Thursday, June 26, 2008

Parsing the majority opinion in DC v. Heller

The news media is already trying to mitigate the gun rights victory embodied in DC v. Heller. It isn't as strong as many gun rights activists might like, but it's much stronger even than many anti-gun activists feared. They're saying that the decision was made by a narrow majority and indicating it allows citizens to arm themselves in their own homes.

It certainly does that, but it does more as well. Simply the introduction is telling and very encouraging for those who believe the freedom of the citizenry of the U.S. is dependent on the 2nd amendment. Why is this so? A government will only do what it feels it can get away with. It will only strike down rights if it has the power to suppress the opposition seeking to preserve those rights. A government that has a healthy respect for its armed citizen is a better government than one that realizes it has all the power and all the weapons. The U.K., Canada, and Australia have done fairly well by their citizens despite disarming them. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia didn't do so well.

The U.S. was designed to run best with the government holding its armed citizenry in healthy respect. Just as the founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to form and defend this country, so our modern politicians must be held accountable even to the loss of their lives if they act in a heinous manner that might threaten the liberty of our nation. Unlike our founders, modern politicians don't seem to be concerned with the best interest of the nation or its citizens, simply with getting elected and lining their pockets. That can change without any violence; we mus simply hold them to a higher standard with our letters, our voices and our votes. The ultimate, biggest check on our government's power is simple: they can't go too far, because we are armed.

The court held (emphasis has been added to some text):

1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.
(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.
(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.
(c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28–30.
(d) The Second Amendment’s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30–32.
(e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court’s conclusion. Pp. 32–47.


I've highlighted a couple of points of importance, though all of this summary is excellent. First, the right to bear arms is absolutely an individual one. History, logic, the founders writings and supporting documents of the time all say this is so. To argue otherwise is disingenuous.

The second highlighted area contains an important phrase that I hope many people read. The right of people to keep and bear arms is ancient. That's right, ancient. It predates our government, it predates the Supreme Court of the United States, it predates the Constitution, it predates the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It is not only ancient, but as the founders wrote, "unalienable." There is no right to ever take it away.

Having found the right to bear arms an individual one, the rest of the 2nd Amendment is clear. It shall not be infringed. Yes, I know there will be limitations on the right to some degree. I'm fine with taking a safety class, and obtaining a permit to carry the firearm to prevent former convicts and the mentally unstable from obtaining and carrying guns. For the rest of us, who are lawful citizens, if we want to do that, there should be no obstruction to us doing so. As the legal battles and interpretations develop around this decision, I hope that right will be available to all lawful U.S. citizens, as it's a right currently denied me by my county sheriff in California, who will receive applications for a carry permit, but turn them down and turn down any future applications based on that initial denial.

I have great hopes that this ruling will make a positive difference for lawful gun owners simply exercising their ancient and unalienable right to defense from criminals and tyranny.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior says Drill

It's almost like the President and Senator McCain read my energy post this past week. No, I don't actually flatter myself that they did, especially since McCain admits to total computer illiteracy. I actually kind of wish President Bush hadn't said anything, since his advocating any policy seems to only hurt it these days, and we need to tap every energy source available.

Interestingly enough the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, who considers the polar bear threatened despite a five-fold population increase in the last few decades, agrees we need to be drilling wherever possible, and that the act of declaring the polar bear threatened in no way will prevent that energy extraction process.

He also confirmed that natural seeps in the ocean release 150 times the amount of oil and gas than our drilling platforms. Mother Nature, it would seem, is the largest source of oil spills.

The full interview may be found here.

The bottom line is that the failed policy of congressional obstructionism needs to end and we need to obtain our own energy rather than sitting on an imaginary pedestal wearing spotless white gloves and pretending it's okay to make the rest of the world do our dirty work for us.

We are the only nation on the planet with the capability to drill that is not doing so. Everyone else, recognizing the coming demand for energy, is developing every resource they can. Brazil's energy independence comes not just from its sugar-based ethanol production (they don't use the less efficient corn production we do), but from its off shore platforms.

Only Congress and the environmentalist movement stand in the way. Call your federal representatives and tell them to permit drilling off the coast, fast track nuclear reactor building permits and allow the extraction of oil from shale and coal.

When they tell you it will take too long, remind them it took you a year of 13 years of education to get your high school diploma, yet that's something most people consider worthwhile. Those with a Bachelor's Degree has 17 years of education (K-12 plus 4 years of college) under their belts, and no one will dispute the investment of 17 years was worth the degree.

Why is 10 years too long a time to develop a vital resource that will contribute to our economy and national defense?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Systems that work and systems that don't

A repost of one of my favorite ironic posts ever. With the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) deliberating on the Heller case and 2nd amendment, it's as appropriate as ever, though it would be President Obama, not Clinton, banning talk radio now.

This morning [September 06, 2007] on the Armstrong and Getty Radio show a story was discussed by Joe, one of the hosts. Reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the story detailed the shooting death of a lifetime petty criminal, ironically enough, by another criminal. I couldn't help but respond to Joe. My e-mail follows.

You told the story of a car stereo thief shot dead in San Francisco. Joe, you're mistaken. That can't have happened. San Francisco has all but banned firearms. You can't have one out on the street. Heck, if you come into San Francisco with a proper CCW permit and the police catch you, they'll take away your gun and mail it back to the Sheriff in your home county. So, no petty thief could have been shot, because gun banning works and you can't have one in San Francisco!

In addition San Francisco takes care of you cradle to grave. They'll pay for your health care, they'll make sure you're fed, they'll find you a place to stay. Socialism works better than capitalism, and contented, well-cared for people don't commit crimes.

So, clearly your Zionist Neoconservative masters had you report this lie of a story to try to brainwash the masses into believing that personal responsibility and freedom is a better option. Just you wait until President Hillary takes office and bans talk radio. Then free thought will truly reign in this country.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Energy Independence and the Future

I try to keep my posts brief, so fair warning, this one won’t be. I’ll be including some posts written earlier on another blog site. Energy is huge right now, and we need solutions to help bridge us to new technologies that will keep the country running. The alternative is going back to pre 1900’s technology. That would please a lot of environmentalists, but I don’t believe the people of the United States would actually tolerate it.

The information gathered here is what I’ve come to understand after significant research and reading. I don’t have link sources for all the information I’ve accumulated over time, but a quick web search should suffice to give you more information on my point of view as well as opposing points of view.

Let me first say I am a huge proponent of new technologies. I believe we need to use and develop every viable energy technology that shows promise in getting us off of oil all together. We’re smart, we’re capable, and we can move beyond internal combustion. These dreams are going to be realized, but we’re not quite there yet. In the mean time, we need immediate solutions to get us off foreign oil.

Bridges to the Future

There are several things we need to do to get off foreign oil in the next decade. They’re not cheap, but they are cheaper than $130 per barrel oil. I lean heavily toward the use of nuclear energy as I’ll outline below. We have to recognize that there is no perfect source of energy. Every source of energy comes with risk and pollution, whether in the actual production of the energy, the fabrication of the collection system, or both.

The key, then, is to choose the "least bad" option. This means balancing reliable production with the smallest degree of pollution, danger and transfer of wealth to enemy nations.

The future is not oil; oil is a limited resource that we may actually be nearing the end of. However, it is a vital bridge to better sources of energy. To keep our economy going in the short run, reality dictates we start drilling off our shores, in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, refining oil-bearing shale and even gasifying coal.

Implementing these short-term solutions means changing our current, often ludicrous legislation about domestic exploration and extraction of resources. Most of our modern methods can produce petroleum with little or no ecological impact. Carbon dioxide can be sequestered during gasification processes, human footprint kept small, etc.

Offshore Drilling

Many environmentalists worry that we'll have an accident during offshore drilling. As far as I'm aware, that's incredibly rare. Remember, the largest oil disaster most people can think of was the Exxon Valdez spill. That involved a tanker ship running aground, not a platform at sea spilling oil into the ocean, so what's the better method? Shipping billions of barrels of oil across thousands of miles of ocean, or drilling offshore? The figures I’ve heard put the danger of oil spill from tanker accidents at 13 times the danger of spillage from oil platforms. Oil platforms have had less leakage into the ocean than natural petroleum seeps that occur from time to time. That’s right, Mother Nature is dumping more oil into the ocean than our drilling platforms are! Current offshore rigs can work far enough out to avoid "marring" the ocean view.

Gasification of Coal

The proposal I heard on gasification of coal actually came from the former president of Jet Blue who is concerned about preserving the profit margins of his company by driving down the cost of fuel. Other companies have also proposed this solution. I’m absolutely not for big government, or spending tax dollars on private programs, so it’s something I usually wouldn’t want the government to do. In this case, however there’s the potential for energy independence in 10 years if we were serious about it, the generation of new jobs in many States, the massive generation of tax revenue for the Federal and several State governments without raising the rate of taxation at all, and the elimination of our dollars going overseas for oil.

The role of the government would be to insure the profits of the new five billion dollar gasification plants, the same way they underwrote the airlines following September 11, 2001, when no insurer would take an airline.

Coal is something America has in abundance. During gasification, impurities can be removed, and the carbon dioxide produced can be pumped back into empty mines to prevent release of additional unwanted gases into the environment. The plants would be built and crewed by Americans. If oil doesn’t drop below 38 dollars per barrel, the government never pays a dime for the construction, but the new plants will produce fuel for far less than it presently costs, driving down the cost of gasoline and stimulating the economy. If OPEC drops the price of oil below 38 dollars per gallon, the government pays some money to offset losses that would otherwise be sustained by investors and companies building gasification plants, but the reduced fuel price will still stimulate the economy, bringing in tax revenues that are estimated to give a return several times the size of any funds paid out to support the project.

This appears on paper to be a proposal that can’t lose. Best of all, we’d be betting on America, and keeping hard-earned dollars inside the United States. Gas would cost less for our working families, and people presently out of work would have employment at the new facilities.

Drilling in ANWR

The area proposed for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge isn’t exactly the arctic equivalent of a jungle. Rather, it’s a desert. There’s not a tree in some 700 miles of the proposed drilling site. Also, it could actually benefit what wildlife are present. The Alaska pipeline, which was vehemently opposed by environmentalists, has actually served as a shelter for caribou and other species. Since the oil flowing through the pipeline is warmer than the surrounding area, animals mate and raise young near it to increase their reproduction and survival rate.

When drilling in ANWR was proposed previously, they said, "It won't help that much, and won't be available for 10 years! We don't need to drill there." If Congress had approved no footprint drilling then, we'd have had oil production from ANWR sometime in 2004 or so. That would be helping your gas price right now. Where will we be in 10 more years?

Extracting Oil from Shale

We have a tremendous amount of oil-bearing shale in Colorado and Utah that we can process into oil. This isn’t much different from Canada’s oil-rich sands which they’re currently using to produce oil. Unfortunately, Congress chose to protect those very lands about two weeks ago.

Congress’ Obstructionism

I do not understand the seemingly suicidal obstructionist attitude Congress has toward sources of fuel that will bridge us to the future. We know these resources are not permanent solutions. They are simply ways to keep our economy from crashing as we transition to cleaner technologies that are presently in the early stages of development.

Nuclear Power

While we're changing the legislation, we need to make it easier to construct and operate nuclear reactors. For the time being, we need oil to make and move things. We don't need to burn any form of it for electricity, though. France gets over 70% of its energy safely from nuclear plants, and current technology, including breeder reactors and fuel reprocessing mean there's little waste. The waste that is produced is dangerous for a couple of hundred years (it retains some radioactivity for thousands, but isn't actually hazardous that long).

How much waste is produced? Even using older technology, supplying the energy needs for my lifetime will produce about a soda can's volume of waste. Coal or natural gas will produce hundreds or thousands of tons of waste (depending on whose estimates you review) just to supply my individual needs, and burning coal, even with cleaner filtering technology, will produce tons of carbon dioxide and radioactive particles far exceeding those produced by a nuclear plant and released into the air, unlike nuclear power's contained radioactive fuel. While people complain there’s already too much waste around, at least one physicist places the sum total as being of small enough volume to fit in one high school gymnasium.

The only thing preventing the production of these facilities is restrictive legislation not designed to make constituents safe, but to create a back door ban on nuclear energy. Some safe reactors are being designed that will be able to run hot enough to split water as part of the process, creating a cheap and abundant source of hydrogen which can then be used in hydrogen fuel cells. Of all our options involving current technology, nuclear is clearly the least bad reliable source.
For full details on nuclear power and sources, view “Going Glowing Green” below.

I don't want to slight wind or solar energy, but if you look into them, you find we can't put up enough wind turbines or square footage of solar cell to meet our needs, and since they're variable producers, we must have traditional sources of energy to back them up. Once again, the least bad option for that is nuclear power. I do believe photovoltaic cells will become more efficient, and in time may become cheap enough to install on every home, thus solving part of the square footage problem, but they’re still variable producers. Hydroelectric power is fantastic, but we’ve nearly tapped it out in the United States, and environmentalists strongly oppose the building of new dams to provide more.

Mobile Solutions—Replacing the Internal Combustion Engine
We have many ideas for powering our vehicles in other ways than gasoline. Most of them are good, with one notable exception.

Ethanol:

Corn ethanol as a fuel is a bad idea poorly executed. Brazil makes their ethanol from sugar cane, which is much more efficient. We've known this is a bad idea for a long time. Here's a 2005 article to prove that point.

Biodiesel:

We can indeed make fuel from used French fry grease and other sources more recently alive than the dinosaurs and prehistoric plants, and will probably need to do so for some time yet to supplement other technologies. However, the goal is to move away from internal combustion. Whether you believe in human-caused global warming, or just don’t like breathing dirty brown air, we really need to stop burning things where we can.

Compressed air:

This is promising technology. The problem might be running your conveniences, like air conditioning and your MP3 player. As a commute vehicle, however, this has promise. There are many designs, a lot of which are simply aluminum replicas of combustion engine. I prefer designs actually made for the new compressed air engine technology, like this one. These are already in use in warehouses to reduce indoor fumes and noise. Other challenges include range and engine power.

Electric:

We've come a long way since the early models. Range and power are good enough to make solid commute cars in the near future and they can run your MP3 player and air conditioner, but cost may be a challenge on these. Tesla Motors has produced a high performance electric vehicle to both demonstrate the electric car is no longer limited in power and speed and to help develop the technologies that will make normal electric passenger production cars more viable than in the past.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell:

Very promising! Fuel cells are still costly to make, but hydrogen isn't as costly as it once was. It presently costs about two dollars per kilogram for compressed hydrogen, which is fairly equivalent to a gallon. This technology has promise as a replacement for gasoline since the user doesn't have to spend 5 hours charging it overnight. On a long trip where one is switching drivers and continuing to travel, you need a "fill and go" power solution. Hydrogen can do that. At present, the making of hydrogen fuel cells does require polymers, made from oil, but just as we’ve learned to make plastics from soy beans instead of petroleum, we can overcome this hurdle.

Air Travel

If we run out of petroleum or it is restricted to military use, jet travel as we currently know it will cease. Commercial jet propulsion involves the compression and ignition of fuel and air, and that can’t be done with electricity or hydrogen. We may have super quiet propeller-driven passenger aircraft in the near future, however, as described in this earlier post.

Most of the above travel solutions require electricity. Air compressors are mostly electrically run. Separating hydrogen from water involves running an electric current through water to produce hydrogen and oxygen. To underscore the importance of it, if we want reliable, cheap electricity unaffected by oil and natural gas prices, we have to build nuclear power plants. It's the only way at present to keep our energy costs low.

The short to this long post is that we have no shortage of good ideas to replace oil. Even reducing our oil usage by 10% could have a powerful impact on the global market. We need Congress to stop blocking us to appease the environmentalists and let us get the job done. China, India and other nations have already realized this and are acting. If we do not, we’ll be the 3rd World while they become the new leaders in technology and innovation. The sooner we stop paying terrorist nations that want to kill us for our energy and stop pouring pollution into our environment, the better.

Going Glowing Green

As the population of our nation continues to grow, our needs grow with us. Even with the current push toward conservation and reducing personal power consumption, our need for increased supply of electricity won’t ever shrink.

There’s only one responsible solution, and it may come as a shock. We need more nuclear power plants. Over the last 30 years we’ve actually come to depend more on nuclear energy, not less. Hydroelectric power is at capacity–we’ve tapped most of our resources. We could expand to tidal power generation, but that would involve expensive development and it’s only viable for coastal states. Compared to 30 years ago, we actually generate less power using hydroelectric plants and oil plants today than we used to. In 1973, about 30% of the nation’s power was generated from these two fuels. Today, it’s more like 10%. Nuclear energy, however, has gone from supplying us with 5% of our power to 20%, and we haven’t even built new plants, we’ve just renovated the old ones and brought them up from about 50% capacity to over 90%.

Why haven’t we built new plants? We have an extreme cultural bias against nuclear power. We still bear the guilt of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and fear the power we unleashed there. Ironically, the Japanese are way ahead of us, generating 37% of their power with modern reactors with plans to bump that up to 41% by 2009.

In addition to our guilt, the peace movements of the 70’s and environmentalists that arose from those cannabis-scented days have ingrained upon us a simple formula: nuclear equals bad. Some cities, like Berkeley, California, proudly proclaim themselves nuclear free zones. Is there danger in nuclear power? Absolutely, but not to the degree we’ve been led to believe. The worst case scenario is Chernobyl, an out of control reaction. 56 people died at Chernobyl, and the total death toll from radiation directly and cancers arising from radiation is expected to reach around 4,000. While that’s not good, compare it to more than 5,000 coal mining deaths worldwide per year, and note that since petroleum gas is only skyrocketing in price, new power will have to come either from nuclear plants or coal-fired plants.

How do we prevent more Chernobyl-style accidents? In theory, they’re next to impossible today. France is generating more than 70% of its power using nuclear generators, with no major incidents. They may have had unexpected shut downs, but no emergencies or accidents. Chernobyl happened for a couple of reasons, including the fact that the reactor had no containment vessel and the engineers, who could have prevented it, were reluctant to do so because of the negative personal consequences that may have resulted in their near totalitarian political state.

The only nuclear accident in the United States was Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island reactor, and that incident was more to nuclear power what Apollo 13 was to the space program: a very successful failure. The containment vessel worked perfectly, and though the reactor was damaged no radiation escaped and there was no explosion. Unlike Apollo 13, which was followed by many further missions into space, Three Mile Island spelled the end to new plants in the U.S. Despite the fact that incident demonstrated the effectiveness of containment technology and that it was the only one of more than 100 reactors in the U.S. to fail, we haven’t built any new plants since then due mainly to popular bias against them.

Technology has only gotten better in the intervening 25 years since Three Mile Island, and new plants would be the safest yet. Even better, new reactors can use up more of their initial fuel and use recycled fuel, reducing waste. Some of them can be designed to not only react safely, but at such a high temperature that they can be used not only to generate electricity, but split water, creating a cheaper source of hydrogen to power hydrogen fuel cells, which are ultimately the most promising technology to replace our antiquated combustion engine technology (hybrid engines are a great bridge, but not the end goal).

What about that waste? Within 40 years, nuclear waste is only one thousandth as radioactive as it was when it was removed from the plant. While it will give off some radiation for many years, that radiation becomes much less dangerous much more quickly than we’ve been led to believe. The nature of a half life is such that radiation emitted never drops to zero, but it does become safe, and eventually nearly undetectable. The U.S. has also lifted its ban on recycling nuclear waste–much of it can be reused and re-enriched. Finally, of all the countries using nuclear power, the U.S. is one of the very few that has plenty of geologically stable wasteland suitable for long-term storage.

Solar and wind powers are promising, but variable output technologies. They can’t replace coal-fired plants, at least not in the near future. The price of oil is only going up, and we don’t want to depend on foreign oil and continue to be involved with the problems of the Middle East because of our addiction to oil as our primary source of power. In the end, we will be left with the choice of coal-fired plants or nuclear power plants. Even with good scrubbers on the emissions stacks, coal-burning plants put pollutants into the air. Leaving out the argument about human-caused global climate change, why pollute the air at all? Nuclear waste, the big boogeyman of years past, is not just manageable, but much of it is recyclable.

If you do believe global warming is man-made, nuclear energy is a foregone conclusion. For example, if we replaced our current hundred nuclear power plants with combustion plants due to our unreasoning fear of fission, we’d be putting an additional 200 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year. If we replaced our more than 600 coal-fired plants with nuclear technology we’d reduce our carbon dioxide output by some 2 billion tons per year.

No presently viable energy source is ideal for the United States at this time, but given the options, it’s time to go green. Glowing green and nuclear, to be specific. Whether you’re against pollution or against paying exorbitant amounts of money to Middle East dictators, this is the solution that works.

For more information, you may want to read articles by Dr. Patrick Moore, Ph.D. and founder of Greenpeace. Shockingly, he’s pro-nuclear energy (he’s broken with Greenpeace). He’s also carefully researched it and presented very cogent arguments on the subject. For a couple of examples, visit:

http://www.greenspirit.com/logbook.cfm?msid=70

or:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/14/AR2006041401209.html

Calories on my menu - Kickin' it Libertarian Style

California and New York City have passed ordinances requiring restaurants to provide calorie information to customers on their menus. I heard one person discussing it say, "As a Libertarian, more or less, I'd like to see that information on my menu."

Fair enough, but if you're kickin' it libertarian style, you don't do it by legislation. By the way, this also coincides with how the free market should run.

If I want calorie information on my menu, I'm going to eat at places that provide it. I'm going to talk to the manager and say, "You know, for health reasons I'd love to see calories on my menu, and I'm going to make it a practice to frequent restaurants that provide that information. I want to keep eating here, and hope you'll agree it would be beneficial for your customers."

Then you follow up by spending your money where the information is available, and you encourage your friends and family to do the same. If enough of society agrees, no legislation or lawsuits are necessary. It happens because of market forces.

That is more work for you than legislating it. However, if the issue really matters to you, the effort is worth it. That's kickin' it libertarian style--never ask or let your government do anything you can do yourself, and thus you never sacrifice control of your life to them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who's Gouging You?

You may have seen the new link to the right talking about industries that have a higher profit margin than "big oil". Here's another thought for you. The United States Federal Government imposes a tax of $0.184 per gallon on your gasoline. States take more, so on average, you're paying at least $0.40 per gallon to the government. For your total fuel taxes, visit this site. The figures I have heard, put the oil company profit per gallon of gasoline at between $0.04 to $0.09 per gallon.

That's right, the Federal Government alone takes a profit of 18.4 cents per gallon, while the oil companies make a profit of 9 cents per gallon, which is less than half of just the Federal take. In California, I pay 45.5 cents to the State alone, for a total of 63.9 cents worth of taxes. Who's really gouging you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Think Government Healthcare is a Good Idea?

The Senate has finally voted to privatize its food service group. The House of Representatives did it in the 1980s. Why did they have to do it? Well, the food stank, the service was horrible, and they finally realized that after the group only made a profit seven of their 44 years in operation. Evidently the Senate was operating a chain of restaurants along with their own cafeteria and it was subsidized by taxpayers because they couldn't make any money.

If you needed any demonstration that private industry does better than government at handling business concerns, all you have to do is look at this shining example of government failure.

Do you really want them in charge of your heart surgery?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hellooooo Knife Control

I'm stunned by this news story in the Washington Post.

I was surprised by the quote from Leila Shire:
"A lot of people are carrying" knives, said Shire, 24, a family friend of Arsema Dawit, who police say was the unarmed victim of a 21-year-old man charged with stabbing her repeatedly in an elevator.

"A lot of people think that it's better to be safe than sorry, and the only way they can be safe is maybe if I carry something, you know," Shire said. "It's that kind of mentality that's making more crimes."
How does that mentality make more crimes? Answer: it doesn't.

But then I got to the quote from Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday announced a crackdown on teenagers carrying knives, saying that those as young as 16 will be prosecuted for knife possession on the first offense. Previously, anyone younger than 18 generally received only a warning.

"Young people need to understand that carrying knives doesn't protect you, it does the opposite -- it increases the danger for all of us, destroys young lives and ruins families," Brown said after meeting with top police and government officials at his 10 Downing Street office. "Recent tragic events have reminded us of that."
This is simply insane. Law-abiding citizens having weapons doesn't endanger people. Criminals having weapons endanger people.

Another note:
Of the 16 teenage homicide victims in London so far this year, police said, two were shot, three were beaten and 11 were stabbed. Of the 26 teenagers slain in London last year, 16 cases involved knives.
Wait, I thought there were no guns allowed in London. How were two teens shot?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Aircraft

There's been much discussion lately about airfares and pricing out everyone but the rich. That's probably going to happen as fuel gets more expensive to some degree. One of the discussions took place on a local radio program and I had to chime in.

Wednesday morning one of the hosts of the show said that electrically powered propeller aircraft sounded like deathtraps. Any aircraft that runs out of fuel is a deathtrap, whether you're powering it with JP-7 or electricity.

Here's the deal: Modern, powerful, quiet turboprop aircraft are already making a comeback as an alternative to jet aircraft as they don't use nearly as much fuel. There are some incredibly classy executive private aircraft using modern prop technology, too. Here's an article from April about a propeller comeback:

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/transport/article3745007.ece

And here's an example of a modern executive turboprop:

http://www.aircharterserviceplc.com/aircraft/avanti_uk.htm

An electric aircraft is very unlikely to be battery powered, as batteries are even heavier than a 500 pound passenger. They'll probably be powered by electricity from hydrogen fuel cells. Remember, compressed hydrogen is running about $2 per kilogram (about a gallon) at the moment. Compare that to your gasoline or jet fuel.

By the way, Boeing evidently had this idea before I did:

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/04/03/boeing-hydrogen-plane.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7330311.stm

The technology is only ready for small planes at the moment, much like our early combustion engines could hardly get the Wright Brother's rig into the air. As hydrogen fuel cells start going into our cars, the technology will get better, cheaper, lighter and eventually will be capable of powering larger propeller aircraft.

So, we're a few years away, but it isn't far fetched or a death trap at all. People could build houses under airports--no jet engine noise, no exhaust except water vapor, so it makes the environmentalists a bit less unhappy, too. Nothing actually makes environmentalists happy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Some notes sounding the end of the Republic

Sometimes the news is just depressing. Here are just a few things happening in the legislature in California:

Mylar balloon ban (those scary, scary metallic balloons)

Senate OKs measure to ban smoking in apartments (yep, even your own apartment)

Laura Richardson won her primary by 75%. (You may remember her, she's defaulted on several home loans)

Oh, and the Assembly has practically banned ammunition sales. Now on to the Senate! (Well, AB2062 doesn't ban ammunition sales, it just makes it incredibly onerous on both seller and buyer of ammo, unless of course you acquire it out of state or illegally.)

I'm reminded of the words of the Declaration of Independence:
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
How long before the people of California or the US take up axe handles and torches?