Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Thursday, March 31, 2005


    Have I mentioned I love Heinlein?

    Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    This is known as "bad luck".


    -- Robert A. Heinlein

    Case in point: Modern-day Luddites at work.

    Posted by Tom, 3/31/2005 7:10:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, March 30, 2005


    Support this book!

    The Mises Institute is working on a new book project, The Quotable Mises, which will be published with the donations of people like you and me. It is intended to be an "everyman" introduction to Mises' work and ideas, and to promote and disseminate the principles of the free market to everyone.

    Two relevant quotes:

    "The issue is always the same: the government or the market. There is no third solution."

    "No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us."


    I am preparing to make my donation, and I hope you will too.

    Posted by Tom, 3/30/2005 7:04:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 29, 2005


    Death Penalty Blues

    Apparently a court in Colorado has thrown out a death penalty ruling after discovering jurors consulted the Bible to reach their verdict on sentencing. Presumably this goes against the "separation of church and state" doctrine.

    I used to be a proponent of the death penalty, and I can still understand why some would pursue it. I am also (as it says above) a Christian, and I think that a person's religious beliefs should influence how they vote in juries, and that the court should just shut the heck up about it. I am convinced, however, that the death penalty is wrong and should be abolished. I'm glad that the court saw fit to commute the sentence to life in prison, but I am not particularly happy with the court's grounds for doing so. I just don't think the State should have the power of life and death, at least insofar as it concerns capital punishment.

    Yes, I understand that the death penalty was used a lot in the Bible -- even for a particular Jewish guy whose only crime was making religious leaders uncomfortable with their own hypocrisy. But that doesn't change the fact that I don't believe the modern State should have the power to execute its citizens.

    Posted by Tom, 3/29/2005 7:08:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    The Trouble with Tasers

    Anne-Marie Cusac writes an in-depth article about the use of Tasers, their dangers, and some of the more egregious examples of police brutality via Taser. I, of course, am steadfastly against the use of Tasers or other "non-lethal" weapons by police officers except in the most limited of circumstances. Here's why:

    But Amnesty International says the tasers are making it too easy for the police to use excessive force. "Claims that tasers have led to a fall in police shootings need to be put into perspective, given that shootings constitute only a small percentage of all police use of force," says the November report. "In contrast, taser usage has increased dramatically, becoming the most prevalent force option in some departments. While police shootings in Phoenix fell from twenty-eight to thirteen in 2003, tasers were used that year in 354 use-of-force incidents, far more than would be needed to avoid a resort to lethal force."

    If the perceived cost of an action is drastically reduced, the likelihood of an individual taking that action increases proportionately. Compare a firearm to a Taser. The firearm carries with it an extreme likelihood of grave bodily injury or death. By comparison, the Taser, as promoted by its manufacturer, "has a lower injury rate than other nonlethal weapons and has had no reported long-term, adverse aftereffects" (despite of course the fact that a fair number of people have died from their use). A cop on the street who doesn't know how to deal peacefully with a situation is very likely to resort to force if he thinks that doing so will not have any long-term consequences. Some incidents are truly shocking (pardon the pun):

    Even one-year-olds have been shocked, according to records Taser International supplied to the Associated Press. The company also told the San Jose Mercury News that its taser can be used safely on toddlers.

    I'm sorry, but if you can't handle a 1-year-old without resorting to brute force, you have no business being a cop. And if your company has no better scruples than to recommend the use of force against a toddler, you really need to be out of business.

    Update: Holy crap! I agree with PETA! The best way to make Tasers safe is to stop using them.

    Posted by Tom, 3/29/2005 6:46:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, March 27, 2005


    Makes my head spin

    My inner geek just goes bonkers when I read stuff like this. I start writing code in my head, designing test environments, considering the implications of virtual versus corporeal existence, and so forth.

    Posted by Tom, 3/27/2005 5:46:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, March 25, 2005


    Worst. Logo. Ever.

    This has got to be the worst pediatric center logo ever designed:



    At what point do you not step back and say "this is the wrong message"?

    UPDATE: Apparently they pulled down the page. Someone must have woken up.

    Fark generated a lot of buzz on it. They must be responsible for the takedown.

    Posted by Tom, 3/25/2005 6:54:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005


    Somewhere out there, Frank Herbert is smiling

    Here's a new invention to extract drinkable water from urine, sweat, and other such unsavory sources. Make it wearable, and you have a stillsuit.

    Posted by Tom, 3/23/2005 7:26:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005


    Argh

    Sitting on the bed
    Or lying wide awake
    There's demons in my head
    And it's more than I can take
    I think I'm on a roll
    But I think it's kinda weak
    Saying all I know is
    I gotta get away from me


    Offspring
    "Gotta Get Away"

    Posted by Tom, 3/22/2005 7:25:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    The Party of the Rich

    So which party has all the lazy rich people living off their trust funds and daddy's money? Turns out it's not who you think, as shown by the demographics of Democrat strongholds:

    Trustfunders stand out even more vividly when you look at the political map of the Rocky Mountain states. In Idaho and Wyoming, each state's wealthiest county was also the only county to vote for John Kerry: Blaine County, Idaho (Sun Valley), where Kerry stayed at his wife's imported Cotswold farmhouse on his much photographed skiing and snowboarding vacation, and Teton County, Wyo. (Jackson Hole), where Dick Cheney has a house and where Bill Clinton took a pre-election holiday after his pollster Dick Morris reported that a trip to the mountains focus-grouped better than Martha's Vineyard.

     Speaking of Martha's Vineyard, it voted 73 percent for Kerry, and nearby Nantucket, where Kerry's wife has another house, voted 63 percent for him -- indeed, Nantucket was one of only three of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties that did not vote for George W. Bush. Massachusetts Catholics gave their fellow Massachusetts Catholic Kerry only 51 percent of their votes, but he won 77 percent in Boston, 85 percent in Cambridge, and 69 percent and 73 percent in trustfunder-heavy Hampshire and Berkshire Counties in the western mountains. 

     Where Democrats had a good year in 2004 they owed much to trustfunders. In Colorado, they captured a Senate and a House seat and both houses of the legislature. Their political base in that state is increasingly not the oppressed proletariat of Denver, but the trustfunder-heavy counties that contain Aspen (68 percent for Kerry), Telluride (72 percent) and Boulder (66 percent).


    Posted by Tom, 3/22/2005 6:55:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 17, 2005


    PJ rides the bus...

    Clayton Cramer gives a heads-up on PJ O'Rourke's latest article, in which he makes these observations about mass transit:

    There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell. Only 4% of Americans take public transportation to work. Even in cities they don't do it. Less than 25% of commuters in the New York metropolitan area use public transportation. Elsewhere it's far less--9.5% in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, 1.8% in Dallas-Fort Worth. As for total travel in urban parts of America--all the comings and goings for work, school, shopping, etc.--1.7 % of those trips are made on mass transit.

    Then there is the cost, which is--obviously--$52 billion. Less obviously, there's all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, "There isn't a single light rail transit system in America in which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides." Heritage cites the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.


    Posted by Tom, 3/17/2005 7:08:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Ann's on the warpath

    Ann Coulter takes on the subject of female cops in her usual snarky style:

    I think I have an idea that would save money and lives: Have large men escort violent criminals. Admittedly, this approach would risk another wave of nausea and vomiting by female professors at Harvard. But there are also advantages to not pretending women are as strong as men, such as fewer dead people. Even a female math professor at Harvard should be able to run the numbers on this one.

    Man, if she weren't married, and I weren't married, and I had a ghost of a chance of being in her social circle...

    Sorry honey, just daydreaming

    Posted by Tom, 3/17/2005 7:02:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    An appropriate use of government

    Yes, they do exist. In this case, the government lays the smackdown on CompUSA's fraudulent "mail-in rebate" practices. Yeah, I know. The FTC couldn't do that if it didn't exist. But who's to say that the FTC is the only government organization capable of doing such a thing? What about small-claims court? Simple lawsuit, here's the facts, make 'em pay, judge. Judge Judy does it all the time, and probably for a lot cheaper than the FTC.

    Posted by Tom, 3/17/2005 6:55:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005


    For that relative that bugs you...

    ... a custom set of steak knives for their birthday.

    Posted by Tom, 3/16/2005 5:46:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Privacy Advocates, Take Notice

    With new ways to invade your privacy comes new ways to prevent such invasion. Introducing two gadgets for detecting and destroying RFID tags. Let freedom ring! Zzzzap!

    Posted by Tom, 3/16/2005 6:48:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Cool Stuff

    John Deere builds giant six-legged tractor. Apparently it's only for Finland, but I could really have some fun with it in Oklahoma.

    If you're a gaming geek from way back in the olden times of pencil and paper RPG's, this rig is for you. I am/was, but now I am sold on computer gaming instead, even though a worthwhile virtual tabletop has not yet been invented.

    Finally, Grouchy Old Cripple has the funniest graphic I've seen in a long time: Ten Ways Dick Cheney Can Kill You.

    Posted by Tom, 3/16/2005 6:42:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, March 11, 2005


    Now it's gone creepy

    I've stayed away from the Terry Schiavo case, because I'm really not all that sure I want to get involved in the debate. But now someone's made an earnest offer of a million bucks for her husband to step off and let her parents take over her care. Michael's response is essentially "no thanks, I want her dead." Now that's just sick.

    Posted by Tom, 3/11/2005 7:44:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 10, 2005


    Best. Blog. Ever.

    OK, maybe not ever, but the best one I've seen in a while. I'll be adding it to my daily browse. It's the story of one guy's journey with his new fixer-upper house, and it's just beginning.

    The Last Nail

    Posted by Tom, 3/10/2005 7:22:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Blood Pressure Rising...

    From the latest (print, April 2005) copy of Reason magazine:

    Food, blankets, and medicine meant for Malaysian victims of the tsunami that swept Asia were held up pending the arrival of politicians to take credit for them. "There are mattresses and blankets piled up to the ceiling in the relief centers, but [the authorities] are waiting for some big-shot government politician to come and distribute them, so that everyone gets media publicity," one relief worker told Asia Times.

    "We're from the government, and we're here to help."

    There were obstacles to aid here at home too. When 10-year-old Carolyn Lipsick wanted to do something to help the tsunami victims, she decided to sell cookies and drinks in front of her Miami Beach home. The city government refused to grant an occupational license for the stand.

    Ain't market regulation swell?

    Some days I just want to beat the snot out of some people.

    Posted by Tom, 3/10/2005 7:18:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Libertarianism and Computers

    What causes the computer industry to be so disproportionately libertarian? Here's my thoughts:

    Computers and computer programming are one of the few relatively unregulated professions, which causes libertarians to flock to it. With a computer at home, a compiler, and the sweat of my own brow, I can create products and sell them on the internet. I can sell my services to the highest bidder. I can learn my profession hands-on while I work, and do not have to go through an established learning institution to get the skills I need to do my job. Computer programming is a libertarian dream job.

    It's much more difficult to be libertarian in jobs where unions organize, where competitors seek legal advantages by lobbying for laws (like licensing) to eliminate or restrict competition, and where activists are constantly trying to make life miserable. Computer programmers are more free than doctors, lawyers, hairdressers, electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, accountants, and even waiters and cooks. All of our certifications are voluntary and provided by private industry, there are no licenses or special taxes, and the product's only worry is getting sold in a market of thousands of competitors. It should come as no surprise that our job attracts libertarians in droves.

    Posted by Tom, 3/10/2005 6:54:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 8, 2005


    Stupid Should Hurt

    If it did, this idiot would be writhing on the floor in agony, soaked in his own urine.

    the gun they are protecting is designed to destroy airliners. The weapon in question is the .50-caliber sniper rifle.



    Surface to air missiles destroy airliners. .50 caliber rounds make half-inch holes and that's about it. What a tool.

    Posted by Tom, 3/8/2005 7:16:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, March 4, 2005


    Gunners on the Move

    Some gunners over in Virginia have started a protest of sorts against the law that says you can't concealed carry in restaurants that serve alcohol. It turns out that there's no law in Virginia that says you can't open carry in such establishments. So they show up with the guns in plain sight. Check out the handwringing from a local hoplophobe:

    As the gaggle of gun enthusiasts with their assorted handguns sitting openly on their hips dined on hamburgers and chicken tenders at the Fuddruckers restaurant in Annandale, Victor Castellon's eyes grew wide with concern.
    "I've got to be careful with these guys because they've got guns," he said, sitting at a nearby table with his girlfriend. "It's like the old West."


    Oh, quiet down, Nancy-boy. Don't get your panties in a bunch. I for one would just love it if open carry became the norm around Oklahoma.

    Posted by Tom, 3/4/2005 7:19:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    The Intellectual Incoherence of Conservatism

    What is wrong with the Democratic party is pretty well documented and glaringly obvious. Here's what's wrong with the Republicans:

    From Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

    However, it is also true that many conservatives are genuinely concerned about family disintegration or dysfunction and cultural decline. I am thinking here in particular of the conservatism represented by Patrick Buchanan and his movement. Buchanan's conservatism is by no means as different from that of the conservative Republican party establishment as he and his followers fancy themselves. In one decisive respect their brand of conservatism is in full agreement with that of the conservative establishment: both are statists. They differ over what exactly needs to be done to restore normalcy to the U.S., but they agree that it must be done by the state. There is not a trace of principled antistatism in either.

    ...

    In fact, Buchananites freely admit that they are statists. They detest and ridicule capitalism, laissez-faire, free markets and trade, wealth, elites, and nobility; and they advocate a new populist—indeed proletarian—conservatism which amalgamates social and cultural conservatism and socialist economics.

    ...

    Most contemporary conservatives, then, especially among the media darlings, are not conservatives but socialists—either of the internationalist sort (the new and neoconservative welfare-warfare statists and global social democrats) or of the nationalist variety (the Buchananite populists). Genuine conservatives must be opposed to both. In order to restore social and cultural norms, true conservatives can only be radical libertarians, and they must demand the demolition—as a moral and economic distortion—of the entire structure of the interventionist state.


    Posted by Tom, 3/4/2005 7:17:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 3, 2005


    Says it all...



    Posted by Tom, 3/3/2005 6:57:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Media Bias

    John Lott shows how the media has lied by omission in reporting a recent multiple-victim shooting in Tyler, Texas. They have deliberately contributed to the public's misconceptions about the efficacy of concealed-weapons licensees in mitigating criminal behavior.

    Posted by Tom, 3/3/2005 6:52:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, March 2, 2005


    Junk Science and Powermongering

    The Kyoto Protocol and its handwringing faithful are smacked around for the power-hungry leeches they are in this latest from the Mises Institute:

    The chief promotional artifact in the proceedings, the "hockey stick" historical temperature chart of IPCC Third Scientific Assessment Chapter Lead Author Michael Mann , is shown to be based on a computer program that produces hockey sticks from over 99 percent of ten thousand samples of random noise fed to it.

    I've written a program or two, in my last 10 years as a software engineer. The only time I've ever seen a program produce the same particular effect 99 percent of the time when given random data is when either A) I screwed up and wrote it wrong, or B) I was trying to produce that result on purpose. Of course, none of this will be taken to mean anything by the high priests of the new environmental religion, but a good sniper takes his shots when the opportunity arises.

    Posted by Tom, 3/2/2005 6:43:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...