Thursday, September 2, 2010


Victory.  Congratulations Mr. Horne.  Mr. Thomas, you may now go crawl back in your slime-crusted hole.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More on Prop 8's Fallout

Link here.  Note, though, that this is merely a statute.  It has to pass constitutional muster just like every other law.  If Prop 8, which was an amendment to California's constitution, is in question, this wouldn't stand a chance.

It's a noble gesture, but make sure to note that fully 1/3 of California's legislature wasn't even willing to make what they knew to be an empty gesture to protect the right of free religious exercise.  1/3 of them want every religion that refuses to marry gays to be declared not a religion anymore.

The Inconvenient Facts About Your Inconvenient Facts

Steve Chapman writes an article titled Inconvenient stem cell facts, in the which he notes the cognitive dissonance of destroying a living embryo to potentially save life.  All well and good; indeed, a valid point that needs to be considered.  Unfortunately, Mr. Chapman glosses right over the dirty fact that every opponent of embryonic stem cell research wishes didn't exist:  Those embryos they'd like you to think are getting murdered in the name of science are slated for death anyway.

Mr. Chapman makes a passing acknowledgment of this - in scare quotes, themselves in parenthesis, so as to minimize the readers' valuation of those words - by stating they are left over embryos from fertility clinics.  "Left over," far from the euphemism you may think it to be after reading Mr. Chapman's article, is the simple truth.  Common in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures in the U.S. involve extracting, on average, between 8 and 15 eggs.  Depending on a host of factors, fertilization success rates vary from 5% to 50%.  The goal is at least 4 embryos. Those 4 are implanted in the hopes that at least one will stick, about a 50/50 chance.  (The chances of a single implanted embryo surviving is rougly 1 in 3.  IVF has high rates of multiple pregnancy.)  Embryos over 4 are usually frozen.  There are over half a million embryos frozen in the United States.  There's a (roughly) 60% success rate in thawing frozen embryos for later use.  There's no good numbers on how long an embryo remains viable in cryogenisis, but the industry guess is about 5 years is the average life span.

Now that you have the numbers, let's do the math.  Assume, for Mr. Chapman's sake, that a dead embryo is equivalent to a murder.

Any IVF attempt has a 99.2% chance of causing between 1 and 4 murders.  The probability of a murder-free IVF procudure is 0.8%.

IVF has pre-murdered half the population of Tucson, Arizona, by freezing them while knowing 4 in 10 will die in the thaw.  Of the remaining 300,000, only 100,000 will survive the IVF procedure, so I guess we can just round up and say IVF has pre-murdered about the population of Mesa.

For the remaining 100,000 to survive, we need to find 75,000 would-be moms with about $15,000 each for the cost of the procedure.   In the next 5 years, naturally.

So don't preach to me about how embryonic stem-cell research is murder, unless you want to join the Catholic Church as the only people in the world to have the cajones to *really* stand on principle and oppose the IVF procedure in its entirety.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The High-Tech Police State and the Constitution

Time has an article about a recent decision by the 9th Circuit ruling that the government's covert installation of a GPS tracking device on a suspect's vehicle, parked in his driveway.  There's a lot of high-heat-to-light exchange in it about the coming police state, right before he acknowledges a circuit split on this issue virtually guarantees the Supreme Court will be taking up the question soon enough.

The basic premise of the "it's unconstitutional" argument is that it is (obviously) a violation of one's right to privacy to track your every move by GPS.  If you take that argument, though, I can't see how you can argue that a traditional "stakeout" scenario is somehow less a violation.  The police get the same results (an accounting of one's movements,) merely with far fewer resources expended.  It seems to me that GPS is only a problem because people were willing to trust the police wouldn't abuse the power of the stakeout because of the cost involved.

Please note - I'm not arguing in favor of a police state.  Unchecked GPS tracking of presumed-innocent citizens is deeply disturbing, and a reminder that most Americans only like our freedoms when they're convenient.  But trying to shoehorn a ban on their use into a constitutional right to privacy (itself already a shoehorn into another right,) feels like the wrong answer.

I'm curious to know if anyone thinks they know how to fix this problem effectively.  Ideas?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Primer on Government

From, a really good introduction to the Commerce Clause, and the controversy around the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

Note the tautology the pro-congressional powers professor uses at the end: The Constitution only protects us from acts that are unconstitutional.  He's being disingenuous: he's trying to say (without saying it outright,) that Congress should not have any limits on its legislative jurisdiction.  Except we have a federal system, not a centralized system, for a very good reason.  It's one of the things the founding fathers did to protect us from tyranny, and is so well documented that absolutely anyone who paid attention during their high school history class knows it to be settled fact.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Your Move, DoJ

Via Hot Air, Blagojevich convicted of ONE count - lying to the FBI, about keeping a "firewall" between his personal finances and his job.

Make it happen.  The DoJ cannot allow this to end in this way, not and still claim to uphold the law.

EDIT: U.S. Attorneys say they're retrying the case.  That doesn't mean I'm satisfied; indeed, anything less and I think I'd have an aneurysm.  No, the DoJ investigation is on top of retrying him.  Else, why bother?  If he can fix one jury, he can fix a hundred.

As an addendum, I'm calling it:  the juror they got to was specifically instructed to go with guilty on a minor charge, on the off chance the feds would bite and let him slide on the rest.  Give it a couple weeks and we'll know absolutely everything that happened in that jury room.  Stay tuned.

That "Ground Zero Mosque" Thing

A mosque built some blocks from ground zero is not a provocation.

A mosque named after Cordoba, the captial of Moorish Spain, is not a provocation.

A mosque slated to be dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is not a provocation.

A mosque built by someone who's reaction to 9/11 was, "You can't say you didn't have it coming." is not a provocation.

A mosque built near ground zero by a man who thinks 9/11 was a natural reaction, dedicated 10 years to the day after 9/11 named after the symbol of Muslim victory of the West, on the other hand?

Come on guys, this isn't brain surgery.

They have every right to build it, of course.  And if hundreds of private citizens happen to aim high-resolution security cameras at the entrance and just roll tape, I'm pretty sure they have that right, too.  I'm sure the next time an Al-Qaeda flunkie comes to visit the Big Apple, the FBI will luckily happen upon a huge amount of photographic evidence of his interactions with the Cordoba Institute, from ordinary folks who just happened to leave cameras on their windowsill.  And that wouldn't break me up too much, either.

Hoisting the "Profiteering" Flag: Not Getting the Point

Slate has an "informative" article about how a drug can end up costing $8,000, and attempts to shock the conscience of the reader with the nefarious truth: profit!

Well, no crap.

Here's a terrible, "life's not fair" truth for ya: every good thing you've ever bought, in your entire life, was designed, tested, manufactured, and sold to you with profit as a major, if not overriding, concern.  It's how the world works - more importantly, it's how America works, and it is the reason we bring so much more to the world than any other country.

Most Americans are actually pretty OK with that concept.  Nobody suggests your HDTV was invented out of an altruistic desire to convey more realistic images to the people.  I certainly don't remember anyone ever telling me the dishwasher was invented without thinking about how much money the inventor was going to make on it.  Hell, Thomas Edison is a national hero, and he was a voracious, unrepentant captialist.

But things get a little fuzzy when we start talking about medicine.  When we think of inventing medicine, we get images of Madame Curie hard at selfless work, literally killing herself that others may live.  Somewhere in the American consciousness there's this notion lurking that all new medicines are discovered by individual scientists squirreled away in a lab of their own somewhere, who (presumably) subsist on the food brought to them by similarly-altruistic birds and whose lab is always stocked, like Philemon's wine pitcher.

When we come to our senses, though, we are forced to acknowledge that the amount of money ($1.75 billion on average for a cancer drug like Avastin,) required to develop new drugs means you need the economies of scale of a large corporation to even contemplate the endeavor.  I'm not suggesting pharmaceutical companies are barely scraping by - they have some of the highest profit margins of any industry -  but the Slate article is all but arguing for price controls, which would be disastrous.  With Obamacare, drugs have a 12-year exclusivity span.  That means arch-villain Avastin the PoorSlayer will be in the $15 generics aisle in 2016.

Let's play my favorite game, the incentives game!  If the company that developed Avastin knew the government would set the price of their drug (or let's not forget, disapprove it entirely if you priced it too high,) how much money do you think would go into developing things like it?  Less than now?  Would you call that a safe assumption?  How about, less enough that no version of it, affordable or otherwise, come to exist by 2016?

There are some (pretty big) loopholes that can be closed in the pharmaceutical patent world - before Obamacare, for example, Avastin's patent would have never expired, since it was a biologic, not a "drug."  But Avastin's profit isn't one of them.  It's exactly the best possible thing to happen to the medical research - we want millions of dollars of rich people's money flowing into medical research.  It's like a tax they impose on themselves.  It would be like if the uber-rich payed $1 million a ticket to see a screening of the latest summer blockbuster four months before release - paying in its entirety the production cost of the film, and allowing you to see it for $2.  No, you're not going to literally die if you don't see Breaking Dawn in time, but let's make the big-boy decision here: are you willing to risk never getting life-saving medications just to make sure the ones we have right now are available to everyone sooner?  That sure sounds a lot like that "robbing our children" thing all those Democrats tell me I'm slandering them if I invoke.

Joe Arpaio is Evil

Self-styled (because you know a moniker means something when you have to come up with it yourself,) "America's Toughest Sheriff" Joe Arpaio is a thorn in my side, and he isn't even my sheriff.  Arpaio is, for the uninitiated, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, which essentially means the sheriff of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.  He's also under investigation by the Department of Justice and by a grand jury.

The DoJ is investigating several allegations against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office including racial profiling and unsatisfactory prison conditions (not tent city, in case you're wondering.)  MSCO maintains it does not need to cooperate with the investigation, and called on the Office of Professional Responsibility (the DoJ's internal affairs, in essence,) to prosecute the individuals involved in the MCSO investigation for attorney misconduct.  (Fun fact - MCSO has till today to cooperate or face federal lawsuit.  My wife sarcastically texts me "I wonder what the man who thinks 'I am the law!' will do?")

The County Board of Supervisors has demanded Arapio make an accounting of his office's budget to them, since, you know, it's their job and stuff.  Arpaio filed charges against the board members, ranging from spurious individual finance improprieties to a freaking RICO case against the board, the Superior Court judges who threw out the spurious charges, and the lawyers hired by the board to defend themselves from the assault!

The alternative newspaper Phoenix New Times published Arpaio's home address (admittedly, probably illegally.)  Response?  Subpoena PNT to provide every document pertaining to every unflattering article they've ever published about Arapio, and a list of everyone who has read any of those articles online, by IP. I'm excited to hear how that is in any way even remotely legal.

The list really does go on and on.  So for dessert, I offer: Joe Arpaio is using his campaign funds to run ads in a year he's not up for election, against candidates who aren't running for his office. It's all good though, because really, who's going to arrest him?  The sheriff?  Oh, wait...

Arpaio thinks, Judge Dredd-style, he is the law.  And that's a real problem.  He doesn't serve Maricopa County, Maricopa serves him.  He's dangerous, and I am inclined to believe this election year marks the beginning of a campaign to install his cronies in state office to insulate his fiefdom from scrutiny.

Getting the Incentives Wrong

The on-point Radley Balko has an excellent piece at Reason about the obscene practice of civil asset forfeiture (be sure to read the February article he links there as well.)  This is another perfect example of a law crafted without the slightest nod towards the actual incentives it creates.

In essence, the government can seize property (a car, money, even a house) if they can show there is probable cause to believe it connected to a crime.  Ostensibly, this is to deny criminals the use of their criminal spoils.  Since the government has it, hey, why not let those hard-working cops put it to good use, right?  So now, you've told cops they can enrich their station/department at will as long as they can show that something might have had a connection to a crime - even after the "criminal" is acquitted, or in the case highlighted by Balko, if no charges are ever filed in the first place!

This made a big splash in the 90's, and most states (but not Arizona,) enacted laws stipulating that CAF proceeds go to the general school fund, but as Balko's story shows, those laws are easily and routinely evaded through a number of loopholes.  Of course, here in Arizona they don't have to evade anything.  They can just take.  According to a Goldwater Institute study, from 2000-2004 $11 million dollars of CAF money went straight to law enforcement officials as direct compensation.  Which is, like, totally different from a kickback, because, um, kickbacks are illegal.  Or something.

Sweet place we live in, huh?

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Rush of Blood to the Head

Crap like this is why I can't just sit idly by and only talk about politics.  BLUF: The FDA is set to rescind approval for a drug based on studies that say it costs to much for the benefit it provides.

Money quotes:
Citing a dearth of evidence of the drug's effectiveness, its potential toxic side effects, and its high cost, many cancer experts, patient advocates and others are welcoming the prospect that Avastin's authorization for breast cancer might be repealed.
Avastin was the first drug designed to fight cancer by blocking blood flow to tumors, which has been hailed as one of the first significant innovations in decades in the war on cancer. But Avastin is also one of the most expensive of a new generation of anti-cancer medications that only eke out a few extra months of life.
So, it a) provides a (small) benefit and b) costs a lot of money, ergo c) it costs too much money and therefore will not be approved for use by anyone in the United States. (Specifically for use against breast cancer; yes, I realize it will remain approved for other cancers.  For now.)

So, how is that not a "death panel"?  I'm pretty sure that was the concern - granny's breast cancer's just gonna have to kill her, because the only thing left to try just costs to gosh darn much to let the American Public try it, dontcha know?

I'm now accepting explanations.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'

Whatever you think about Glenn Beck and his, ahem, emotional take on some things, you gotta love stuff like this:

I'm on Fire Today

Apropos of two completely separate conversations with my wife last night (via Instapundit):

Job licensure is an example of how using the "public interest" philosophy of governance fails. States issue licenses for various professions, such as most medical jobs. The public interest is instilling confidence in a specialist's capability - and in the case of doctors, it makes sense. You want to know your doctor is actually a doctor before he starts tinkering with your bits.

But funeral directors? What are we defending there? Are there really a rash of snake-oil (Two uses in one day. Shame on me.) salesmen only pretending to sell you a sturdy casket in Louisiana? Are the good people of Louisiana so overwhelmed with choice in funeral directorship that they risk making a disastrous and dangerous choice when making arrangements for their departed loved ones?

More importantly, are you really suggesting that there is no better alternative to the government in suggesting a good funeral director?  The whole funeral director industry is somehow incapable of developing rigorous standards and certifying that someone is a competent funeral director?

Incentives in Action

When people attack free-market policy advocates, they tend to set up a laissez-faire strawman and suggest we want to return to the destitution and poverty experienced by the majority of Americans before the rise of the middle class.  What garbage.  The policy motto of a free-market advocate is, was, and always will be "get the incentives right."
Incentives, economically speaking, refer to the choices most people (or enough people to matter, in any event,) will make as a result of a given environment.  One of the reasons property rights are so important to a market economy is because when you can't protect what you've earned, you're disinclined to earn things.  It's easier to work just hard enough to keep food in your stomach, because anything more probably won't benefit you any.
In a policy-setting environment, this is no less valid.  My single biggest beef with the Democratic Party is that they act like incentives are snake oil and hocus-pocus.  Incentives are real.  Wishing your policy will effect change A simply because you write a law saying "A must be," is frakkin' silly. 
To wit:  It is unquestionably illegal to come to this country without a visa.  Hence, "illegal immigration."  However, if you're pregnant, sneak in, and have your child in the United States, our Constitution says that child is a newly minted U.S. citizen.  And guess what?  Parents do crazy things for their kids.  Is it a problem?  You tell me.
There's a mistaken belief out there that these kids fast-track their parents to citizenship.  If by fast-track, you mean "wait 30 years," then sure.  I guess.  But that's not the problem.  The problem is 1 in every 12 new Americans isn't "supposed" to be an American.  If their parents followed the law, they'd be Mexicans (or, also commonly, Koreans.  Turns out holding American citizenship exempts you from compulsory military service in South Korea.)  If you lie to an immigration officer about your pregnancy, you're in the country illegally - you fraudulently obtained your visa.  If you come to this country without a visa at all, you've broken the law too. 
So on one hand, we have a law that purports to govern the allocation of the scarce resource that is American citizenship.  Not everyone in the world can be American, unless the world over decided tomorrow to petition for admission to the Union, and Congress decided, "I'm down with that."  Our immigration laws are supposed to decide how we allocate that resource.  On the other hand, we have another law that, by its existence, encourages people to push their children to the front of the line through lies, evasion, and crime.  Sure, the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't say,
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.  So aliens to the United States should totally sneak in if they want their children to be citizens of the United States.
...but it doesn't have to.  The incentive is there, and no amount of haggling over what the words are matters.  The only thing that matters to this debate is that the Fourteenth Amendment encourages people to break our laws to benefit their children.  And that is a problem that needs to be fixed.

Blagojevich Jury Deadlocked on 22 of 24 Counts

Story here.

Some dude named Occam just implied there may be foul play involved.  I am frankly shocked at the suggestion.  Everyone knows Chicago is a bastion of transparency, democracy, and justice.

Seriously though, if this doesn't end in a conviction, I think the only possible answer is to fire pretty much everyone at DoJ involved in the case, and open up an investigation into jury tampering charges.  If you're a federal prosecutor on the team trying to convict the governor of stinkin' Illinois, of all places, and you're not taking proactive steps to insulate the jury and their interests (friends, family, etc.) from dirty deals, you're not ready for prime time.  In our system, they only need to get to a single juror to make this whole thing fall apart.  Thus far, it appears they have succeeded.  I mean, for Pete's sake the defense didn't even offer a single piece of evidence.  On one side you have federal wiretaps, clearly and unambiguously recording Blago straight-up offering a U.S. Senate seat for cash, cold and hard.  On the other side?  "The defense rests."
I'm not quite so jaded as to think our Chicago-native President is actively insulating Blago from conviction.  But the steps the DoJ does (or does not) take in the next few days may change that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On Blogs, Bad Data, and Boiling Seas

A blogger with a clearly identified dog in the global warming race declares proof(!) that those dirty global warming alarmists(!) are cooking the books.  Cue expression of skepticism.
Upon further examination, however, one must be compelled to acknowledge that while this is no stop-the-presses moment, it's not trivial, either.  An NOAA partner organization has an automated program displaying obviously false data (600° F water temperatures in Lake Michigan are a wee bit questionable.)  The system that collects this data is also used to collect data for climate models.  The obvious question: was this data used in climate models?  I find the lack of immediate and vehement denial to be a pretty clear admission-by-omission.
So, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I must conclude that in the most charitable analysis, a massive array of data points being fed into our climate models is fantastically erroneous.  If this can go completely unnoticed until now, where else?  And to what scale?  What this is proof of, to my mind, is that we're proposing dramatic changes in our lifestyle based on data so sloppy it wouldn't pass muster in a 100-level chem lab.

Random tangent: How well, one wonders, do the data sets "people who took the Earth Science instead of a real lab science in high school" and "people who 'know' there is a consensus about AGW" correlate?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

That Sinking Feeling in your Gut

Think things couldn't possibly get worse in American politics?  Think again.

I'm actually feeling a little queasy as I write this.  Repeat after me: giving the government power is never a good idea.  The government bought up a crapton of bad debt through TARP.  "Bad debt" is a specific term in accounting, it means a bet you've already lost.  If a debt is labeled a "bad debt" it means you never expect to be repayed.  It's a permanent loss.  Problem was, housing bubble made for a lot of bad debt.  Enough that some banks might not have enough money left over if they stop pretending they'll be paid back.  So the government bailed them out - they bought the bad debt at a ridiculously sweetheart rate - about $0.30/dollar.  That means when Treasury bought a $200,000 bad mortgage from a bank, they paid the bank $60,000.  The usual rate for a collection agency to take a bad debt is $0.10/dollar to $0.15/dollar - so the government overpaid between 300% and 500%.  What did they buy w/ that premium?  They'll tell you stability, and in honesty, that was the primary (albeit misguided) goal.  But now, the government owns your debt.

You know those credit consolidation companies, that advertise how they'll lower your payments and even reduce your principal owed?  This is what they do.  They take your bad debt - the one you're 90 days delinquent on, that the bank is starting to wonder if they'll ever make back - and tell the bank "Look.  This dude isn't paying you back.  Now, you can get back, say 60% of what he owes, or you can get zero.  It's up to you."  The bank takes the gut punch like a man, and you dance around your living room thinking about how great you got over.  Congratulations, you've cheated that poor sucker of a bank out of its money.  Of course, they're not operating at a loss, which means your irresponsibility is baked into their interest rates, so really you cheated some random responsible person out of his money.  But whatever.  You made out, who cares, really?

Well here's the deal.  Why wouldn't the government do exactly the same thing?  And sure enough, that's what their looking to do.  3 months before a tough election.  They're going to give free money to irresponsible borrowers, and you and I are footing the bill, both financially and politically.  Remember that woman who said she was voting Obama because he's going to buy her a house and a car?  That doesn't sound that funny anymore.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Prop 8 Thing

As I've mentioned before, I voted for 102.  I did so exclusively in accordance with the counsel of my Church leaders.  My personal opinion is, was, and will tomorrow be that the notion of state sponsorship of marriage is about as appropriate in a secular government as state sponsorship of baptism.  It is a holdover from a time where church and state were one and the same, and it has no business in our First-Amendment-loving country.
I assembled an aphorism of which I'm rather proud (and which my lovely wife felt was overcomplicated, but alas,) "The boot on your foot today is the same one at your throat tomorrow."  This is why the Prop 8's and 102's of the world are a bad idea.  When you tell the world you're willing to use government to enforce your social agenda, at the expense of another fully enfranchised American citizen's, you give that citizen the ability to wield that some power over you, just as soon as he gets more friends than you to the polls.  If that kind of ideological gangland brawl is what you want, then go for it.  But it's stupid.
If you are LDS, you probably believe (as I do,) that the Pride Cycle is a real, demonstrable, sociological phenomenon.  Assuming that is true, you must acknowledge that wicked men will someday exercise dominion over you and yours.  Why give that future King Noah the tools by which he will oppress you?
And so now, a judge has struck down Prop 8, an amendment to the California Constitution.  Barring a reversal at the federal level, which is extremely unlikely, Californians will have exhausted their recourse to affect the issue at the state level.
So now it is, according to the opinion delivered in this case, unconstitutional to discriminate against homosexuals in the state marriage system.  What then, for state marriages performed in one of the several LDS temples in California?  Now that we've firmly established that the state has an interest in marriage, it must needs follow that the state can regulate the use of licenses it itself issues for the performance thereof.  Is it a violation of the due process rights of homosexual Californians for someone to refuse to solemnize a marriage duly licensed by the state?  Expect this argument to come soon.  It's not crazy - a wedding photographer in New Mexico was fined for refusing to engage in a private commercial transaction with a lesbian couple who wanted her to photograph their commitment ceremony under the due process clause of that state's constitution.
A conscientious believer with an eye on history must surely know that Christianity has never fared well to pin its fortunes to the whim of government.  I could only wish more people could see that.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Article

You can find it here; it's a good read.  It's very narrowly aimed at the issue of women's rights, which makes a lot more sense than my initial reaction of, "Is Time actually advocating a 'stay the course' attitude???"  It's important to remember that there are more issues at stake in any decision than the most obvious one.  I think about it now, actually, and NPR spends a *lot* of time talking about the women's rights issue in Afghanistan as well.  Like Time, however, they tend to couch it in terms of how dangerous Karzai's reintegration plan is for real democracy.  It's definitely a valid point though.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On That Note

Time's cover photo this week:
In my cynicism, I'm surprised this is their lead story.  I'm looking forward to reading it.

The Only Acceptable Outcome

It is becoming apparent that, as suspected, PFC Bradley Manning was the source for WikiLeaks' latest document dump of classified Afghanistan data.  That information, if you were not already aware, includes descriptions of Afghan informants, to include name, father's name, and village.  (Those three things combined are the closest thing you can get to name, phone number, address, and SSN for an Afghan, and really, are just as good.)  Those people are now dead men.  In the event that they're yet walking around, that is a condition the Taliban is actively taking steps to rectify at this very moment.

From a "big picture" perspective, the even greater harm is how this has the potential to prevent any effective HUMINT collection in theater ever again.  Imagine someone telling a potential informant their identity will be protected now.  Bottom line, PFC Manning has murdered hundreds of innocent Afghans who were trying to help us make their country a better place, single-handedly sabotaged Afghan trust of the American presence in their country, and potentially has kept us from ever winning that war.

I am not a fan, at all, of people who like to throw the word "treason" around every time someone's actions make our job in Iraq or Afghanistan harder.  But in the case of PFC Manning, I cannot think of any other appropriate charge.  He has betrayed his country from a position of extreme trust, causing literally incalculable damage that almost certainly includes the deaths of several critical allies.  He has done this to show "how the first world exploits the third."  His actions have given a significant tactical and strategic advantage to our enemies.  Beyond Adam Gadahn and Anwar Al-Auwlaki, I cannot think of anyone else who's actions more accurately describe treason.

PFC Manning is a traitor.  He may argue that he was not fully cognizant of the consequences of his actions, and that may be an argument in favor of leniency in sentencing, but it does not change the validity of the charge.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blog Again? Sure, why not?

Because I find myself bored, and marginally frustrated that I don't have enough people to coerce into listening to my rants, I return again to blogging.  Ah, interwebs, were it not for you, I would have to come to terms with the knowledge that nobody cares what I think.

So, the Chevy Volt has a sticker price, and as an interesting experiment I decided to really figure out what your trip costs in a Volt.  The best estimates I was able to find suggest an average power consumption rate of 0.25kWh/mile and uses about 8kWh for its 40-mile range. After that the hybrid engine gets an average of 50mpg.  The average price of electricity in Arizona is $0.099/kWh, and the average price of gas $2.76/gal.  So how good is that?  Well call the Volt comparable to a luxury Cobalt, which has an MSRP of $24,500.  To make it worth taking a Volt for purely economic reasons, you'd need to save $16,500 over the life of your car.  How long will that take?  As long as you drive it at least 40 miles every day, the answer is as long as $16,500 of gas would last you at 40 miles/day, which at the current prices is 31.92 years.

As my coworker helpfully pointed out, GM is not known for making durable, lasting vehicles.

But wait!  What about peak oil!  Someday gas will be way more expensive than the current (no doubt recession-deflated) prices!  Let's go w/ a mind-blowing $6.00/gallon.  Congratulations, your Volt only has to last 11.28 years now!  And don't forget to drive it 40 miles every.  single.  day.  If you skimp on Sundays, it'll just make it take longer.

No doubt you will be joining me this evening to demand its hastened production and release.  I look forward to seeing you.