Saturday, 29 November 2008

In Passing

“This is My Computer. There are many like it...”

In the comments at Xavier’s:

Anonymous said...

Hahaha!  Mac users are like glock users.  They both worship at the altar of their chosen idols.

12:05 PM
Anonymous said...

Hahaha!  Windows users are like 1911 users.  They both spend way too much time trying to fix the things.

12:07 PM

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In Passing

Too many “felonies”

“ common law when the British and American legal systems divorced in 1776, felonies were crimes for which the punishment was either death or forfeiture of property. - Wikipedia entry

In an article on the front page of this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Amir Efrati examines five of George W. Bush’s Presidential pardons: Seeking a Presidential Pardon? Try Praising the Right to Bear Arms.  As should be obvious from the headline, Efrati’s “hook” is that the felons involved had requested pardons specifically for the purpose of having their right to own firearms restored.  It’s an intriguing angle (although Efrati fails to justify the headline’s conclusion[1]), but more interesting to me is the apparent pettiness of the “offences”– the scare quotes are intentional– involved:
...poisoning bald eagles[2]...
...conspiracy to distribute marijuana...
...lying to the government in order to receive unemployment checks.
...illegal storage of hazardous waste
...having knowledge of a felony fraud and not reporting it
These are hardly death-penalty material, especially in a society that agonizes over whether to execute teenaged gangbangers who commit premeditated murders.  Seems that felonies just ain’t what they used to be.

Glenn Reynolds has written about the process:
New felonies are being created all the time, often for activity that seems, morally, not terribly awful.  The currency of felony has been inflated, and has thus, inevitably, lost value.

...Where once “felony” meant things like murder, rape, or armed robbery, now it includes things like music piracy, or filling in potholes that turn out to be “wetlands...”

In my home state of Tennessee, we tried to deal with this problem some decades ago by creating special “Class X” felonies, with stiffer punishments, tighter requirements for parole, and so forth.

The issuance of new currency is a common response to runaway inflation.  It’s also a futile one if the authorities just keep the printing presses running.  That’s what happened in Tennessee, as lawmakers vied to designate more crimes as “Class X” felonies in order to demonstrate their toughness on crime, until the whole enterprise became a legislative joke...
One especially disturbing example of this “toughness” breast-beating is the increasingly agitated-for “hate crime” multiplier that allows prosecutors to turn offences such as petty theft or criminal mischief into felonies[3 (ot)].

Another troubling point is the repeated occurrence of the words “pleaded guilty to” (as in, “not ‘found guilty by a jury of his peers’”) in the felons’ stories.  Three of the five interviewed by Efrati lost their rights, despite having never faced a jury.

Smart conservatives should understand that they have a couple of issues with widespread public appeal here.

One is the increasing felonization of offences that are, in essence, “acts that somebody else doesn’t like” rather than “acts that really harm someone.”[4]  The question we should be asking is:  Is offense X worth depriving someone of their rights as a citizen forever?  Then maybe it shouldn’t be a felony.  Which follows American tradition.  Reynolds again:
...There’s a good argument -- under Due Process and the Eighth Amendment -- that designating minor examples of malum prohibitum as felonies ought to be unconstitutional...  If executing someone for a heinous murder just because he was under 18 when it was committed is unconstitutional, then surely separating someone from citizenship for minor violations of tax or firearms laws should be too much.

The second is this:  If we are going to “separate someone from citizenship,” shouldn’t some sort of jury action– if only review of the evidence and any plea agreement– be a requirement?  Yes, this would have major impact on the legal process as it is presently practiced, but there is much to be said for a fully-informed jury as a check on prosecutorial overreach.

Suggested reading:
The Cato Institute:  “Go Directly To Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything”

[1] The headline implies that including an appeal to restore gun rights makes for a more successful pardon request; an idea that the White House specifically declined to address.

“...accidentally, while trying to poison coyotes that were attacking wild turkeys and deer on property he farms.” (from the Journal article)

[3] Off topic:  Does anyone else get frustrated with the lameness of Volok’s PicoSearch function?  Not only does it return archive pages instead of individual posts (and frequently multiple hits that turn out to be the same page), but the quoted page titles and extracted text are often insufficient for determining the context, viz:
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Volokh Conspiracy HOME ARCHIVES SEARCH janes Get posts by e-mail WE: Eugene Sasha Michelle Juan Erik ...
... 5/12-7.1) into felonies when they're done for reasons that the ...
... , and double-digit inflation are the earliest things I remember being ... • Friday, 31 December 2004, 7:51pm GMT • 257.6k

[4] The canonical libertarian issues of the drug war and victimless crimes immediately come to mind.  However, both of these carry “culture war” burdens that IMO make them not the place to begin.

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Saturday, 22 November 2008

In Passing

Our “best and brightest”?

Are You Smarter Than a Politician?

Of the 2,508 people surveyed, 164 say they have held an elected government office at least once in their life.  Their average score on the civic literacy test is 44%, compared to 49% for those who have not held an elected office.  Officeholders are less likely than other respondents to correctly answer 29 of the 33 test questions
Not all officeholders do poorly, of course.  Some elected officials rank among the highest scorers.  But the failure rate on the test among those who have won public office is higher (74%) than among those who have not (71%)...
Could quibble over some of the topics tested (and not tested), but the picture isn’t a pretty one. The test is here.

Oh, and O.G. scored 33/33.  I wonder how well reporters do?

Via:  AFP, via Slashdot.

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Thursday, 20 November 2008

In Passing

Suspicions: CONFIRMED

In a Wall Street Journal oped in which he enumerates some potential problems for the upcoming Obama administration, Karl Rove lets something slip:

Lawmakers dislike grass-roots lobbying by those representing people in their states or districts.
Taken in isolation, I might take this as a reference to “community organizers,” the Jesse Jacksons or Al Sharptons who seem to be forever popping up to claim a share of spoils in the name of some group with a grievance. People who are very noisy, very good at recruiting a crowd for a demonstration, but whose actual depth of support is difficult to determine.

But Rove says this in the context of using the Obama campaign’s existing e-mail list as a tool to mobilize known Obama supporters to push for the Obama administration’s agenda. Which is something quite different.

You certainly can’t label any pressure on Congress produced by some mass mailing to known Obama supporters as “astroturf.” Congress would be hearing from real people who would, presumably, have a some interest in the issue at hand (even if their only interest was the desire that the new President get what he wants).  This is in no way different from the existing letter campaigns that are orchestrated by everyone from Greenpeace to the National Rifle Association.

Which leads to what I believe what Rove actually means:  Congress dislikes orchestrated campaigns by special interests when they involve stirring up Congressional constituents.

Well, I can understand that.  Once people start paying attention to what you’re doing, they may not like what they see.  And their dislike may turn into “no” votes next election.  Better for the interest groups to let sleeping dogs lie.

But isn’t accountability one of the things that Congressional service is supposed to be about?

Oh, snap!

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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

In Passing

Veterans Day, 2008

Veterans Day Parade, Detroit, November 8, 2008. 
Complete Set.
Veterans Day Parade, Detroit, November 8, 2008
Creative Commons: noncommercial use onlyCreative Commons: no derivative worksCreative Commons: attribution requiredSome rights reserved

Photo by The Metropolitan Detroit Veterans Coalition, uploaded by “Wigwam Jones.”

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Monday, 10 November 2008

In Passing

Line extension noted

Neo-Neocon, in her “Necco post” (linked here Sunday), noted:

...when NECCO yielded to pressure and put out the all-chocolate roll it was somehow too much of a good thing. The sport was gone, the game of it—and then, alas, my ability to eat chocolate was gone.
A stop in the candy department during Sunday’s visit to Walgreen’s confirmed that the all-chocolate Necco roll is indeed no longer carried there (although it is still listed on the Necco website). But, in its place, there’s something new:
Necco Wafers and Necco Smoothies
Yep, “Smoothies.” In an ice-cream-stand-pastels package (the photo fails to capture the sheer intensity of the package’s pink and yellow). The flavors are [reading label] “Blueberry, Banana Caramel, Tropical, Peach, and Strawberry Crème”[1] The wafers look (and crunch) just like the regular Neccos, but the selection of colors is different: There are no black, brown, or purple, but they’ve added a robin’s-egg blue (blueberry), and the red (strawberry) is more peach-colored (duh!). That leaves yellow (banana), orange (peach) and the flavor fooler, white (“tropical”).

“So get on with it! What about the taste?” you say. Well, mixed impressions. (Disclaimer: I’m not a great appreciator of fruit-flavored candies in general. So take this FWIW.)

Regular Necco wafers have kind of “pastel” flavors, far different from brands such as Altoids. Neccos won’t melt your dentures, but they also don’t clash disastrously should you accidentally (or intentionally) get two different flavors at once.

The Smoothies are different. The flavors are stronger, and more distinctive, and although they are all “fruits,” IMO some combinations don’t play well together. Also, the orange has a lingering sour note that I didn’t like. For me, Smoothies might work better as a “candy with” (coffee?) snack, rather than by themselves.

Buy again? Probably not. But then, there’s always the original!

And by the way, Neo-Neo, when I opened that regular wafers package, it turned out to have five chocolates in a row.


[1] Mustn’t forget that “accent grave on the e.” After all, that’s all that kept Egbert Sousé from being Egbert Souse. (Except his accent was acute. Even though he said it was “grave.” Maybe he didn’t want to be accused of having “a cute accent.” Hmmm... I need to watch that movie again.)

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In Passing

THAT’S telling ’em!

The people of Cincinnati have decided: Traffic Cameras Are NOT For Them:

On Tuesday, voters in Cincinnati, Ohio made it clear that photo enforcement is not welcome in the city.  A majority of voters approved an amendment to the city charter prohibiting local officials from ever installing either red light cameras or speed cameras.
The measure is pretty airtight:
“Section 3:  Any ordinance enacted prior to the passage of this Amendment that contravenes any of the foregoing is void.  After the enactment of this Amendment, the City shall not enact or enforce any ordinance that contravenes any of the foregoing.  In the event that any provision of this Article XIV is found to be unconstitutional or impermissibly in conflict with state or federal law, only such provision found to be unconstitutional or impermissible will be stricken, and the remainder of this Article XIV will remain in full force and effect.”
And talk about “coming together with common purpose:”
A diverse group of political activists from all ends of the political spectrum banded together to form the “We Demand a Vote” coalition to stop the idea. Members include regional chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and others.
I love citizen involvement!

Via:  The Truth About Cars (where there’s a discussion), via C.G. Hill
(who says, “Nicely done.”)

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Friday, 07 November 2008

In Passing

Oh Noes! Everyone’s fleeing our new socialist overlords

Must be something in the air.

First it was S. Weasel (latest post, here’s another).
Now it’s Rachel Lucas (and followup)!

Wouldn’t surprise me if the presence of both of these women in the U.K. raises the level of testosterone over there by at least 50%.

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Thursday, 06 November 2008

In Passing

Good news for history geeks

(or geeky historians)
Britain's code-cracking and computing heritage has won a lifeline in the form of a donation from English Heritage.

The grant of £330,000 will be used to undertake urgent roof works at Bletchley Park - where Allied codebreakers worked in World War II.

Discussions are also in progress on a further three-year, £600,000 funding programme for the historic site.
The rooms of the Grade II-listed mansion, replete with painted ceilings, timber panelling, and ornate plasterwork, are at risk because the roof has been patched rather than renovated so many times during the 130 years of the mansion’s history. - The BBC

Via:  The Register, who have a nice picture of a 3-rotor Enigma machine.

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In Passing

Speaking of cats, an update

Just checked back at Squeaky’s:

Dammit’s okay. I’m going to have him tested to see what it is, exactly, that is wrong. It’s definitely not cancer. They think it’s kitty IBS. They just have to be sure. Hopefully it’s not a food allergy.


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