of the mother's to try make it easy to gather some facts that might justify the seizure.

That's the one fact that we actually know.

What more do we need to know?

Personally, I think it's clearly child abuse to allow your children to be in the same room as a Catholic Priest. But I don't see the state of Texas declaring any Catholic parents unfit and seizing their children to be raised by Pentecostals.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Age of Consent and Parental Consent

The Agitator suggests an interesting question related to the nonsensical government over-reach going on in Eldorado Texas.

Why does it make legal sense for parents to be able to give consent for marriage below the age of consent?

In Texas the age of consent is 18 but 16 with parental consent.

Whether you agree with 18 as the age of consent or not, what the hell kind of law allows third party consent to sexual relations?

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