Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Damn.

If you haven't thought about our boys in Afghanistan lately, take a second to read and watch the video, and appreciate what a hard job they're tasked with doing.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Exactly right.

Like friend Stephen Camp, I'm not a fan of the PRC, but this undercover police officer there did exactly the right thing when assigned to deal with a hostage-taker who had already stabbed his victim. She waited until he was distracted, and shot him in the central nervous system, repeatedly. (Video with English captions here.)

Some may try to make an issue of the smile and relieved chuckle that she gives to the surprisingly aggressive* interviewer's question about being nervous.

But she had won a fight, rescued an injured and endangered hostage, and had not gotten hurt herself. Moreover, she comported herself well throughout. Hell, she even had rounds left over.

When you win a fight, it's okay to give a relieved smile.


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*They ran up behind her to video over her shoulder as she fired the last rounds. You think American news crews would be so bold, on average? And would they get that kind of access? State-run news, people.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Well, duh.

U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill said what we all knew: Cheerleading is not a sport.

As the father of two daughters who was told that the huge bond floated to build a new football stadium would "benefit the girls as much as the boys" in our school district, I've just got to say, someone had to finally admit this.

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The perfect 'Rita.

Marko mentioned his intent to make an over sized margarita today.

While I haven't made one in an age, I have pretty strong feelings about this strong mixed drink, and would like to share them here:

1: Don't waste your money on premium tequila in a margarita; you're mixing it. Use midrange tequila. (That said, don't scrape the bottom of the barrel.)

2. Always squeeze your limes fresh. ALWAYS. Limes are too cheap, and squeezing them is too easy (if you have a squeezer. If you don't, get one. A nutcracker-type clamshell metal citrus squeezer is about $11, and lasts forever.), not to.

3. Don't use mixes, EVER. There should be three liquid ingredients in your 'rita: Tequila, Lime Juice, and Triple Sec. If you have to, you can sweeten it a bit with some sugar, but my preferred sweetener is to add more Triple Sec.

4. Use a shaker-type mixer. It's not ABSOLUTELY necessary, but that $4 shaker over a pint glass (or $7 plastic shaker mixer with graduated markings, which are handy) will allow you to mix the ingredients in the presence of ice, while not diluting the drink. Then strain it (to get the seeds out) over ice into a chilled glass.

5. Bruise the rind of a fresh lime, and firmly press it down on the rim of the glass, running it around the glass a couple of times before running some lime juice (usually from the face of a cut lime) over the rim before salting the rim. Even if you don't salt the rim, do this. It puts some of the aromatic oils into the glass, and makes it taste VERY fresh. It takes far less time to do it than to say this, I promise.

This sounds like a bit of trouble, but in practice, it doesn't even double the time spent to make a margarita, and the outcome is far better than any margarita that I've ever tasted in a bar.

Try it just once, and tell me what you think. Note: This method uses a bit more Triple Sec (or if you're feeling saucy, Blue CuraƧao) than a lot of recipes call for, so plan accordingly.

And be careful. Those things are potent, tasty, and sneak up on you. Plan accordingly.

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This is getting old.

The most common (and apparently powerful) attack on the Tea Party movement that the Obama supporters have is race. You don't like the current administration, and some of you who are critical have been outspoken racists. Ergo: Your entire movement is racist. (Guilt By Association. Circumstantial ad hominem. Hasty Generalization. How many logical fallacies can they employ?)

You get people like those at Don't Tea On Me, who point to a single data point, and conclude that the argument is invalid, and thus the only answer for why you're critical of their side is that you're a racist.

The anonymous author of the story seems to interpret that graph differently than I do.

From what I can see, it shows that spending goes up during war. Even that's lamentable. Reagan ended the Cold War by outspending the communist bloc. Bush I spent in Iraq, Bush II spent in Afghanistan and Iraq. While I think that both Bushes overspent, I can't help but notice that the graph goes up at its steepest rate during the present President's administration.

That increase was predicted by the critics that heard the amazing array of government spending projects that were promised during the last presidential campaign. Give our President that: he's a man of his word, who spent and spent with his cohorts in Congress.

Again, though: it's offensive to be called a racist, simply for being the loyal opposition. I have NEVER thought of the President's race as a liability. Nor have any of my friends who are critics of him.

The truth is, the biggest wedge between the current President's administration and its critics are the knee-jerk supporters, who mindlessly attack the critical pundits with name-calling.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's not the speech. It's the qualification.

Who knows what motivation Rick Glen Strandlof had for claiming that he was a former Marine, decorated with a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his actions in Iraq? The fact is, the Marines don't have any records of his being a member of their rolls. That's pretty damning, right there, because the Marines, being the cliquish organization that they are, are darned good about keeping up with who was one of them, for better or worse. (For example, they still claim Whitman and Oswald, and even Jeremiah Wright, among their former ranks.)

So when the Justice Department found out about Strandlof's false claims, they utilized the relatively new Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which broadened a former law against claiming to be a Medal Of Honor recipient. The new version of the federal law made it a violation to claim all badges and decorations of the armed forces as having been earned. (Text here.)

The case went to trial in a Denver federal court. Strandlof claimed a freedom of speech defense, and the feds claimed that false speech isn't protected.

And that was their case.

Well, when you stop right there, it's almost understandable that U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn dismissed the case, ruling that the law was unconstitutional. My argument would have been one of qualifications. If a man puts himself out to be an attorney, but is not, he is guilty of a crime. If a woman claims to be a medical doctor, but is not, she is guilty of a crime. If a person claims to be a police officer but is not, that person is committing a crime. It is proper that these persons be charged with those crimes, because there is a compelling public interest in vesting real doctors, lawyers, and police with certain credentials, lest just anyone claim to be able to be able to give legal advice (that might get you locked up), or do surgery on you (that might kill you), or arrest you (which will take your freedom away.).

What's the compelling interest? Oh, offhand, I would say that it's in reducint the cheapening of the heroism of our nation's soldiers. That sounds jingoistic, doesn't it? It's not meant to be. I simply mean that, if our nation is to stand, it must maintain a group of armed forces that defends it against enemies foreign and domestic. That's a Constitutionally valid goal. If we allow the awards and decorations, badges, and ranks bestowed by our military to be cheapened by permitting those who did not earn them to claim them, then we are undermining the esteem held by the public for our veterans: "Oh, so you're a retired Army Major with two Bronze Stars? So what? That guy begging spare change out on the corner is a former Marine Colonel, with a Navy Cross, a MoH, and a Purple Heart for the damage done to his liver during the Kaiser War!"

In Texas, we've got a law against preparing or presenting a fraudulent educational degree as one that was earned. I'm glad of it, in that I put in my time and money and effort to get my degree, and I'd rather not have its worth diluted by worthless diplomas put out. In effect, that degree is a financial instrument, and may advance my career, earnings, and reputation.

At the very least, can we not look at military decorations the same way, for our veterans? While I was at college, they were earning their own skins on the wall.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

About as good as we'll probably get.

I suppose we've got as good of a deal as we're going to get on the Polanski situation. He's served some time, and the warrant in the US is still extant, meaning that he'll not come to the U.S.

But most of that time was in house arrest, in Switzerland, not especially known for their horrific prisons.

Best would be if we as a nation would quit buying the product of a felon. But so long as the felon's product is bought and sold and produced in a land of insanity, this pretty much amounts to trying to buy things not manufactured by slave labor.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Motivation for a drama queen.

A lot of things have been attributed to the late Kurt Vonnegut, some of which the crusty old writer disavowed. But Derek Sivers says he saw Vonnegut describe this phenomenon himself, in a lecture, about why people demand drama. Good, quick read, with graphs!

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Just Call The Cops.

I recently got notification from the District Attorney's office that I didn't need to come in to testify on a Stalking case that I filed last year.

The victim had called 911 and met me at the police department. I arrived to find a distraught woman, who wanted to go inside the locked P.D. very quickly. I interviewed her, and learned that her baby's daddy, Jimmy Joe Bob, had called and threatened to kill her, and her family. He was very specific about how he was going to do it, and what tool he was going to use, and what members of her family he was going to kill. He made special mention of her new boyfriend. She knew that he would do it, she said, because she had been with him for a long time, and he was a very violent man. I checked his criminal history, and found that there was evidence to support this. While we talked, her phone blew up with voicemail messages. He left message after message, saying that he was en route from his distant town, coming to kill her and her family and her boyfriend. You could hear car noises in the background. He laughed with others, and sang little sing-song rhymes about how he was going to do this thing.

Eventually, after I had her statement, I answered one of the calls, and I talked to Jimmy Joe Bob. I explained who I was, and asked him why he had said these things. He laughed, and said he was just joking, but went on to malign her boyfriend and parents. As we talked, I could hear his vehicle slow, stop, accelerate, and continue like it had been going. I asked him where he was going, and he told me that he was going back home. He'd decided to cut his 300 mile trip short, just 40 miles from his destination: her house. She went home, alerted the family, and they set in vigil. I did some close patrols on their house. Of course, he never showed up that night.

I gathered the evidence, and put together a case and a warrant for Stalking (a State Jail felony). He was picked up, and made bond. The D.A. dropped the charge down to Terroristic Threat (Class A misdemeanor), but still continued on with the case. At the last minute, he plead for 9 months and fines. Not too bad, considering a Class A is only good for up to a year in jail, and no one ever gets that much.

This case was an unusually strong one, because Jimmy Joe Bob got talkative when he was drunk and tweaking, and he told me a lot that hurt his defense. He also left those damning voicemail messages. I don't always get such good evidence to work with.

_ _ _ _
I thought about that case, as I read my friend Don Gwinn's response to the New York Times editorial: "The Hard Work of Gun Control."

Apparently, it's ludicrous, in the mind of a N.Y.T. editor, to conceive of a situation when an armed family member would be a more effective response to a real threat than calling a police officer to your location, away from the thousand-odd other persons that he's charged with protecting.

There are 13,400 sworn police officers in Chicago. Sounds like a LOT, doesn't it? But then consider that the population of Chicago proper is 2.8 million people (greater Chicago metropolitan area is 9.7M.). Then, too, realize that only about a quarter of those officers are on duty at any given time, and you end up with a ratio of one officer for every 836 people. Then consider that a lot of those sworn officers are detectives and supervisors who don't patrol. But if we ignore that, and pretend that the chief and the captains and the deputy chiefs and the superintendents all get out and patrol, you get about a 1 : 836 ratio of cops to citizens.

Here's the fact, coming from a patrol officer who's given this some study to get a graduate degree in criminal justice: Police VERY RARELY interrupt crimes in progress. Police are out patrolling mostly so that they can see things developing, and so that they can be in the neighborhood to respond when something does happen. That is, we are reactive. Laughing it off and telling Mom to just call the cops on a situation that may very well never happen, but which is likely enough to make her scared about it, is the kind of insensitivity that makes me wonder if the author of such a comment ever had a mother. As the officer who must make the decision between trying to justify his camping out at this ONE house for more than a few minutes longer, or patrolling for the other 835 people on my beat*, I can tell you that it would seem like the best idea is to make sure that someone in the house could take care of Mama.
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*FWIW, Chicago has one of the best ratios of cops. I'm at 1:4000 here.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.


(Click to embiggen.)

When I commented on how much I loved this hanging plaque made by my friend and sculptor Paula Blincoe Collins, she gave it to me as a gift. Given that this is her stock and trade, it was actually a pretty valuable gift, just monetarily. But more important to me is the sentiment, which has a lot of meaning for me. I had a scoutmaster who once said that you have to say something three times to a person before they fully get what you're saying to them. I've spent a lot of time telling people to tell the truth.

The fired clay plaque, which has the texture of lace pressed into the face of it, holds a place of honor on my mantlepiece, but I've been seriously considering hanging it up at work.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

A new reason for Breda to fear octopi.

As we all know, Breda is bothered by octuopodes. She claims there are reasons.
Apperently, when featured in CNN news stories, they draw moronic speculation like belly button lint.

The stupid-- it burns.

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More amazing than we are capable of imagining.

Tamara said, in comments: "As the saying goes, 'The universe is not only stranger than we imagine; it's stranger than we can imagine.'"

Proof of this, courtesy of The Onion, is Mitch:
"The identical processes that have given us the remarkable camouflage of the stick insect and the magnificent plumage of the bird-of-paradise have, it would seem, also given us a man who cannot scramble an egg," University of Pennsylvania biologist Ann Goldwyn-Ross said. "Despite evolution's emphasis on the inheritance and replication of advantageous traits, a man walks among us today who sweats profusely in any temperature and went to see Anger Management in theaters twice."

That's some good stuff, right there.

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Better looking than a brochure, and more informative, too.

By way of Bayou Renaissance Man, I learn of the site "Do You Come With The Car," a fun little blog run by a "booth babe." You've seen them-- the eye candy hired to bring customers to a display, so that the sales reps can have a shot. It's a good marketing investment, frankly, and less annoying than someone on a PA yelling "Hey!" or something to try to hook your attention.

I've generally assumed that most of the booth babes have scant knowledge of the product that they grace with their pretty presence. But this lady says differently:
We are walking, talking product handbooks, and how well we answer questions about the vehicles we represent has a direct impact on whether that attendee will buy our car or one of our competitor's.
My favorite moments at the show are when a male salesperson sends an incredulous dude my way to get an answer to a technical question.
Who knew?

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Parthenogenisis.

LabRat discusses the crazy, crazy world of gender determination in lizards that give birth without having sex or even contact with lizards of the opposite sex. . . and it will make you reel.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

NASA misses the most basic point in science: preserving documentation.

You ever run across one of those conspiracy theorists who claims that we never went to the moon, and that NASA filmed the Lunar landings in the desert, using mock-ups? I have. They're tedious. The thing about conspiracy theory is that you can NEVER prove that there wasn't a conspiracy. We cannot prove what is not; we can only hope to prove what is.

But when you start allowing basic evidence of what Is to come into question, you open the rabbit hole for conspiracy theorists to try to pull you into their argument. Then, whether or not they've been in the least bit successful, the very fact that you HAD that argument is proof that "some skeptics are involved in discussions as to the veracity of...." whatever it is that they're trying to prove.

So when you're the frickin' National Aeronautic and Space Administration, an organization made up of self-confessed geeks and scientists, you probably would do well to act like scientists, and preserve your documentation of the most controversial project that you've ever spent the public money on: the Moon landings. It seems that NASA has discovered that it taped over the original video that Apollo 11 beamed down from the Moon, with later data.

NASA, are you guys trying to needle the detractors? Keep up this kind of sloppy science*, and I'm going to stop scribbling love notes to you.

_________________________________________
*Yes, evidence preservation is part of science. A boring, less glamorous part of science, but a very necessary one.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Mayor Daley: You're Not Listening.

The new Chicago gun restriction ordinance was just passed, supposedly to come into compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling in McDonald, which effectively overturned the 28 year Chicago gun ban. In McDonald, the Supreme Court said that they based their decision in the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause, which made the right to bear arms an individual right.

Comes now the new ordinance passed unanimously (45-0) by the Chicago aldermen. This ordinance has laughably been referred to in at least one headline as a "gun rights ordinance."

Look for the violations of equal protection:

1. Only one handgun per licensee per household may be operable. All other handguns must be disassembled, and/or locked up.

2. Each firearm must be registered with the city, for a $15 fee. The gun owner must get a city registration card, for a fee of $100, renewable every three years. If you're late to submit your yearly gun registration, there's an extra $60 fee. The gun owner must obtain 4 hours' worth of classroom training, and an hour of range training. Presumably, for a fee. (Too bad if you're poor; rights are for the wealthy.) Firearms training for a Chicago permit may NOT be held in the city of Chicago.

3. Only one handgun per month may be registered.

4. Registrants may not have their handguns on their porches. They may not have them in their yards. They may not have them in their garages. Only in their homes may registrants posses their single working handgun.

5. Two convictions for DWI, ever? No handguns in Chicago. They will not permit it.

6. Ever violated the city ordinance against possessing laser sights or suppressors? Ever violated the ordinance by loaning someone a gun? No license for you, then.

Text of the ordinance is HERE.

What part of "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" do you not understand?!?

And this last bit amazed me:
Residents convicted of violating the ordinance face a fine of up to $5,000 and be locked up for as long as 90 days for a first offense, and a fine of up to $10,000 and as long as six months behind bars for subsequent convictions.
This is a MUNICIPAL ORDINANCE! In other words, a ticketable offense. In Texas, with few exceptions, a citable offense (class C misdemeanor) may not incur a fine of more than $500. Shoot, there's argument over whether we should even be able to put a person in jail for an ordinance violation. (So far, we still can, but it's a bone of contention.) But, as we know, we here in Texas do not know the Chicago Way.

As I learn more about the Chicago Way (45-0 vote?!?), and consider that our President's career was manufactured by that machine, I get very chilly.

I suppose that we should thank the City Of Chicago for so publicly making clear that they do not consider themselves part of the rest of the nation. Certainly my southern Illinois friend Don Gwinn does not consider Chicago to be a part of the state that he lives in.

Chicago lives Apart.

Come home, Windy City. Abide with us Americans.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Our nation.

Our President said today that we can't do much about the immigration problem until we have done something about the illegal employment problem. I happen to agree. We need to do something about the large pile of sugar that's sitting out.

Well, it appears that our President says that he wants to hold our estimated 11M illegal immigrants accountable. Okay. I agree there, too.

Barack Obama says that deporting them all would be untenable. As much as this irritates me, it's probably partially true, though exporting illegal border-crossers would certainly decrease the work taken to document them. Okay.

He says that we should make them "get right with the law" before they can get in line to apply for citizenship. Okay.

He says that they should be fined* (for a felony), and admit that they did wrong, and lean English, before they can apply for citizenship. Okay. (Side question: When are we ever going to push for English as a national language? Until this is done, frankly, the English language requirement to be a citizen seems unwarranted.)

He claims that this puts them in at the BACK of the line. I wonder.

He also claims that "there are, right now, more boots on the ground on the SouthWest border, than ever before." He also claims that crime on the SW border is down to less than it has been in 20 years. This is clearly a set-up to deny further funding to border security.

So it would appear that the President's answer to Border Security is to largely to make the illegal citizens legal.

As a guy who's constantly dealing with undocumented aliens, I'm actually not quite as disgusted with this as you might suspect.

Understand: I'm NOT anti-Mexican. I'm NOT anti-Hispanic. I'm NOT anti-immigrant. I wish to hell that the race/ethnicity/xenophobe argument was gone, frankly; it's a red herring. I'm first and foremost unhappy that the documented citizen has to pay taxes and answer for violations of the law, which the undocumented alien does not. So I'll admit that our President managed to actually speak to my interests in this speech.

But I suspect that he'll hold border security hostage until the Republican votes for the new immigration bill are in. Mark me on this one.

_______________

By way of Tamara, I read of a little girl who insists that her mama keep her promises to be patriotic. I had to wipe my eyes to see to type a response.
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*How much? Set the price point too high, and no one is buying. Set it too low, and everyone will buy.

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Fanboys and Fangirls.


(Click to embiggen.)
Look: I know that some of you guys in the press corps are going to squee! over being able to see our President up close for the first time.
But at least try to look objective, okay? You can buy a full-length poster online, and pin them up over your bed, in private.
Note: we shall see* what our President has to say about immigration reform. I'm hopeful, but doubtful.
____________________
*Speech ongoing now.

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