Animal’s Daily News

Shy BearAn interesting tidbit from RealClearDefense and author Christopher Lee (no, not that Christopher Lee);  Is North Korea About to Collapse?  Excerpt:

If North Korea’s regime collapses today, it would most likely be due to Kim Jong Un’s lack of leadership, common sense, and rational judgment. Given the magnitude of the potential consequences triggered by a regime collapse, North Korea’s state of affairs cannot be ignored.  The international community must remain vigilant at all times and begin to organize jointly for such an event.  A disintegrating North Korea could turn the Korean Peninsula into a catastrophic and dangerous hot zone, in which uncontrolled nuclear weapons and an exodus of North Korean refugees could combine to be the worst destabilizing event imaginable in Northeast Asia with enormous implications for U.S. security.

North Korea is truly a pariah among nations – a rogue state run by a twisted little gargoyle with bad hair, third in a line of twisted little gargoyles with bad hair.  A failed Stalinist state, it’s not even a good failed Stalinist state – old Uncle Joe himself would have been disgusted with the thought of a hereditary dynasty calling itself Communist.

North Korea’s collapse is almost certainly inevitable – no nation lasts forever, and a horrendously restrictive nation like North Korea never ends well.  But while the short-term effects on the region will be unpleasant, maybe even  catastrophic, in the end to fPeeking-Bear-150x99ailure of a horrendous caricature of a nation like this can only be of benefit in the long run.

And as for the scion of the Kim dynasty, that latest in the line of twisted little gargoyles with bad hair – well, Mussolini ended up hanging from a lamppost.  Something along those lines would be a fitting end for Kim the Third.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Happy Hump Day!

From our blogger pal Theo: America Loves Booze and Pot. Excerpt:

In 1919 the eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of “intoxicating liquors” in the United States and by 1933 the era of prohibition was over when the twenty-first Amendment rescinded it. Alcohol consumption was and is a social problem, but sometimes the government is not the right vehicle for dealing with them.

The United States is a huge market for what are deemed illegal drugs and, for many years, marijuana has been among them. That prohibition is now going the way of the earlier effort to make alcohol consumption illegal. Questions remain as to whether this is a good thing or not.

Theo’s contributor, Alan Caruba, concludes:

Americans love booze and love pot. What the long term effects on our society will be are unknown, but there will be effects.

Well, obviously.  Everything has effects.  Booze has been legal, as the respected Mr. Caurba points out, since 1933 – this time.  It should be legal.

Derp BearAnd you know what?  Pot should be legal too.

It’s not the place of government to protect us from ourselves.

It’s our place to make our own decisions.  It’s our place to decide what’s good or bad for us.  And the flip side of that is this:  It’s likewise not the place of government to shelter us from the consequences of bad decisions.  So, yes, pot should be legal, as booze is.  And if people abuse it and screw up, it’s on them.  If they screw up and hurt someone else, they face stern criminal penalties – their right to swing their fists ended at someone else’s nose, and they blew it.

It’s not complicated.  Good policy shouldn’t be complicated.

Animal’s Daily News

Sleepy-BearBrief update today, but this is worth the read:  The Idleness Trap.  Excerpt:

If you know someone among the long-term unemployed — a category that includes workers who have been jobless at least six months, but in many cases much longer — you understand what a frustrating and demoralizing experience it is, especially for midcareer professionals and managers in their 40s and beyond. There’s a drill. You polish your resume; you work your network; you apply for openings; you wait.

All the while, you try to maintain your enthusiasm and self-esteem. In a society that worships the work ethic and treats jobs as an indicator of social status, being without one is crushing for people who view themselves as responsible and productive workers.

It must be said that, from the perspective of potential employers, not hiring these workers can make sense.

Here’s the problem with unemployment/underemployement, which combined paint a dismal picture (labor force participation is at a Carter-era low) but the key problem isn’t necessarily tied to the employers themselves.  The root cause is government which, at almost every level, is hostile to growth.  Small business in particular Yes-YOU-bearis under the gun; overtaxed and over-regulated small business owners are increasingly going Galt.

And small business is the engine of economic growth and job growth.  Small business is the goose that lays the golden eggs, and that goose is slowly being strangled.

It’s not about lazy workers, or stingy employers.  It’s about overbearing government.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

A long day yesterday finds yr. obdt. back in northern Indiana today, for a three-week stint.  The traveling life is many things, but settled and boring aren’t among them.

I’ve always kind of liked San Francisco Chronicle columnist Deb Saunders, all the more so after a few years ago when I actually had an informative and pleasant email exchange with her on the topic of schools.  Today we have this from her Bay Area keyboard:  Government Can’t Say No.  Excerpt:

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is in big trouble. In 2016, the program’s trust fund is expected to run out of money. When that happens, there will be “large across-the-board cuts for all beneficiaries,” warn James Lankford, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees entitlements, and Jackie Speier, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat. Those cuts will be painful for the “truly disabled,” whom the system originally was designed to serve.

Washington has a choice to make: provide for the truly disabled or the newly disabled.

CongressLet’s be honest; Social Security as a whole is in big, deep, no-shit trouble, and nobody in Washington has the stones to try to fix it.  But the disability program has been a problem for years due to massive overreach.  And here’s the real money quote, in which Ms. Saunders nails the problem:

There’s such a huge backlog that the SSA has yet to review cases approved by infamous “red flag” judges Charles Bridges and David Daugherty. According to their regional chief, Bridges awarded benefits to nearly all the 2,000 claimants who came before him each year. Daugherty approved 99.7 percent of cases before him, to the benefit of 8,413 individuals. Estimated lifetime cost: $2.5 billion.

…The professor thinks the SSA should get rid of all 1,400 administrative law judges. “They are counterproductive. They introduce more errors than they eliminate,” Pierce told me. “They have absolutely no relevant training, no expertise, and they’re overruling people who have relevant training and expertise.” What’s more, he wrote for Cato in 2011, the $2 billion freed up by their removal could be used to “hire a large number of talented people to manage” important programs.

Angry-BearThis is the continuing problem with bureaucracy in general; there is little consequence for the lazy and incompetent.  One sees it in microcosm in the issue of handicapped parking permits; every community, it seems, has at least one physician who will sign off on such a permit for anyone who asks, on any pretext – sore feet, an aching back – and that causes problems for the truly disabled.  So it is here, with the “red flag” SSDI judges referred to in this article.

But there’s one big difference.

These damned red flag judges, through either deliberate malfeasance, laziness or stupidity, are costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars.

They shouldn’t just be cashiered.  They should be jailed.

Rule Five Friday

2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (1)Some interesting work done on crime rates vs. regional gun control laws to go along with some summery Friday Rule Five:  An examination of the effects of concealed weapons laws and assault weapons bans on state-level murder rates.  (link leads to a pdf document.)  Key excerpt from the abstract:

Using data for the period 1980 to 2009 and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area, most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).

2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (2)And another from the conclusion:

Given that the average gun related murder rate over the period in question was 3.44, the results of the present study indicate that states with more restrictive CCW laws had gun-related murder rates that were 10% higher. In addition, the Federal assault weapons ban is significant and positive, indicating that murder rates were 19.3% higher when the Federal ban was in effect. These results corroborate the findings of Lott and Mustard (1997). These results suggest that, even after controlling for unobservable state and year fixed effects, limiting the ability to carry concealed weapons may cause murder rates to increase.

There may, however, be other explanations for these results. Laws may be ineffective due to loopholes and exemptions. The most violent states may also have the toughest gun control measures. Further research is 2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (3)warranted in this area.

Further research may be warranted, but the evidence that gun control has little to no effect on crime rates is better supported now than, say, anthropogenic climate change.  The positive effects of liberalized concealed-carry laws is just as well documented.

Which makes the arguments – the tired, stale, old arguments – of gun control proponents all the more baffling.  When Colorado’s concealed-carry law was being debated in the State legislature, we heard them all:

  • 2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (4)There will be shootouts over parking spaces.
  • People will be killed with their own guns.
  • More handguns in the hands of citizens will mean more crime.
  • Carnage will ensue from untrained people carrying guns.

None of these dire predictions came true – not anywhere.  In fact, CCW permit holders are, as a group, some of the most law-abiding folks you’ll find anywhere.

But statistics aside, there is a matter of principle involved.  Studies such as the one referenced above are useful in making arguments 2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (6)for public policy, to be sure, but the fact is that a free citizen should be able to make the choice for him or herself as to whether to carry a firearm for self-defense or defense of others.

I carry a gun for a variety of reasons; I’m too young to die and too old to get my ass kicked, I can’t carry a cop, I’d rather take my chances with twelve jurors than six pallbearers, and so on.  But the primary reason I carry is this:  I am a free, law-abiding citizen and it suits me to do so.

If we truly are a free country – if individual liberty still has any meaning – what other reason should be required?

2014_04_11_Rule Five Friday (5)

 

Animal’s Daily News

brown-bear-1024x768Late night last night and a long day ahead, so here are a few quick tech tidbits from an abbreviated morning news crawl.  One of the big things in the tech world right now is the passing of Windows XP, or, at least, the passing of Microsoft’s support for that long-lasting OS.  A few stories:

Windows XP Support Ends:  Survival Tips to Stay Safe.

Why You Should Ditch Windows XP Now.

Why I Won’t Miss Windows XP.

Governments and Businesses Are Paying Millions to Cling Onto Windows XP.

And two related stories:

The Most Hated Browser in the World is Finally Dead.

The Windows 8.1 Update Finally Makes Microsoft’s Metro Future PC-friendly.

We started using Windows XP pretty much on its release, coming off of Windows 98 (a pretty solid, stable OS) and a brief flirtation with Windows ME (an unmitigated disaster.)  I liked XP, but there’s no doubt it’s pretty dated now.  It was a solid, reliable OS, and lasted a long time.

Smiling BearMy current travel laptop came with Windows Vista, which was dangerously close to being a Charlie-Fox like ME.  But shortly after that purchase I was able to take advantage of a free upgrade offer to Windows 7, which had the whiz-bang of Vista and the reliability of XP.  Now the laptop and the Frankenputor desktop both run 7, and it seems to be a fit replacement for XP – solid, reliable, easy to use.

So, goodbye, Windows XP.  With your grandchild Windows 7, I think we’re in good hands.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Happy Hump Day!

Energy policy rates an entire section in the Animal Manifesto, so it was with considerable interest that yr. obdt. noted this story in Forbes:  Fossil Fuels Still Rule But Don’t Worry — We Have Plenty Of Uranium.  Excerpt:

The 2014 Annual Report of the AAPG Energy Minerals Division Committee (Michael D. Campbell, Chair) just came out and its findings are quite interesting (EMD Uranium 2014). It’s a good read if you want to know the state of uranium in the world, but also covers a lot of material on all energy fronts. I have taken freely from it for this post. Full disclosure – I am on the Advisory Group to this committee.

Energy minerals focus on ores of uranium, thorium and helium-3 as materials useful for fission and fusion reactors. But rare earth elements (REE) and other energy-important or high-tech materials are also included (see figure below).  Although coal is the most developed of all energy minerals, it has its own category and is not included in EMD analyses. Oil and gas are not minerals as they do not have a defined three-dimensional arrangement of their atoms in space, the definition of a mineral.

The common wisdom, that limited uranium supplies will prevent a substantial increase in nuclear energy, is incorrect. We have plenty of uranium, enough for the next 10,000 years. But uranium supplies are governed by the same market forces as any other commodity, and projections only include what is cost-effective today. Like natural gas, unconventional sources of uranium abound.

Fishing BearWhat is interesting in the world nuclear power picture is the use of thorium as a reactor fuel – something both India and China are aggressively pursuing.  Thorium is more abundant than uranium, the by-products of the thorium fuel cycle are far less weaponizable (a serious consideration, when you consider nuclear rogue states like Iran and North Korea.)

So why isn’t the United States pursuing nuclear power?  There are some nuclear plants in the start-up or approval process right now, but that process is difficult and heavily regulated.  The newest generations of reactors are as close to baka-yoke as is possible.

CongressOne wonders what the holdup is.  But then, our energy policy for the last 30-40 years has generally been incomprehensibly stupid; the Keystone pipeline, for example, remains in limbo, and that tiny few miles of pipeline requiring the signoff of the Imperial Federal government is the sticking point.

Still, that’s Washington, where stupidity all too frequently abounds.

Animal’s Daily News

Facepalm-bearToday, from News of the Stupid:  Anti-Vaccine Movement is Giving Diseases a Second Life.  Excerpt:

Recent measles outbreaks in New York, California and Texas are examples of what could happen on a larger scale if vaccination rates dropped, says Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s director of immunizations and respiratory diseases. Officials declared measles, which causes itchy rashes and fevers, eradicated in the United States in 2000. Yet this year, the disease is on track to infect three times as many people as in 2009. That’s because in most cases people who have not been vaccinated are getting infected by others traveling into the United States. Then, Schuchat says, the infected spread it in their communities.

The 189 cases of measles in the U.S. last year is small compared with the 530,000 cases the country used to see on average each year in the 20th century. But, the disease — which started to wane when a vaccine was introduced in 1967 — is one of the most contagious in the world and could quickly go from sporadic nuisance to widespread killer.

But here’s the real kicker from this story:

Such measures offend Sarah Pope, a Tampa mother of three, and Shane Ellison, a father of three in Los Angeles. They both decided against vaccinating their kids because they fear the potential side effects.

In 2006, all three of Pope’s children — now 9, 11 and 15 — contracted whooping cough, the same disease that killed Brady. Seven years earlier, Pope had decided against vaccinating any of her children. After seven weeks of coughing, and with treatment by a holistic doctor and natural supplements, all three recovered without complications, she says.

There’s a word for people like Sarah Pope – and it’s “moron.”  Her children are lucky to be alive, and owe no thanks to their idiot mother for their survival – not with her horseshit New Age “holistic doctor” and “natural supplements.”

Yes-YOU-bearFortunately her kids had decent immune systems.  But that doesn’t excuse Pope’s overweening stupidity in subjecting her kids to a potentially fatal disease – and what’s worse, possibly spreading that disease to who knows how many other kids?

Charlatans like these “holistic doctors,” more accurately described as liars and purveyors of snake oil, should be reviled and ridiculed, not held up as authorities.  And Mrs. Pope is – let’s make no mistake about it – a careless and stupid parent.  She should be ashamed of herself, and hopefully her example will serve only as a deterrent.

In sudsier news, here is a tidbit on the Geography of Beer.  Enjoy.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.