Thursday, May 31, 2007

Did you know?

Did you know that under current law you can be fined up to $10,000 per illegal worker under your employ and up to 6 months in jail if you show a pattern of defying the law? Or that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has the legal authority to fine an employer $50 for each incorrect SSN on a W-2 and up to $250,000 per year?

When was the last time you heard about anyone actually going to jail for employing illegals?

From Senate testimony by Mr. Richard Stanta, Director of Homeland Security and Justice Government Accountability Office

Since fiscal year 1999, INS and ICE have dedicated a relatively small portion of overall agent resources to the worksite enforcement program. As shown in figure 2, in fiscal year 1999 INS allocated about 240 full-time equivalents to worksite enforcement efforts, while in fiscal year 2003, ICE allocated about 90 full-time equivalents. Between fiscal years 1999 and 2003, the percentage of agent work-years spent on worksite enforcement efforts generally decreased from about 9 percent to about 4 percent.24

Although worksite enforcement has been a low priority relative to other programs, ICE has proposed increasing agent resources for the worksite enforcement program. For example, in its fiscal year 2007 budget submission, ICE requested funding for 206 additional positions for worksite enforcement. Yet, at this point, it is unclear what impact, if any, these additional resources would have on worksite enforcement efforts.

The number of notices of intent to fine issued to employers as well as the number of unauthorized workers arrested at worksites have generally declined.25 Between fiscal years 1999 and 2004, the number of notices of intent to fine issued to employers for improperly completing Forms I-9 or knowingly hiring unauthorized workers generally decreased from 417 to 3.

The number of unauthorized workers arrested during worksite enforcement operations has also declined since fiscal year 1999. As shown in figure 4, the number of worksite arrests for administrative violations of immigration law, such as for violating the terms of a visa, declined by about 84 percent from 2,849 in fiscal year 1999 to 445 in fiscal year 2003. (Emphasis mine)
Again, this is not a problem of law. Its selective enforcement by a pro-illegal immigration president. Contact your congressman to tell him to vote NO for this beast of a bill!

Read the rest.

Tax Cuts Work

The Bush tax cuts have pulled us out of our 9/11 induced recession. Our economy is booming right now -- and we're finally into new ground on Wall Street.

The S&P 500, considered by traders as the best barometer of U.S. stocks, surpassed the record of 1,527.46, set March 24, 2000, at the peak of the dot-com boom, closing at 1,530.23, up 12.12, or 0.80 percent.
Bush lied, people got rich.

Read the rest.

Why John Edwards is stupid

And he's not alone.

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards says a wave of mergers in the oil industry should be investigated by the Justice Department to see what impact they have had on soaring gasoline prices.
What? What malicious wave of mergers is he talking about? The last significant round of mergers happened during the 90's, when oil prices were around $10/ barrel. Its interesting to note you didn't hear anyone talking of any oil company conspiracy then -- or anyone suggesting we bail them out. If an an oil company could "rig the game" now, why wouldn't they have done so fifteen years ago when they were all going out of business?
During a planned campaign stop Thursday in Silicon Valley, Edwards planned to berate the oil industry for "anticompetitive actions" and outline an energy plan he says would reduce oil imports "and get us on a path to be virtually petroleum-free within a generation."
"Vertically integrated companies like Exxon Mobil own every step of the production process - from extraction to refining to sale at the pump, enabling them to foreclose competition," says an outline of Edward's [sic] energy plan provided to The Associated Press by his campaign.
So Edwards also clearly doesn't understand the meaning of the word "competition". Apparently to him competition means "being inefficient" in production. Exxon has competitors on every single level of their business. Major oil companies such as BP, Chevron, and Shell compete throughout the vertical range, while smaller niche companies compete on each individual aspect, such as exploration, drilling, refining, and marketing. In Edwards' delusional world, the only companies you can buy gas on a corner from are Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and BP. The only companies you can get to drill your well are Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and BP. The only companies exploring for oil are Exxon , Shell, Chevron, and BP. The only companies refining are Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and BP.

As an investor I can name a few companies off the top of my head involved in the oil business who compete directly with the oil majors on various levels -- privately held Koch enterprises, Holly Corporation, Boardwalk Pipeline, Range Resources, Chesapeake energy...the list goes on and on. The claim of a lack of competition is totally and completely false.

And you know what? As a rule, smaller oil companies tend to get better profit margins than the Majors do. Range Resources pulled 25% last year. Chesapeake did 23%. Exxon was at 9%. BP got 8.25%. To put that in perspective, you can throw money into a CD and get 5.25% easily, any day of the week. Pharmaceutical companies regularly achieve profit margins of 17-20%. Household products as a category pull 10%.

Targeting the oil companies is nothing but a cheap, dirty lie playing on the average person's ignorance. If you believe that oil companies are making "obscene" profits, you are being used.

But wait, there's more. His brilliant plan also includes:
- Expansion of the use of biofuels such as ethanol, including a requirement for oil companies to make available E-85 fuel (which has 85 percent ethanol) at a quarter of their stations. Edwards wants all new cars to be able to use E-85 by 2010.

- Mandatory restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide with an aim to cut CO2 and other greenhouse gases by 80 percent by mid-century.
How simply uninformed and wrong can you be? Ethanol is not going to replace gasoline. Period. Never. Its not going to happen. Not only is it a net energy loss proposal, but the only way its even close to being economically viable is through massive government subsidies. To make matters worse, even if we used 100% of our farmland to convert we still wouldn't have enough corn to replace fossil fuels. Currently we're making a whopping 3 billion gallons of ethanol per year...using a decent chunk of our current corn production. Sounds like a lot, right? Wrong. The US uses 134 billion gallons of gasoline per year. Not to mention the crippling effect using more and more corn for ethanol instead of food could have on our food supply.

As for the second proposal, it runs counter to the first. That's right, you heard it here first. Ethanol produces more CO2 per mile than gasoline. If you believe in anthropogenic global warming and are concerned about your "carbon footprint," you should absolutely not use ethanol over gasoline.

Quick figures on Ethanol (***warning*** math ahead)

Ethanol has a density of 789 kg per meter cubed (or 2.79 kg/gal). Gasoline has a density of 737.2 kg per meter cubed (2.99 kg/gal).
Ethanol has a lower heating value (or LHV, a way of measuring energy in fuels) of 76,000 Btu/gal. Gasoline has an LHV of 115,500 Btu/gal.

The chemical formula for ethanol is CH3CH2OH. This has a molar mass of 46 g. Gasoline is a big mix and not constant from barrel to barrel but can be reasonably approximated as 70% heptane 30% octane (C7H16 and C8H18 respectively) with a net molar mass of 104.2 g.

One mol of ethanol will produce 2 mols of CO2 in combustion. One mol of gasoline will produce 7.3 mols of CO2 in combustion (via a balanced combustion equation fuel + o2 -> CO2+H2O).

Crunching those numbers produces a net energy per gram CO2 produced of 13.43 Btu/gCO2 for ethanol and 13.28 Btu/gCO2 for gasoline.

In terms of CO2 production per mile, gasoline is 1% more environmentally friendly than ethanol. So much for green.

Now for the real green -- money. Ethanol is subsidized by the government to be cheaper than gasoline. Without these subsidies their costs are approximately equal (around $3/gallon currently). However, both ethanol and gasoline are sold by the barrel or gallon, which are measures of volume. Neither are sold by the Btu, which is a measure of energy. What does that mean? Well, engines don't care about volume. They care about energy. So every time you buy a gallon of ethanol for $3, you just bought 66% of the energy you could have had for the same amount in gasoline. To put that in perspective, it means a car getting 30 mpg with gasoline will only get 20 mpg with ethanol. And that's assuming that gasoline engines, ethanol engines and E-85 or mixed fuel engines all run at the same efficiency (they don't).

But I don't really believe Edwards is stupid, per se. I don't trust him enough to take what he says at face value. I sincerely believe that he does not sincerely believe the drivel he spouts. He's cunning. He wants power. And he'll say anything to get it. Anyone with a calculator can figure out that ethanol is not the way to go. Anyone cynical enough to follow politics should also understand that politicians like Edwards are dangerous.

Read the rest.

Apes that speak English

This is pretty cool. I think it would be an awesome experience to meet one of these animals:

I read Kanzi a series of words, and then without fail, he hit the corresponding lexigram symbol on a touch screen.

I said "Egg."

He pressed "Egg."

I said, "M and M."

He pressed "M and M."

Then Kanzi took control of the conversation and pressed the symbol for "Surprise!"

Needless to say, I was quite surprised, having never actually spoken to an ape before.

Pretty neat stuff.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Great Post

Dafydd over at Big Lizards wrote one of the better posts I've seen from him yet.

...In late 2002-early 2003, the Left constructed a fantasy narrative, where our intention was to invade Iraq and steal its oil ("blood for oil"); this would of course require making it a permanent colony of Imperial America, like the English raj in India. That mindset explains much of the Democrats' confusion...

Under this "story of Iraq," the counterinsurgency strategy is really just a small "surge" of a few more troops into Baghdad. If we weren't able to subjugate five million Iraqis with 120,000 troops, why would 140,000 do the trick? Clearly, the Bush push is a spent reed, and we should stop throwing good money after bad. We've learned a hard lesson; we should accept it and go home, tails between our legs, resolving never to play "empire" again.

Yet neither Bush nor his administration acts like one would expect a disgraced and dishonored "failure" to act. So the Democrats are infuriated at his "arrogance" and "denial," like a chess player who refuses to acknowledge checkmate and congratulate the victor.

The disconnect is that one party is playing chess, while the other is playing poker: "What do you mean you picked up the pot? I just put your king of hearts in check!"

You should definitely read the entire thing here. I couldn't agree more, and it heartens me to see that at least some folks get it.

Read the rest.


Here are some articles I'm currently poring over regarding the current immigration debate. Maybe they'll give you some information you didn't have previously. Maybe they'll spark some discussion or inspire you to call your congressman or something.

WaPo's side-by-side comparison to the House and Senate bills here.
The actual Senate bill, S-2611 here.

From what I can tell the senate bill does a few major things:

-Allows current illegals who have been living here for five or more years to become citizens if they make a payment of at least $3,000 in fees (plus a state fee), turn over all forged documentation (ie fake SS cards), pay back taxes, remain continuously employed, provide proof of residence, and have a clear criminal record. After they meet those requirements they're given whats being called LPR (legal permanent residence) status...formerly known as a Blue Card. At that point they have to learn English and remain here for another 6 years and go through a process that seems to me to be similar to current citizenship via naturalization for current legal aliens, at which time they'll become citizens.

-Illegals that have been here for 2-5 years must leave but can apply to come back under LPR status after handing over all documents and paying necessary fees.

-Punishment for employing illegal immigrants is being increased "significantly".

-Requires employers to check or verify social security numbers in the national database before employing people in the next 5 years.

-Dramatically increases the amount of work visas (including a new type of visa that did not formerly exist) available, each with potential eventual permanent resident status. The Heritage Foundation claims this will result in 60 million immigrants over the next 20 years, significantly altering the face of the nation. Current law would allow for 19 million legal immigrants. I find this debate somewhat dubious, but the numbers are there for your reading pleasure. The article is kind of shrill and has been updated since it was first published, just a warning.

It also provides a lot of new laws for border security, including:

  • doubling the amount of Border Patrol agents
  • authorizing (and funding?) new fencing and vehicle barriers
  • requiring the Secretary of Homeland security to issue written reports on the state of the border
  • creating new "ports of entry"
  • incentives for current members of the armed services to serve as border patrol agents
  • upgrading technology to track people (what they call "biometric" security)
While this isn't amnesty (at least not by 1986 standards) it also is a far cry from what I would call "justice". It also doesn't seem to be very plausible; it relies on illegals coming forward to "out" themselves. Immigrants that haven't been here very long don't even have a chance to stay. Under these new laws they would be deported.

But...under current laws they should be deported, too. So could someone perhaps explain to me what is really going to change? How is changing the law to lower the amount of people we have to deport but aren't deporting going to change the number of people we're not going to deport?

Update: After reading a few more opinions and articles I'm going to reinforce my earlier opinion that all of this is just a smoke screen. Pay back taxes! they cry -- but most illegals aren't exactly in the 25% bracket. In fact, if they make the kind of money I think they make, the government may actually owe them money in the form of tax credits that they've soaked up due to false records over the years.

I also read up a little bit on Simpson-Mazzoli and to be frank, none of this is really new. The "path to citizenship," the "increased security measures"...its just a sham. That act included nearly everything this one does -- except this one provides means for an even more porous immigration policy in the form of Z-visas.

These temporary Z-visas appear to be unendingly renewable temporary-but-permanent get out of jail free cards. If suddenly an illegal can come and go as he pleases and still get all the benefits but none of the pain of being a citizen, why would they ever come forward to naturalize? We've had six years of a president who has flat-out refused to enforce current laws. Adding new laws won't fix the problem. You can legislate a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

I stand by my earlier post on the topic. All of this is just a circus to get us off of their backs.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Now we know...

This article really begins to explain why so many people who lack the time or courage or mental fortitude to research, discuss, and pick sides on issues avidly believe in anthropogenic global warming:

MRC analysts examined all 115 news stories that dealt with global warming from January 1 through April 15 on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s The Early Show. These morning news programs had a combined audience of more than 13 million during the first three months of 2007. Unlike the networks’ evening newscasts, the two- and three-hour morning shows have longer segments that should (in theory) make it easier to include multiple points of view on controversial topics. But MRC’s analysts found just four stories out of 115 (just over 3%) contained any mention of dissent from Gore’s approach to global warming — and even those stories were heavily stacked in favor of his "climate crisis" position.
They even include a handy pie graph to help you visualize those numbers:

With a majority of Americans getting their news and current events from the surveyed networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) its no wonder that the average Joe American is fully convinced that global warming is real and its our fault. As if the sheer number of reports wasn't enough, the actual tone of the reports themselves is shrill enough to break window glass. Some quotes:
  • Will Billions Die from Global Warming?
  • "Do people here know that very likely in the next several decades all of this is going to be under water?".
  • "I was running in the park on Saturday, in shorts, thinking this is great, but are we all gonna die?"
  • "[This is a] controversy over...what literally could be the end of the world as we know it."
  • "Most mainstream scientists agree global warming is happening, and humans are the cause.
It really cracks me up to visualize these poor reporters losing sleep, wondering just when they're going to wake up and the ocean is going to engulf LA and New York (the only places that matter, you know). Doesn't that thought just brighten your day?

Oh, it gets better. Not only does the article point out how much the media loves to sensationalize and demand that we stop debating global warming, but also how they just can't get enough of Al Gore himself. They don't stop at the rah-rah stuff either. It gets into full-blown hallelujah religion, saving people from the evil capitalistic, CO2 producing Republicans. Which, of course, makes sense -- only religion eschews debate in favor of immediate action, regardless of evidence. Some other quotes (and I'm not making this up):
  • "[Richard Branson and Al Gore]: teaming up to save the planet."
  • Is Al Gore a prophet?
  • [Al Gore] is an environmental considered ahead of his time"
I mean you literally can not make that up. Heck, if I had known they were showing this stuff with a serious face on TV I'd have tuned in. I think I would've shot milk and cereal out of my nose laughing so hard.

Can you imagine the response if someone in the media hailed anyone on the right as a prophet? People would literally have fits. Just try it on for size -- Newt Gingrich? Ronald Reagan? Karl Rove? But Al Gore -- oh no! Al Gore is a prophet.

Read the rest.

Rank Socialism

Its like the pink elephant in the room that no one will acknowledge.

[Senator Clinton] said what the Bush administration touts as an "ownership society" really is an "on your own" society that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

"I prefer a 'we're all in it together' society," she said. "I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none."

That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

Why isn't everyone in the world standing on their chairs right now screaming "Socialist!" at the top of their lungs? I mean lets be serious here. Populist, socialist, progressive, whatever you want to call it, it ain't capitalism -- and it isn't democratic, either. The thing that really gripes me is that its not painted that way by anyone. She would never use the word socialist to describe herself...but she's redder than Clifford. Explain to me if you can, Senator, how increasing the tax burden on the middle class makes us more competitive in the global economy? Reduction of spending power and personal choices and freedoms don't make me feel more economically relevant.

"There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed," she said. "Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies."

Actually, Senator, markets work best with as few rules as possible. And everyone in America has a chance to succeed; if that weren't the case how do you explain flunkies-turned-millionaires like Michael Dell or Bill Gates? Neither of them are from blue blood families. Our society has more fairness in that regard than any other in the history of the world, ever. But she knows all this; she's not from an affluent family herself.

Hillary Clinton is the epitome of hypocrisy. Having enjoyed the wealth of opportunity made available to her through the miracles of a free market capitalistic society she now is able to turn her back on this and deny it for the sake of personal political power. How else can you explain her radical social policies? No one in their right mind sincerely believes in socialism; time and again it has been shown to be economically inviable. No one gains from socialism but those who pull the strings -- the politicians themselves.

And of course, the tagline: not only do you, the poor stupid worker who never had a chance at anything in your life because you were born ______ (insert whatever patronizing adjective you please, be it poor, stupid, black/white/hispanic/asian, female/male etc.) need some kind of "help" to be successful, but that help can only be achieved by the Government! And who better to control how government helps you along than Hillary?

The elitist patronization of socialism makes me sick.

How could you ever vote for someone who comes out and says something like that?

Read the rest.

Brutality in War

TigerHawk has an excellent post here regarding the dynamics, usefulness, and need for brutality in war.

1. If war requires our soldiers to do brutal things in our name, and if we must support them in that, perhaps we need to reconsider our modern reluctance to dehumanize our enemy. This does not have to amount to racism, but it will require forging a national contempt for the enemy. We need to be comfortable taking joy in the deaths of these miserable bastards. In this regard, precision-guided slurs might actually be weapons of war.
Aside from the great article, I found one of the comments to be particularly enlightening:
Prior to America’s entry into WWII, the enemy had dehumanized himself. For instance, the news reels had shown in graphic detail the rape and slaughter in Nanking and the bombing of London. Now, consider how many Americans remain ignorant of the hundreds of jumpers on 9/11, because the media chose not to broadcast the horror of the day, caused by an inhumane attack on innocent civilians.
I think this is an idea that needs to be explored in depth; our media is really good at being "shocked and appalled". We see it every day with examples of sexism, "war crimes" and Republican scandals. But how much control do they really exert on our opinions? We are shocked and appalled by Abu Ghraib. We were shocked by the clone-stamped image of burning Beirut and Pallywood productions. When was the last time we got mad, really really mad about a suicide bomber or IED? 9/11? The USS Cole? The Marine barracks in Beirut?

How mad were we then? Mad enough to cuss? Mad enough to enlist, ration for the war effort, fly an American flag?

...mad enough to call someone a rag-head or a Mooj? Or a Hadji?

How much of an impact does referring to your enemy as a Nip or a Jap or a Kraut or a Mooj...or a Joo / Juden really have on a society? When put in that light, I think the answer becomes self-illuminating.

Read the rest.

Sounds Fun

I'm really looking forward to the '08 presidential campaign. I think its going to be a ton of fun to see the Democratic party have conniption fits, backstabbing, grandstanding and outrageous promises to ensure they get their nutroots vote without isolating the "moderates". Not to mention the fact that Hillary Clinton is hardcore bound and determined to be president, which isn't surprising since she's spent pretty much her whole life prepping her political resume.

Meanwhile, the source said many New York Democrats believe Clinton "isn't doing so well out there, that she may not have what it takes to become president.

"When you're out talking to real Democrats in the field, you hear them say, 'She has no pulse. Just polls.' Did you see how she voted on the Iraq resolution? . . . She waited to see how [Barack] Obama voted before she did. So calculated even on such a core issue," the source said.

Stuff like this is only the beginning.

Read the rest.

AP can't read their own articles

Its not that hard, really. I mean, the article is only 295 words long. Its not that hard to skim it and find a decent headline.

What part of

"it would be a mistake to assume the infection isn't also in affluent neighborhoods. The study looked only at people using the public hospital system. The infection rate in the general population is unknown. This is an equal opportunity bacteria"
screams Superbugs Emerge Among Urban Poor to you?

But then I guess you couldn't use it to describe the plight of the mythical poor American in today's big-bad people eating capitalistic greed-driven society.

Read the rest.

What ever happened to stupid?

This reminds me of a stand up routine I saw a while back where the guy asks "what ever happened to kids being stupid?" Between ADD, ADHD and dyslexia I'm inclined to agree with him.

Dyslexia is a social fig leaf used by middle-class parents who fear their children will be labelled as low achievers, a professor has claimed.

"There is a huge stigma attached to low intelligence," he said. "After years of working with parents, I have seen how they don't want their child to be considered lazy, thick or stupid. "If they get called this medically diagnosed term, dyslexic, then it is a signal to all that it's not to do with intelligence."

He added: "There are all sorts of reasons why people don't read well but we can't determine why that is. Dyslexia, as a term, is becoming meaningless."

And its true, really. When was the last time you met a kid who was slow but didn't have some sort of excuse for it? I do believe that there are people with ADD and dyslexia out there. Intelligent, gifted people who just can't focus for a "normal" amount of time, or whose brains juxtapose letters in spite of their ability to reason logically, make deductive conclusions or analyze data. I'm almost positive, however, that those numbers are not one-in-ten.

The condition is said to impair short-term memory and the ability to read, write, spell and do maths.

In all honesty, whats the difference between that and being just plain dumb? Soon we'll have adeptexia, a condition that impairs muscle memory, hand-eye coordination and reaction time in otherwise brilliantly gifted athletes.

Read the rest.

Bush lied, rich?

In spite of the MSM's best efforts to ignore the booming economy inspired by Bush's tax cuts you do occasionally see an article with some hints in it.

"Every marketplace that we're in right now is saturated," said Sam Latona, preconstruction manager with Turner Construction, a Dallas-based company with offices across the country. "All the contractors are basically at 100 percent capacity and exceeding it."

Commercial building is hot in Texas, Florida, California, New York and other parts of the West Coast, Midwest and Northeast, industry officials say. Spending on nonresidential construction was up nearly 14 percent during the first three months of 2007 from last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The trickle-down Reaganomics have struck again! In spite of tax cuts that hurt the poor and "killed the deficit" our economy is really booming right now. We have records being broken daily on Wall Street, our unemployment rate is 4.7% (2.2% for college graduates) and commercial construction and growth is only outpaced by that of our government (ha) -- tax revenues have actually increased! Surprising!, says the NYT.

Compare that to the Clinton era when the economy was "soaring" with 5.6% unemployment, termed by the media as "virtually full" employment. Where are the congratulatory articles, the economic analysis, the rah-rah stories of the 90's? Why are liberals looking back to a time when our economy just wasn't performing as well? You can hardly talk to a democrat without them spouting some inanity like "Boy I sure miss Clinton!".

Well, if you're missing those days, you're missing a time when your income was 18 to 78 percent lower than it is now, after inflation.

Read the rest.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Interesting Interconnections

While reading an article I came across a phrase that triggered a memory of mine:

Mann's hockey-stick graph may be wrong, many experts now acknowledge, but they assert that he nevertheless came to the right conclusion.
Now, this is in reference to Michael Mann's bogus "Hockey Stick" graph that "proved" global warming was a problem and that the 90's were the hottest decade of the millennium. I can't help but notice, however, the syntax correlation between that statement and those made by the hard left regarding Rathergate's forged memos, easily paraphrased as "fake but accurate".

Is asserting that the main problem with the left in whatever form is that when faced with reality (when their facts fall apart) they refuse to readjust their initial assumptions too base of a conclusion to draw?

Is the only difference between a liberal and a conservative the willingness to acknowledge the effect of poor data on current conclusions? Or is it just a total reliance on emotion rather than logic?

As Dr. Edward Wegman (the man who found Mann's numerous statistical errors) summed it up to the energy and commerce committee in testimony: "I am baffled by the claim that the incorrect method doesn't matter because the answer is correct anyway. Method Wrong + Answer Correct = Bad Science."

Lawrence Solomon of Canada's National post phrases it nicely: With bad science, only true believers can assert that they nevertheless obtained the right answer.

Read the rest.

Just classic

In a marvelous spin article, the AP reveals our beloved legislative leaders presenting a strong, united front against Bush and "his" war.

"This debate will go on," vowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Indeed it will. Because, apparently, thats all the Democrats can do. Debate, but no action. They plan to "vote repeatedly on whether U.S. troops should stay and whether Bush has the authority to continue the war". These are threats? This battle is over and done for Democrats. That much was evident in the 80-14 senate vote.

Oh, but it gets better.
"Senate Democrats will not stop our efforts to change the course of this war until either enough Republicans join with us to reject President Bush's failed policy or we get a new president," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said.
Thats similar to saying "we're going to keep walking Barry Bonds until he retires or until we get a pitcher who can strike him out!" Hah. Take that Bush! You win -- but we're going to make a lot of noise!

Read the rest.

300 posts!

This is my three hundredth post! I've had this thing since last August, so that averages out to about a post a day...if I hadn't done all the posting in the first three months.

Anyway, I'm going to talk a little bit about gun control! The Virginia Tech massacre has spawned a lot of debate and seemingly polarized people. However, when I've actually engaged in debate over this stuff with liberals it inevitably diminishes to "Guns are stupid and bad". To get this started, I'm going to list some classical anti-gun ownership arguments:

  • Accidental gun deaths would drop dramatically and things where kids take their parents guns and shoot someone wouldn't happen if guns were banned.
  • Armed robbery would happen less if finding a gun is harder.
  • People can't control themselves; if everyone had guns, people would shoot each other all the time.
  • More gun laws will lead to less gun crime.
Guns are a tool, first and foremost. If anyone has ever used any tool, they'll understand that there is a learning curve associated with use. The more powerful and useful a tool, the steeper that curve is. Now, guns are not incredibly complex. Shooting a gun takes much less practice than, say, welding. But in either case if you don't know what you're doing you can hurt or kill yourself or someone around you without too much difficulty.

The more you handle guns the less likely you are to unintentionally hurt yourself or someone else with them.

Guns aren't dangerous when handled properly. Rule #1 for gun safety is never, ever, ever point the gun in an unsafe direction. Rule #2 is always treat a gun as if its loaded. I had these drilled into my head from the time I was a little kid. If you follow these rules, even in the event of an accidental discharge the worst outcome is a hole in the wall (or ceiling).

Columbine and similar crimes aren't failings of the system, they're failings of the parents. Those kids had access to these tools but had not been sufficiently trained on the use of those tools. I learned to handle and shoot every single one of my father's firearms before I was 7 years old. I was then told if I ever got anywhere near the closet where he kept them I'd get the whipping of a lifetime. This took the mystery out of the whole thing for me. I was less likely to play with his guns than I was to play with his tools in the garage -- at least I could go grab a hatchet and cut down bushes and things in the back yard. If you teach a kid properly about gun use and gun safety, the idea of using a gun to murder someone goes completely against the grain.

In actuality people with experience handling guns are much less likely to commit a violent crime. A person who has a concealed carry license is (by the numbers) MUCH less likely to commit any crime, period. Law abiding people generally stay law abiding.

Many times gun laws have been applied to curb their use by criminals. Unfortunately, criminals by definition don't follow the law.
For example, take a look at England. Their gun crime rate is way higher than ours and their gun laws are way more strict. In fact, its been illegal for citizens to own guns there for over 80 years now. Making laws isn't the way around it, because bad people are breaking laws already.

Contrast that with Switzerland, where there are 600,000 rifles and 500,000 handguns for a population of only 6 million -- thats 1 gun per six people (about one per home). And yet their gun crime rate is so low they don't even track it as a significant statistic. Would you want to rob a home where you're guaranteed to find an M-57 automatic rifle with 24 rounds of ammunition and a person who has been trained to use it? Because every male there has one.

I don't know why gun law supporters think that laws are equivalence deterrence. By all anecdotal evidence, laws really don't deter anyone but "good" people. Is speeding illegal? Do people still speed? Are drugs illegal? Do people still use drugs? Is immigrating over the Rio Grande illegal? Do people still swim it?

Why would anyone think that making guns illegal would end gun crime?

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Global Warming...

Another year, another summer, another depressing realization for me. Namely, that no one in America seems to have the sense to wrap their minds around whats really happening in the atmosphere.

I was talking to one of my fellow mechanical engineers today at the office and I realized that part of the problem in explaining why anthropogenic global warming is such a ridiculous farce is that most people are simply afraid of math and numbers in general. Words like "parts per million" have no meaning to the vast majority of the population -- other than whatever arbitrary meaning politicos such as Al Gore assign them.

Here's a simple breakdown. Don't be afraid of numbers -- try to stay with me whether you're engineering minded or not. From various sources the consensus seems to be that pre-evil man CO2 levels were 200-280 parts per million, or ppm. The latest off of Mauna Loa show something like 360-380 ppm. Now depending on how you slice it, that runs a rough increase of either 90% or 28.6% (380/200 vs 360/280). That alone is enough to tell you that scientists have absolutely nofreaking clue what is going on here. If you told your boss that costs had increased somewhere between 28.6 and 90 per cent I sincerely doubt you'd be considered for that fat promotion. But, alas, here we are. The data is what it is, whether or not you can establish any kind of consistent "start point".

For the sake of discussion, lets take the worst case scenario -- that is, that CO2 concentrations have almost doubled (200-380 ppm) in the past two hundred years due solely to the industrial revolution and Daimler's devil-machine. It still remains true that CO2 makes up a darn near insignificant part of atmospheric composition, as shown below:

Constant components
(proportions remain the same over time and location)
Nitrogen (N2)
Oxygen (O2)
Argon (Ar)
Neon, Helium, Krypton

Variable components
(amounts vary over time and location)
Carbon dioxide (CO2) 0.0370%
Water vapor (H20) 0-4%
Methane (CH4) trace
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) trace
Ozone (O3) trace
Nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2) trace

To put that in a way that's a bit easier to see and understand, here's a handy-dandy flash animation. We're talking slivers of slivers here.

This is to the extent that when modeling combustion reactions (similar to how climatologists model climate change) engineers simply use 79% N2 and 21% O2 and move on their merry way. But I digress; the point I'm trying to make here is that what you've got is a multiplication of fractions. In fraction form, .0370% is 370/1000000, our familiar 370 ppm number. Even using a 90% change in CO2, this means that ultimately you're changing the total composition of the atmosphere by 180 ppm, or 0.018%. If you use the 28.6% number that drops to 80 ppm change, or 0.008%.

Unfortunately, changing the atmospheric gases does most definitely not correspond to changing the greenhouse effect that keeps us comfortably oscillating around the freezing point of water. These gases do not all contribute equally to how much albedo is absorbed as heat and how much is let back out into space. From numerous accredited sources it can be shown that water vapor contributes somewhere between 97 and 99% of the greenhouse effect. It happens to absorb radiation far better than CO2 does.

Even if you ignore the effect of other greenhouse gases such as CFCs, Methane, Ozone, and Nitrous Oxides (NOx) and say that the remaining 1-3% of the greenhouse effect is solely dependent on CO2 you're still only talking about a 28.6-90% change of that same1-3%...leaving CO2 contributing somewhere between 1.286% and 5.7% of total greenhouse heat trapping, or a change of 2.7% at worst. That correlates to a global change of 0.04-0.41 degrees C (assuming an average global temperature 0f 15 degrees from 1800-2000 AD).

Oddly enough, that 0.4 degree rise is precisely within the range of what the IPCC predicted. Could it be that their climate models are as rough and crude as my back-of-the-napkin calculations? Even assuming absolutely every single worst-case scenario the whole way, like roughly doubling the amount of CO2 in the air, assuming that entire amount is produced by man, and assuming that it contributes well more than its fair share of greenhouse radiation absorbance, I can't reproduce their predictions of 0.6-1 degree rises.

I went back and re-read what I wrote and while there's nothing more than basic multiplication involved, it wasn't as easy of an explanation as I'd hoped. At the end of the day, though, I would hope that most people can understand and follow percentages and multiplication. If you would be interested in a more in-depth analysis, there's a great one (with many sources) here.

Whew! What a way to get back into blogging.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Just enough to get me going, maybe.

Recent hullabaloo over immigration may just be the impetus I need to actually get on here and start sharing a piece of my mind again.

I read a few of the major conservative blogs and listen to talk radio on the way in to work in the mornings, and I'm really surprised at all the bickering and hollering that's going on right now over this silly little immigration bill. What's the big deal anyway? No matter what does or doesn't get passed, this whole issue is moot because no one on capitol hill even cares about illegal immigration.

As anecdotal evidence, I recall reading an article where a gung-ho INS boss raided a large plant that employed many illegals (ie, enforced the current laws) and arrested a goodly amount of them, too - I believe it was in the hundreds. Did he get an award? Did everyone cheer and applaud? No! The senators from that state made a few phone calls and he was told in no uncertain terms (and by that I mean he was fired so fast it made his head spin) that you don't do that sort of thing in these senator's states! No sir, bub, because that costs our constituents money! Who did the fool think he was, anyway?

When will folks learn that the only reason this is even being debated at the moment is because the public clamor has grown too loud for congress to sit tight in their chambers? They don't care one whit about enforcing our laws, keeping illegals out, the plight of the middle class worker, the drain of illegals on our economies, or any other sort of nonsense you can come up with. All they care about is votes and dollars.

This bill will fall flat on its foolish face as soon as it gets passed. Giving an ID card to an immigrant? When? When they get arrested? Sort of like how they get arrested now? Those cards will work just as well as deportations work now - isn't that what the law says we're supposed to do to 'em when we catch 'em? And yet how often does that happen?

Cheer the bill, boo the bill, call your senator or congressman; it doesn't matter one hill of beans. Democrats think they can paint Republicans as mean ol' immigrant haters and by waving the citizenship wand in these people's faces gain votes. Republicans are drooling over the "outrage" of the average American over this issue and hope to hang one on the Democrats, and score a few points in '08 to boot. And both parties love the money that pours into social security from employers taxing people with fake SSN's, right along with the property and sales tax many illegals pay. Give me a break -- this is is a treasure trove of - you guessed it - votes and dollars.

But actually keeping illegals out? Hah! Contrary to common opinion, politicians are rational -- rational enough to be predictable, and in this case they just don't want illegal immigration to stop. If they did, it would. Its not that hard to figure out.

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