The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Welcome to Massachusetts: Where drivers can’t drive and pedestrians can’t walk

Posted by Bill Nance on November 24, 2009

LOWELL — Police do not expect to file charges against the 84-year-old Lawrence man who struck a pedestrian on Merrimack Street on Monday.

Lt. Timothy Crowley said an accident reconstruction team was continuing its investigation at the corner of Merrimack and Central streets, where Philip Laverriere was driving his Cadillac DeVille when Angel Pena, 18, of Lowell, walked out in front of his car.

Pena, who was listed in critical but stable condition at Lahey Clinic in Burlington with a serious head injury Tuesday morning, was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and listening to an iPod when he walked in front of Laverriere, who had the green light, according to Crowley.

For those of you who don’t have the misfortune to travel or live in the commonwealth, this is par for the course. The drivers are downright terrifying. 3 feet off your bumper at 70 MPH in the rain, blasting thru an intersection turning left in front of traffic with the right-of-way, you name it. If it’s dangerous and stupid, it’s normal driving here.

But the pedestrians are, in a word, suicidal. As bad as the drivers are here anyone who’s not paranoid about crossing the street or walking their dog off a sidewalk has to be nuts. I regularly have people driving down my residential street at 40-50 MPH because people use it as a cutoff for a nasty intersection nearby. I can’t count the number of times I’ve nearly been rear-ended pulling into my driveway.

Prosecuting dangerous driving is fine by me but walking while stupid gets little sympathy for the “victim.” Maybe the genius with the walkman will watch where he’s going next time.

Posted in Le Snark | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Good Luck With That

Posted by Bill Nance on November 24, 2009

FORT WORTH, Texas – An Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people during an attack on his Texas post will likely plead not guilty to the charges against him and may use an insanity defense at his military trial, his attorney said Monday.

I realize a good advocate has to be aggressive on behalf of his client so I’m certainly not surprised. And normally I’d have a lot more willingness to buy that defense. I mean who the Heck but a crazy person after having spent all those years in the army suddenly goes postal like this?  Some things you just have to be crazy to do. But given the history of his ravings on Islam and his anger at Muslim soldiers deploying to the sand-box, I’m not buying it and I’m reasonably sure a court-martial won’t either.

Sorry counselor, your client is gonna fry. -This is my sad face :

Posted in Crime, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

Scientists Predicted Ice Age? Not True

Posted by Bill Nance on October 17, 2009

I keep reading snark as well as serious arguments claiming that Global Warming is a myth. It seems that invariably in these screeds someone mentions that in the 70s there was some hoopla about the “coming Ice Age.”

Now, I remember being in school in the mid-70’s and remember reading something along these lines. But in fact, as a study published in the Bulletin of The American Meteorlogical Society shows, the people screaming gloom and doom over an ice age were newspaper reporters, not overwhelmingly scientists.

In the early to mid 70’s climatology was still a science still in it’s infancy, and more importantly a science without things like the space shuttle, or U-2 and SR-71 aircraft to use in their observations. Heck, weather satellites were still a fairly recent thing.

The report shows that due to some cooling observed from the mid-1940’s some scientists did indeed make the claim. –About 12% of them. The other 88% reported either no change (16%) or increased warming (72%).

climatology

Virtually all of the reports citing the possibility of global cooling came out in the years 1967 and 1971. By 1976 virtually no one was making the claim.

Find another straw-man argument folks, global warming is happening. We may or may not be able to address its man-made aspects in time to make a difference. But pretending it isn’t happening at all when there’s a broad concensus among climatologists and other scientists that it is and it is at least partially man-made just makes you look like a putz.  This isn’t Chemistry. It’s a theoretical science. We can’t prove the existence of black holes or human evolution either. We extrapolate from the data, come up with theories which best explain our observations. Global warming has been beaten to death by climatologists from day one. At this point, virtually none of the experts are questioning it any more. That’s called scientific consensus. Yes, it’s still theory, but no, no one has come up with an alternative that tests out as plausible.

When broad scientific consensus is reached and points to something with catastrophic consequences for the entire human race, only a jackass makes it a matter of political point-scoring. We can argue all day about what the best possible course of action to deal with global warming may be. To argue that it isn’t happening or that we shouldn’t even try to address it is stupid at best a racially suicidal at worst.

When Rush Limbaugh shows me his PhD in a related hard science I’ll be interested in his nattering. Until then I’ll rely on what the actual experts tell me, thanks

Posted in Energy issues, News & Analysis, Politics, Right-Wing Nut-jobery | 2 Comments »

Study Says Spanking Is Bad For Kids? More Psuedo Science From The Ivory Tower

Posted by Bill Nance on September 16, 2009

A study published in the journal Child Development says spanking is bad for kids, according to a CNN article. Pardon me if I’m somewhat skeptical over how exactly one really measures for this stuff, and am even more skeptical when I hear the same old pacifist arguments from ivory tower social “scientists.”

“”We’re talking about infants and toddlers, and I think that just, cognitively, they just don’t understand enough about right or wrong or punishment to benefit from being spanked,” said Lisa Berlin, the study’s lead author and research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

Well Dr. Berlin, you’re quite right. Infants and toddlers don’t grasp ethics or time-outs and yelling is terrifying to a child that age. That’s why you give them a swat when they reach for the electrical outlet or the stove. They don’t grasp it’s not allowed, they DO grasp that when they reach for it they get an ouch, immediately and consistently. It usually doesn’t take more than a few times to teach the lesson.

Berlin and colleagues found that children who were spanked as 1-year-olds tended to behave more aggressively at age 2…

Measuring aggression in terms of X percent over/below baseline is nearly impossible.  How exactly do you arrive at a baseline? What exactly is your method for measuring aggression and how do you average it? And finally, how do you assess this so-called “aggressive” behavior other than in a fundamentally subjective and therefore unreliable manner? If the kids who were in one group were all randomly beating the snot out the kids in the other group, that would get my attention too. But that’s not the case here, and as with every study I have ever read that attempts to measure aggression, I’m reasonably sure that this one used “anything other than totally docile” as a definition of aggression. Seriously, someone define for me in a scientifically measurable way what is the difference between aggression and assertiveness in 2 year-olds and how to tell the two apart? -Remember, these are child psychologists, the same people who think little boys who don’t act like little girls need Ritalin.

To continue:

…[They] did not perform as well as other children on a test measuring thinking skills at age 3.

It’s  extremely difficult to measure the thinking skills of 3-year-olds. Kids develop at wildly different rates at that age for reasons that have nothing to do with spanking. So claiming that spanking is correlated with different measurements of thinking skills is questionable to put it kindly.

The new study focused on children from low-income families because prior research suggested that spanking is more common among them, Berlin said. This may be because of the added stresses of parenting in a low-income situation, or because of a “cultural contagion” of behaviors among people. For example, in some families this study examined, a grandmother would spank a child, or neighbors would encourage physical discipline, she said.

Her study found that about one-third of the 1-year-olds, and about half of the 2- and 3-year-olds, had been spanked in the previous week, according to mothers’ self-reporting to the researchers. At all three ages, African-American children were spanked significantly more frequently than those from white and Mexican-American families, and verbally punished more than the other children at ages 2 and 3, the study said.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  They used as a sample people from low-income groups which they admit are under “added stresses” and then used self reporting as a model for the study? In other words they looked for the most likely group to have high stress, low income, stress over money, little or poor childcare, most likely to be much younger parents than average..They picked out the group likely to be the worst parents in the country and then decided this would be the ideal group to use to study the effects of spanking? R U f***ing serious?

Now, as to self reporting:

Out here in the real world we know low-income people are much more likely to get their kids taken away for giving them a spanking than middle class people who have lawyers and will raise Hell with a legislator. This is a known factor. Do the study’s authors really think they can be relied on as accurate self-reporters of what many child welfare agencies define as a crime?  Are you people completely daft about the way the real world works? -wait, never mind, we’ve asnwered that.

This kind of thing is just silly. There are so many unmeasurables, so many complicating factors that there is no way on earth to control for,the study was meaningless before it started. Secondly, by measuring kids only in the first three years, years in which completely normal healthy and intelligent kids exhibit wide latitudes of behavior and cognitive skills and trying to correlate it with something you can’t even pretend to know is occurring with any certainty is ridiculous. Finally, when one third of your control group reports spanking their one-year-olds every week, you know before you get any further that this is far from “normal” behavior from the parents, which might lead you to draw conclusions about beating, abuse or other things, but can’t possibly tell you about the efficacy of “spanking.”

Stop with the B.S. studies that can’t and don’t prove anything. If you can’t measure it without using some half-assed subjective metric and you can’t control for variables, it’s not science. It’s someone’s subjective opinion. And choosing this group for the study instead of a populati0n cross-section indicates the “researchers” started out with an axe to grind and carefully crafted a “study” to confirm their opinions.

Posted in education, Rants, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Image Of The Day

Posted by Bill Nance on September 2, 2009

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Bullet by Till Melchior

You can see more of this artist’s work here.

Posted in firearms, Guns Dammit!, Image of the Day | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

September 11 -Perspective

Posted by Bill Nance on September 2, 2009

Well, here we are, 9 days before the 8th annniversery of Sept. 11, 2001, the day that gave us the “war on terror” or whatever they’re calling it this week.

On that day, 19 hijackers took over four airliners and proceeded to drive three of them into buildings filled with innocent men, women and children (even the pentagon has more civilian workers than military personnel.) The fourth airplane, United Airlines Flight 93, had a different outcome. Passengers, alerted to the first impacts on the World Trade Center heroicly stormed the cockpit, forcing the hijackers to drive the plane into the ground.

In all, nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered on that day and rightfully, with indignation and anger we turned our attention on the perpetrators of that crime and their sponsors and unleashed Hell.

There were some real heroes on that day; the people on flight 93 who stormed that cockpit were heroes. The firefighters, EMS people and cops who went into the WTC knowing full-well it was likely to come down with them inside were heroes. but for the most part, the dead on that day were just victims.

I’m truly sorry for anyone who lost loved ones on that day. But I’m just as sorry for any other person who’s lost someone to a murderer. Just because one murder, or yes, even 3000 is more spectacular than another doesn’t make the mother of a 9-year-old killed in a drive-by less worthy of compassion. This Sept. 11, let’s try to put it in perspective and call out the heroes who genuinely did heroic things. We can remember the victims, but honestly folks, calling helpless victims heroes cheapens the word and lessens the things done by REAL heroes on that awful day.

Posted in Rants | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Permanent Second-Class Citizenship

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

SayUncle has a tidbit that I enjoyed reading, especially the comments on the post because they pose some interesting questions that go to the heart of our criminal Justice system.

The Juice:

The North Carolina Supreme Court says a 2004 law that bars convicted felons from having a gun, even within their own home or business, is unconstitutional.

Good. Civil rights should be restored once your debt to society is paid.

I often disagree with posts on this blog but here I think he nails it.

Historically the concept of “criminal records” are a fairly new thing. Once upon a time if you committed a crime, went to prison and got out, you could move to a new town or state and start all over again. Now, once you commit any crime anywhere, that record stays with you forever.

The problem with this is that when we release someone who has served their sentence, they enter into a lifetime of second-class citizenship. They can’t vote, they can’t own a firearm for self defense and they are barred from many many jobs where “being a felon” instantly puts them out of the running, even if their crime had nothing to do with the job. With the advent of $20 internet-based criminal record searches that absolutely anyone can run you can’t even lie about your past and have any hope of it not coming up.

A felony record, or for that matter even a misdemeanor conviction can keep you from obtaining anything more than menial employment at minimum wage forever. Is that the price we want to impose for owning an eagle feather? Yes, that’s a felony. As are countless other victimless crimes.

Think about that for a minute. An 18-year-old fool does something incredibly stupid, like taking a joy-ride in a stolen car, gets caught, does a couple of years in prison (which is hardly a trivial price to pay for an hour’s stupidity that didn’t hurt anyone) and forever more is consigned to wear a scarlet letter of FELON, no matter where he goes or how he lives his life no matter how virtuous.

And people wonder why we have high recidivism rates?

What’s the purpose of a criminal justice system anyway? Would not most people agree that it’s primarily to keep people safe from people who would prey on them, serve as an example to other would-be criminals and give the public some sense that justice is being done? Beyond that I suppose you could add rehabilitation, but experience shows prison is a lousy place for that. To deter people from re-offending you ghave to offer some hope for a future. Our current system does not. Quite the opposite.

I’m not talking about being soft on perpetrators. If you commit a serious crime the penalties should be stiff. If you attempt murder I’m quite content with locking your ass up for a very, very long time, possibly forever. If you break into a house you should do years, not months. I could go on down the list, but hey, committing a serious crime and getting caught should hurt. A lot.

But keeping people who have served every day of their sentences as second class citizens forever is just plain counter-productive. If you’re still dangerous, you shouldn’t be getting out of prison. If you’re not, then it’s time to wipe the slate clean, at least as far as the general public will ever know, and letting you start out fresh with the ability to make a new life. After all, it’s not like starting out fresh at age 30 after a ten-year prison sentence is a walk in the park under any circumstances, record or no record.

I’m fine with the courts keeping records. And I’m fine with the concept of throwing away the key on repeat serious offenders. But what we’re doing with the current system is throwing away the key on people who have made one serious mistake. And think about it for a moment: If you’re to be consigned to a life of minimum wage jobs and sucking up to the boss in fear he’ll fire you and you won’t get another just as crappy job, why the Hell would you not go back into crime? We’re asking people to make entirely irrational choices and then we’re surprised when they give us the finger.

Let them do their time. Eliminate parole. But once they’re out, restore their rights. All of them. Anything else is just tyranny to no purpose an makes even rehabilitated folks want to go back to breaking the law. What the Hell, at least that has some dignity to it, risk or no risk.

Posted in Crime, firearms, Law & Order, Prison and Justice | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gun Pr0n and Range Report: Colt Woodsman

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

My lovely bride was surfing the net looking at guns we’d like to have but can probably never expect to afford when she stumbled over a Colt Woodsman for sale on GunBroker. There were only minutes left on the auction and no bids, so we bid the minimum to meet the auction floor ($250) and sure enough, the gun was ours. Since all the Woodsmans, even the 1973s have been declared C&R eligible we could get it sent directly to the house with our Curios and Relics FFL.

Now, a little history. The Colt Woodsman is actually the very first pistol I shot, way back in Boy Scouts 35 years ago. For decades the Woodsman was everyone’s first pistol. Like all the truly great Icons of 20th century firearms, John Moses Browning had a hand in designing this beauty and as ever, his elegance and simplicity of design shows through. The Woodsman had an uninterrupted manufacturing run of six decades from 1915 to 1973.  Colt put out three distinct versions of the Woodsman: the 1st series, which was made from 1915 up through 1941, the second series which changed the frame slightly and which was manufactured through 1955 and the third series which was made up until they dropped the gun in 1973.

Among current firearms out there, the Ruger Mark IIs and IIIs fill the same niche, but one look at the internals tells you they are nowhere near being equals.

At any rate, when my wife first expressed an interest in learning to shoot pistols the Woodsman was the first gun I thought of. Unfortunately they can be hard to find in good condition for less than $700 and that was simply more than I wanted to spend at the time for a .22 pistol. So picking up a functioning Woodsman for $250 was a very happy surprise.

Colt Woodsman

Colt Woodsman

Our gun is a 1936 1st series. The grips pictured are aftermarket but genuine antler, not plastic. When we got the gun there was a good bit of rust on it, thankfully all surface rust, which, after my wife the gun-detailer went to work on it quickly came off. the bluing is faded in a couple of spots and rubbed off completely on a small part of the frame in front of the slide, but otherwise the gun is in quite good shape, though it’s obviously seen a lot of use. The barrel is in fair condition, the rifling being worn but clear and the crown is showing a good bit of wear as well.

Today we took it out and shot it for the first time and it shoots quite well. I didn’t get a chance to bench-rest it for an accuracy test, but free-hand it was putting bullets in a three-inch group except for when yours truly pooched the shot by jerking the trigger.

I checked with our local gunsmith and a complete refit will run about $225 which will make this little shooter as fine a .22 semi-auto as you’re likely to find outside a $1000 + target pistol. And hey, it’s a JMB design -you can’t put a pricetag on that.

If you run into a woodsman in decent condition for less than $600 buy it. It’s a great little gun and a genuine piece of American history.

Posted in firearms, Guns Dammit! | 2 Comments »

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

I was browsing MSNBC this morning and ran into this little gem of an article about a redevelopment of a housing project in Watts, CA.

LOS ANGELES – Juanita Sims has lived in the notorious Jordan Downs project in Watts for nearly four decades, raising eight children behind the barred windows of the cramped barracks-like apartments.

Let me get this straight: Sims has lived for free in a housing project since the age of 33ish, collecting welfare and raised eight kids there? And she’s still there?

WTF????

Watts is virtually right next to Long Beach and is a relatively easy bus-ride from West LA or northern Orange County, all places with plentiful job opportunities. Work is hard to come by in Compton, but taking the bus to work is something I’ve managed to do for years at a time. In other words, there isn’t a reason on earth why someone, even someone not too bright or very enterprising, can get a job; if perhaps not a very good one. Welfare-to-work programs have been available for decades, helping people pay for childcare, education, healthcare and even housing.

I’ve never been one to blame the poor for being poor, but at some point, it stops being the fault of bad breaks and starts being the responsibility of the people who live in poverty when there are alternatives. Minimum wage jobs suck and the pay stinks, but it’s a start. That first job teaches you how to hold a job, how to take orders and some, if not many skills. From that really crappy job you move into a marginally less crappy job, making a little more, learning some new skills and move onto another still-less crappy job. Somewhere along the way you get some training or develop some skills that are actually in demand and can live in something other than poverty if not great comfort.

In other words, it’s the same path millions of us have all taken. My first job was as a deckhand on a fishing boat in the summer. My first real job was working at McDonald’s, where I juggled that and a second minimum wage job so I could pay the rent. From there I went to another job waiting tables making a whopping 30 cents an hour over minimum wage ($3.40 an hour woot!) and made some pretty measly tips as well (It wasn’t exactly a high-class joint). I did all this before the age of 17 because I’d been out of the house since 15! That’s right, no high-school diploma. Hell I wasn’t even legally allowed to work. I lied about my age on every application. When I turned 17 I took the California High School Competency test, receiving an actual high school diploma so I could join the military. From there it was all progressive improvements.

A note to Juanita and those like her: Keep your damned legs closed and get a job. Raising eight kids in the projects and spending four decades on the dole is pathetic, not something that inspires pity.

Posted in economy, News & Analysis, Rants | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Legaly Correct, Tactically Stupid

Posted by Bill Nance on August 28, 2009

The left-wing blogosphere is going apeshit over people showing up to Obama appearances open-carrying guns of various shapes and sizes. What’s behind the hysteria? In a word: fear.

Fear of guns and fear of people who have them and far more, fear of people who carry them.

I won’t go into the hysteria of the gun-grabbers. It’s all been said before. Instead I want to talk about the wisdom of those people choosing a political meeting about healthcare as a place for an in-your-face demonstration for RKBA.

It’s stupid folks. It’s incredibly bad tactics. It scares the bejeebers out of moderates who would normally be on our side and convinces absolutely no one who wasn’t already passionate about the issue. Worse yet, it’s another thing to throw out to moderate voters, the people who decide elections, to show that those gun people are just dangerous nutcases waiting to go postal.

Case in point:

Dumbshittery in action

Dumbshittery in action

This genius shows up to an Obama meeting on healthcare with a sign that quite directly calls for the shedding of the blood of patriots and tyrants; as in, you know, Obama. There is no other way to take this kind of statement. By itself it’s an obnoxious sign. I mean seriously, you’re going to have an armed revolt over healthcare reform? pulease. Grow the Hell up. But when you add the sidearm now it’s not just stupid, it hurts me. Because now the message stops being whatever the original point was and starts being about how dangerous people who own guns are.

Now, does Mister Dumbshit have the right to open carry? Of course. He even has the right to open carry to a political meeting. But it’s stupid to do so and even more stupid to do so carrying that sign.

Let’s face it folks, I’d put the odds of Obama going through a full term without a credible assasination attempt at slim and none. And that’s without any of the hyperbole on the right. Even if the guy was a conservative, his skin color alone makes a sadly large number of people in this country think: “Holy crap, there’s a nigger in the whitehouse.”  We can pretend all day long that isn’t true, but it is. And when that happens, succesful or not, clowns like this are going to get all of us blamed. It will be all about the gun, not the racist jerk that took the shot. And the grabbers will point to pictures like this and say “See? didn’t we tell you these people are dangerous?” Of course they’d do that anyway. But everytime they say it now, they’ll show this picture and scream “I told you so!”

There is a time and a place for everything. Even stupid signs, and yes, certainly for open carry protests. They happen not infrequently in New Hampshire and generally I’m all for them. People should be made to understand that people with guns aren’t dangerous. The best protests I’ve seen have been protests where open-carry advocates have picked up trash in town. What better face to put out to the community?

But this kind of crap is the polar opposite. Carry a sign calling for armed revolt while openly armed at a presidential meeting about something wholly unrelated to guns and no one gets the RKBA message. They get a message that people with guns are freakin looneys who need to be disarmed.

Every time I hear about stuff like this I shake my head. Who needs the Brady Bunch when we have fools like this on “our side?”

Posted in Barack Obama, firearms, Guns Dammit!, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »