It’s not Thanksgiving…

…without the WKRP in Cincinatti Turkey Drop.

A lot of people are sharing clips.  Here’s the entire episode.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody.

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Finished Another One (in Draft Anyway)

Just another one, first book in the Ybanji War cycle in my FTI series.  Lots of space naval action along with some interstellar politics.

So, here’s a snippet from it:


Li paced as much as his small cell would allow.  Despite Coll’s best efforts the wormhole trap had died, dropping them into realspace outside of comm range of Chakentak.  Fortunately, Eres were diligent about maintaining patrols near their homeworld and a Middle Fang class vessel, about equivalent to a Terran heavy cruiser, had picked up their distress call.

Li had shown them their records, carefully gone over why they were certain that the ships they had fought had not been crewed by Eres, and asked for contact with the Terran embassy.  The only response had been silence.

He did not know what had become of his ship, or the rest of his crew.  He only knew that the Eres had apparently recovered food stores from the Jin Long.  Eres biology lacked two of the essential amino acids for human nutrition and contained three that were completely absent from Terran life.  It was not poisonous. One could eat it and it would fill the belly but without the right supplements a person would soon be just as dead as if they had no food at all.

A buzzer interrupted Li’s pacing, announcing that the door was about to open.

The door slid aside to reveal a man, Asian ancestry, like Li himself, but with a thinner face than was common to Li’s own ancestors.  Japanese, Li thought.

“Mr. Li?” the man said, “I’m Captain Nobuta Tanaka, Terran Embassy to Chakentak.  You asked for representation?”

“Oh, thank God,” Li said. “I don’t know what they told you but those weren’t Eres we fought.  I swear it.”

“At, ease, Mr. Li,” Tanaka said. “I’ve seen the tapes.  Had Eres hunters been in command of those ships you would not have survived.”

“Then why….” His gesture took in the cell.

Tanaka raised a hand, palm up and tilted his head slightly.

Li laughed and waved him on into the room.

After entering, Tanaka turned and spoke to the large Eres following him. “Sheshak, if you please.”

The Eres stepped through the door which slid shut behind him.

“The problem,” the Eres said, speaking from a vocoder implanted in its jaw, “is… your term is ‘political.’”

“Political?” Li sank onto the cot that cantilevered from the rear wall of the room. “Oh, great.”

“It’s okay,” Tanaka said. “We’re going to get you out of here.”

“My friend, Tanaka speaks truth,” the Eres, Sheshak, said. “We have an… internal problem.  Some do not want to admit it. More do not want outsiders to know of it. Even I am not permitted to say more than this.”

“It has to do with those ships that attacked us, doesn’t it?” Li said. “Eres ships, but without Eres crews, or at least not Eres military.”

Sheshak spoke in Eres-chak to Tanaka.

“Sheshak says he cannot confirm or deny that.” A slight smile played at the corners of Tanaka’s mouth. “Suffice to say that certain factions wanted to make you disappear into a very deep hole.”

Li sucked air over his teeth.

Tanaka raised his hands. “It’s okay.  I’m here to escort you to Chakentak. We’ll put you up at the Embassy until the New Delhi rotates back to Terran space.  They’re scheduled to go in three weeks. That will give time for their chief engineer to oversee repairs to your ship. They’ll escort you back home.”

“This trip has been a disaster,” Li said. “Do you have any idea how much money I’ve lost, even with insurance?”

The smile was back on Tanaka’s face. “You’re heading back alive, with your ship mostly intact.  Considering what you ran into, I think that counts as a win.”

Li could not help smiling himself. “There is that.  There is that, indeed.”

On this Day, November 20, 1789

It’s the early days of the young nation of the United States.  Less than a year and a half after the Constitution was ratified.  Just over six months since George Washington was sworn in as the first US President.  A set of twelve Amendments to the Constitution have already been proposed and presented to the States for ratification.  One of them would only much later be ratified (The 27th Amendment, ratified in May of 1992).  One of them is still pending.  The remaining ten became known as the Bill of Rights and on November 20, 1789, New Jersey became the first State to ratify them.

So, in memory of that day, here they are:

  1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
  2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
  3. No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
  4. The right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
  6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
  7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by Jury shall be preserved, and no fact, tried by a Jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
  8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Sadly, entirely too many of these are more honored in the breach than in the compliance while others have been stretched all out of anything the folk who wrote and voted for those amendments would recognize.

Perhaps what we need is a new Bill of Rights consisting of 11 articles.  The first ten would simply repeat the wording of the original Bill of Rights.

The 11th would simply say, “And this time we mean it.”

 

They keep doubling down. (Gun Control again)

So, “Representative” Eric Swalwell (D-CA) proposed a mandatory “buy-back” (confiscation by any other name, particularly since the “buy-back” price is quite a bit less than the market value of many of those firearms) of so-called “assault weapons” (as usual very loosely defined so that it can mean whatever they want it to mean this week).

That this would violate both the 2nd and the 5th (“nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” and simply passing a law saying “you can’t have that” is insufficient for “due process”).

In response people objected strongly to the idea and pointed out that many of the American people would resist, forcibly if needed, any such widespread confiscation of guns (call it a “buy back” if you want but if it’s mandatory it’s confiscation).

How did Swalwell respond? “It would be a short war, we have nukes” (paraphrased, but that is the gist.)

Yep.  He threatened to nuke the American people (it’s not like you can only nuke the resisters–nukes are not exactly precision weapons) if his demands for gun confiscation weren’t met.  Oh, he tried to walk it back claim he was being “sarcastic” in which case he was doing it wrong, sarcasm would be more like “Yeah, that will go well, you and your AR15’s against the entire might of the US Military”–it’s saying one thing in such a way that it’s clear you mean the opposite.  Words have meanings, Mr. Swalwell. I think the word he was looking for was “hyperbole”–exaggeration for effect.

But even as hyperbole it’s telling indeed that his “go to” argument was an expression of his willingness to kill American citizens (actually, have other people do the killing–I doubt he’d be out there on his own) in order to implement his violation of the Constitution.

Let’s say he gets his way.  He gets the law passed to disarm the previously law abiding citizens of the United States (when you use a made-up term like “assault weapon” with no hard, clear definition, you can throw anything into it you’d like).  And people take armed exception to that law.

He said it will be a short war.  He was wrong.

An armed resistance to gun confiscation won’t resemble the 19th century American Civil War.  It won’t be this group of states vs. that group of states with clear borders defining “friendly” and “enemy” territory (although possibly with disputed areas along said borders).  It won’t involve units from one side fighting units from the other in set-piece battles.  As Swalwell said, this isn’t the 18th century (or even the 19th).  It will be an insurgency like Northern Ireland, Beirut, and yes, Iraq and Afghanistan.  And in such combat conventional forces, particularly things like the tanks, helicopters, bombers and the like are of limited use.  Those big weapons can destroy a country.  But to rule it, you need actual troops getting down in the dirt.  You need “door kickers” and the like.

If they’re willing to do that, if they’re willing to use their bombers, their tanks, their attack helicopters, and the like to level cities where insurgents are operating, they’re saying their willing to kill more innocent American citizens (while more precise than nukes, even “precision” weapons are not without their collateral damage and civilian casualties when the insurgents are mixed in with the population) than all the criminal uses of guns ever have.  And look at history, at the nations that have been willing to do that to their own citizens.  Is that really what you want to emulate? (Let me guess.  Metaphor about eggs and omelets goes here, right?)

It’s not going to be tanks and bombers on one side of the field and armed citizens on the other lining up to get bombed into oblivion.  It’s going to be insurgency with the insurgents thoroughly mixed into the civilian population.  And consider, the same people who are suggesting the might of the military being used to crush a domestic insurgency are the same ones who claim that the use of military force overseas “just creates more terrorists”.  Have you listened to yourself?  Why do you think it would be any different here?

Look, there have never been more than 20,000 or so insurgents in Iraq.  Yet it managed to keep the US Military tied up for over ten years.  Most estimates put the number of gun owners in the US between 100 and 150 million gun owners–and those are probably low. (Me?  Why, no, I don’t have any guns.  Lost them all in a tragic boating accident.  That’s Americans–worlds most armed civilians or were before all these accidents; world’s worst boat drivers.) If only ten percent of them keep their guns that’s a 10 to 15 million armed individuals (outnumbering our military plus Guard and Reserve by 150, 500 to 750 times as many as kept the US military tied up in Iraq for a decade.

No, it won’t be over quickly.  Perhaps you’ll win in the end.  And perhaps not.  A lot of those military folk are not going to be willing to use their military hardware on people who, when you come right down to it are their friends and neighbors–if not theirs personally, then the friends and neighbors of people they work with. You may think the military is staffed with mindless Myrmidons who will point their guns at whoever you tell them to, but they are people with hopes and fears and relationships outside the military.  You might want to take a good hard look at the possibility that people told to go and kill “Cousin Joe,” “Aunt Sally,” and “the nice man who shares his venison with me every fall” may well decide to point their guns the other way.

You don’t want this civil war.  You may think you do, but you don’t.  You may delude yourself into thinking that it will be some, great, glorious revolution that will bring about the glorious Socialist States of America and that somehow the endless suffering won’t touch you.  But, unless you’re a psychopath, it will.  What you think you want is the fantasy.  The reality will be very different indeed.

I don’t want a civil war.  I know how horrible it will be.  I know how unlikely it is to lead to the kind of society I want. (It doesn’t lead to the kind of society you say you want either.)  But a lot of people want even less that Socialist States of America so many are trying to build, where disarming the populace is necessary before the true results of central economic planning can really be allowed to take hold.  So please stop giving people the choice of one or the other.

Stop taking away our basic human freedom.

 

Recommended Reading List

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on economics and related topics lately.  Here’s a reading list I’ve compiled of works that I have found particularly compelling:


This provides a good overview of the field of economics and its function of understanding “the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses.”   It’s a good basic introduction that does not rely on graphs or equations.  It provides real world examples to illustrate the principles of economics.  Sowell is an unapologetic proponent of the market in most things but he is not afraid to go into cases where the market does not handle matters well and to look at alternatives which may or may not handle those cases better.


Expands on the topics of Basic Economics.  Where the first book had the repeated refrain of “efficient allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses” this one has “thinking beyond stage one.” Many policies that look good, and can actually be “good” (depending on what one considers “good”) in their first effects, the longer term effects can be very different indeed.  Again, the book is full of examples and avoids the use of graphs and equations.


In this work, Thomas Sowell takes a close look at the many economic fallacies that are so common in popular thought.  Many derive from the fallacy of composition–the idea that because something is good for a part it must be good for the whole.  The frequency with which many otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, and knowledgeable people cling to such economic fallacies is a large part of the reason I consider economics “The Dismal Science.”


Coming as it did in a time when planned economies were considered the road to the future, Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” was a groundbreaking work.  It details why attempts at top down planning of the economy must be accompanied by political totalitarianism.  Note, as Hayek points out, that the result of totalitarianism is not inevitable–provided that one turns back from the attempt at a centrally planned economy, but only by such turning back.

This work is particularly important now with a younger generation that has grown up not seeing the terrible results of central economic planning on human freedom and prosperity.  They think that “this time” they can do it right.  They do not realize that the problems are not a matter of poor execution, but are inherent in the very nature of central economic planning.


Mitlon Freiedman discusses the nature of economic freedom, the freedom to make voluntary transactions unrestrained by force whether governmental or otherwise, and how it is strongly coupled with political freedom.  Indeed, you cannot really have one without the other.  He argues compellingly for the value of free trade, on the individual through the international level.


This book is in many ways an expansion of the contents of “Free to Choose.” Each chapter covers a particular broad topic and argues for why allowing, and encouraging, individual free choice is superior to enforced conformity.  He makes the case multiple times in different areas where government intervention and regulation to alleviate certain perceived or very real problems is generally counterproductive creating more problems than they solve.  A must for anyone seeking to understand why so many folk value personal and economic freedom so highly.

 

Anti-Vaxers vs. Math

Sigh.

Over on the book of faces, the subject of vaccines has come up and the usual suspects are screaming about how they’re a scam designed only to get money for “big pharma.”

So let’s look at that.  Let’s use “measles” which is often dismissed as a “harmless childhood disease” and so would be one of the more routine (and therefore cheaper) things to treat. (Please note:  I am just dealing with the ” vaccines are a scam to make money” argument here.  Other anti-vax arguments can wait for another day.)

Before the vaccine came out, the US averaged about 400 cases of measles per 100,000 citizens per year:

measles cases2

That’s per 100,000.  Looked at in total numbers:

measles-cases-1950-2013

Now, this “harmless, childhood disease” was perhaps less harmless than people may have thought.  Looking at deaths per year we get the following:

measles-deaths-1950-2013

Before the vaccine an average of about 450 per year died from measles.  I will note that a number of sites out there have charts that show the “mortality rate” for measles going down, way down, long before the vaccine was introduced.  However, what the naive reader might miss is that they are looking at the mortality rate of measles cases.  I.e. what chance someone who got measles had of dying.  The chart says nothing about the likelihood of getting measles in the first place.

Comparing the death numbers with the total number of cases and we get a death rate of about one in a thousand or 0.1%. (Other sources give a rate of 3 per 1000 or 0.3%–for purposes of this post I’ll use the lower number.)

In addition to the death rate, measles can require hospitalization.  In the years 1985-2002 an average of 757 patients per year were hospitalized for measles (total 13621).  The low was 19.  The High was 5856 in 1990.  For comparison, over that period 147 patients died (above chart).  So for every death there are 93 hospitalizations.

So with modern medicine and standards of care, if we had the same number of measles cases as before the vaccine was introduced the number killed (correcting for current US population, 1.8 times what it was in 1960) would be 810 per year (about 30 per 100,000).  And the number hospitalized would be over of 75,000 or just under 4300 per 100,000.

A typical hospital stay is 5 days at a cost of $10,000 and that’s just for the bed and the most basic of care.  It doesn’t include actual treatment.  It certainly doesn’t include any time in the ICU.  That means the cost per 100,000 for treating measles, what “big pharma” could get from letting people get measles and treating those who require hospitalization is $43 million per year per 100,000 people at an absolute minimum.

So how does that compare to how much they make from vaccines?  Well, the MMR vaccine costs about $100 per dose.  That is for three diseases, but let’s leave that aside and only consider measles.  The standard is a dose and a booster in one person’s lifetime.  Considering an average lifespan of 75 years that works out to about a bit under 2700 shots given per 100,000 people per year assuming everyone gets the vaccine.  Or, $270 thousand per year per 100,000 people.

$43 million to treat.  $270 thousand to vaccinate.  Letting people get the disease and treating it grosses 160 times as much as vaccinating.

If they were really about selling out your health for money, they’d let you get sick.

 

“Acosting” the First Amendment

So, Jim Acosta lost his White House press credentials and the usual suspects are in an uproar claiming a violation of the First Amendment and a Federal Judge claiming it violates Acosta’s due process rights (which would be Fifth Amendment).

These arguments are ridiculous.

Let’s go over the situation a bit.  The President was holding a press briefing.  Acosta was given a chance to ask a question.  Afterward, he was supposed to give the microphone back so that others could ask their questions.  He did not do so, holding onto the microphone and continuing with a harangue masquerading as questions.   The intern whose job it was to pass around the microphone tried to take it from him and he physically blocked her from doing so.  Afterwards, as a consequence, the White House revoked Acosta’s White House press credentials.

There is no First Amendment question here.  None.  To understand that you have to understand what the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Let’s break that down a bit.  First, consider that what the First Amendment, what all the Amendments in the Bill of Rights do is forbid the government from infringing of rights held by the people.  They do not create special classes who have special privileges, but these are rights granted to the people.  Thus, the free exercise of religion is not limited to officially recognized/sanctioned churches (indeed, the establishment clause, especially once incorporated on the States via the 14th, eschews the very idea of such recognized/sanctioned churches) but to the individual religious beliefs of individual people.  Speech is not limited to licensed/recognized orators, but recognizes that all people have the right to free speech.  Peaceable assembly is not limited to special clubs/organizations.  Petition is not limited to select groups.  They all apply to all the people.

So it is with Freedom of the Press.  This is not a special privilege limited to recognized “journalists” or news organizations.  It’s a right held by the people.  Where freedom of speech protects what you say from government interference, freedom of the press protects what you write (or publish, broadcast, distribute online, or whatever other way might be considered “the press” in the modern day).  It’s not something limited to CNN, NBC, Jim Acosta, or Maury Povich, or whoever.  It’s a right held by all the people.

And once you recognize that, you see why the idea that denying a press pass cannot be a first amendment issue.  After all, if it were, then my not having such a pass (or you, whoever you are reading this) would equally be a violation of the first amendment.

There simply is no first amendment right to demand to attend white house press briefings or any other such briefings.  Indeed, there’s no constitutional requirement for the President to even make such briefings.  The only requirement for the President to report to anybody is given in Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution, specifically:

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient

From time to time he has to report on Congress on the State of the Union.  That’s it.

So, no, there is no constitutional requirement for the President to permit any particular individual to attend press briefings that he has no constitutional requirement to give in the first place.

So what about that due process claim by the judge?

That comes from the Fifth Amendment, to wit:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Note especially the bolded part “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

It’s pretty clear he’s not being deprived of life.  I think we can all agree on that, right?  And, there’s no property of his of which he’s being denied, correct?  So that leaves liberty.  Is he being deprived of liberty without due process of law?  I think we can dispose of that the same way we disposed of the first amendment claim.  Jim Acosta has no particular “liberty” to a presence in the White House except that granted by the President or those to whom he has delegated that decision making any more than I do.

“But wait,” someone might say. “He was given such access.  Removing it without due process is wrong.”

That’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works.  Look, if I invite a reporter in my home, say to discuss events about which I am knowledgeable related to some story the reporter is working on.  And if that reporter annoys me for whatever reason, I can ask him to leave.  And if he doesn’t it’s criminal trespass.  Doesn’t have to be my home.  It could be my officer.

It’s the same way with the President and the White House.  That’s his home and his office.  If he doesn’t want someone there, it’s his right to not permit him.  Some people have tried to rebut this by saying “it’s the people’s house” but, again, that argument wouldn’t work for me.  I couldn’t just walk in there and say “but it’s the people’s house.” And neither can Acosta.

Denying permission that the White House is under no obligation to give, to someone who has no particular right to that permission, to attend press briefings that the President is under no obligation to give, at the White House is not in any way, shape, or form a violation of Jim Acosta’s right any more than it would be for any random person off the street.

Working for CNN does not confer special rights that the rest of us peasants don’t have, no matter how much people like Jim Acosta want it to.