Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Government Logic

Looks like the government is finally going to go paperless next year. At last. Of course that doesn't bode well for the Post Office to lose another 120 million letters each year (but then again, I am not sure if the government actually had to pay for mailing those letters). In any case, there will be 120 million less expenses that the Post Office has, so maybe it is a good thing (especially if they are losing money on each letter anyway).

But of course, the policy is too good to be true. In spite of allowing direct deposit or money recharged onto a debit card, there had to be exceptions for those few who A) don't have a bank or B) don't shop at places with a debit card. The government estimates the number at 275,000. I estimate that number at 0 (counting for the fact that if you meet both A and B above, you shouldn't be in charge of your own finances).

Near the end I saw this gem:

"In addition to the automatic waiver from electronic payments for those 90 and over, people living in remote areas who might have trouble getting to a bank can also petition for a waiver from the new rules."

Why give 90+ people an automatic waiver in the first place? Are we saying they are incompetent? Do we give them a waiver for registering to vote as well and just assume they are voting Democratic since the majority of seniors do?

And the waiver for people who have trouble getting to a bank? Sending them a check is suppose to help them get to a bank? At least with direct deposit or the debit card it will save them a trip. With this waiver you are forcing them to continue their unnecessary trips in this modern age. With global warming/cooling/climate change looming large, we should actually be fining these people. This waiver is completely backward. If someone has trouble getting to the bank, they should have no option other than direct deposit or debit card.

Then again, I am not in charge of the government. I would probably be cruel and heartless and just not mail out any checks period.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tax Hike....Punt!

In case you haven't heard, President Obama is willing to make a deal on "tax cuts." Basically, when one looks at it, the deal is nothing more than a punt, for both Republicans and Democrats. To begin, what are some of the major economic negatives in our country right now:

1. Deficits in the trillions of dollars (few countries even have a GDP of 1 trillion, and we have a deficit of 1 trillion).
2. Unemployment of 9%+ (or 17%+ depending on which figure you want to use).
3. Anemic job growth (in spite of the stimulus spending which saved or created 3 million jobs).
4. Social Security in the red (i.e. it pays out more each year than it takes in).

So the Democrats and Republicans are worried about a tax hike, which they both contributed to 10 years ago. Funny how those things come back to bite you. And in an election year no less. At least they managed it in the mid-term election year rather than the presidential election year (then again, I'm not sure they had a choice in the matter). And after much bickering and whining we get this:

1. No increase in the base rates for two years (in other words, the vote will be to increase your taxes in two years). Why President Obama would agree to this (as opposed to a three year moratorium), I have no idea. Unless perhaps he is sick of the whole thing and wants to get back to being a Community Organizer. Two years puts the tax increase right back in an election year, except that this time, the Presidency will be up for grabs and the Senate in a big way (I think the Democrats will be defending 20+ seats in 2012, while the Republicans only have 10 seats to defend). If recent history is any judge, then having a tax fight in 2012 won't go any better than it did in 2010.

On the other hand the economy may turn around. Except that one of the reasons that the economy hasn't turned around is the uncertainty in the tax situation. What does a two year moratorium on the increase do? Not much. Businesses don't usually operate on a one or two year plan. In my current position, I have things planned out for 25 years. Hiring new employees (i.e. creating jobs) is usually a multi year commitment. You have to train them before you can begin to get your investment out of them. If they are not going to make your company more money than what you pay them (salary, benefits, and taxes), then you don't hire them. If you do, you are stupid and will be out of business soon enough.

So not only will the two year moratorium on tax increases just delay the fight until another election year, it is not going to do anything to spur job growth. But that is OK, because we have...

2. Extension of unemployment benefits by 13 months. I'm not sure of the details, but this may just be an extension on top of the 26 weeks that the States provide (at the direction of the federal government), or it may be an extension of the 99 total weeks that the States and Federal government had been providing. If it is the latter, then that means unemployment benefits are going to last for three years. If you know that you will get a check each week for three years, and you are just the slightest bit lazy, what incentive do you have to even bother being serious about looking for work during weeks 1 through 104 (i.e. first two years). As near as I can tell, this unemployment extension is not being offset by any spending cuts, so that means the deficit problem we had above is going to grow.

But Nancy Pelosi says that every $1 in unemployment returns $2 to the economy. Really? Where does that $1 come from in this case? Oh yeah, the economy. So if we get the $1 for $2, why not double the amount in each unemployment check? Oh there are diminishing returns? Why didn't you mention that. Does it work the opposite way? So if we cut unemployment in half do we get $4 returned to the economy for every $1 in unemployment? Why not do that? $4>$2. Do you mind showing me how you come up with the $2 figure anyway, and show how leaving that $1 in the economy in the first place wouldn't have created $2 or more by its own.

3. A decrease in the payroll tax of 2% for 1 year. Why just 1 year? Oh, yeah, so we don't have to have this fight in two years during an election. Also, it appears that the cut will be in place of President Obama's signature making work pay tax credit which applied to most everyone equally, whereas the payroll tax "disproportionately" helps the wealthy. From a personal standpoint, I am all in favor of this. Social Security is a scam (government run mind you, but still a scam) and I don't expect to see any of the money that has been confiscated from me for it.

From an economic issue (particularly in regards to the problems listed above) I am torn. More money in the hands of consumers (all consumers, even the really rich ones) is a good thing. And Social Security is the largest tax payment that most Americans pay (particularly when you consider the "matching contribution" from your employer). On the other hand, Social Security proponents have prided the fact that up until last year, Social Security was a self sustaining program, it covered all of its expenses each year (and lent the excess to the goverment to spend at their leisure). Now we are going to take away 1/6 of the Social Security taxes (approximately $100 billion) in a year when Social Security is already in the red. That is going to decrease the solvency of the "trust fund" further, and add to the deficit. And since it is only for 1 year, it won't help create any jobs. (On the other hand, I may be able to convince my wife that I can use that extra $2000 in 2011 to go towards purchasing a Barrett .50 BMG or we could just put in a new shower in the bathroom. Tough choice!).

And then there is some other froo froo stuff. The funniest thing of all, if this passes. It will be in a House, Senate, and Presidency that is all controlled by the Democratic party. Since it has no provisions that will create jobs (it encourages stagnation), cut the deficit (actually it will increase the deficit), or shore up Social Security (it does the opposite) and it puts these same issues off to be fought over again in 2012, barring any major change in the world (which always seems to happen anyway), the Democrats will have voted on their own demise from the Senate and probably the presidency and solidify the gains that the Republicans made in 2010 in the House (although redistricting will accomplish most of that anyway).

Never let a crisis go to waste. But if your going to, make sure you waste it in spectacularly stupid ways.

BTW, I have no love lost on the Republicans punt of this issue. They have no power other than the filibuster, yet are still getting basically what they want.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Social Media Actually Affects People's Lives

So someone saw that people were constantly glued to facebook or twitter and they needed an experiment to see that they were "addicted"? I could have told you that for a lot less money and pain on the part of the participants. Why anyone would surmise that an activity you spend hours on each day does not affect you is a mystery to me.

Facebook, yes, I have an account. I check it about once a week. I block all Mafia Wars, Farmville, Turdville, and any other stupid game or poll on it. If I am going to waste my time for hours with computer games it will be Halo or Civilization.

Twitter. Never even gone to the homepage. From what I surmise it is facebook for your smartphone. Since I don't have a smartphone, I have no need for twitter. I have never texted either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How to Get Rich Quick!

So, all you have to do is register a bunch of dead/nonexistent people for Social Security (which has never happened before) and the money starts rolling in? And their excuse is that their deaths weren't reported to the Social Security Administration? Except for the 17,000 where it was the fault of the Social Security Administration for not properly processing the payments in the first place.

I have a more brilliant idea. Why not we just not have Social Security in the first place, then we won't have the screw-ups of sending payments to dead people? (Isn't it amazing how many of our government's problems/inefficiencies/waste/screw-ups are a direct result of the policies/regulations/laws of the same government).

But then all of the old people will starve to death?

Oh, yeah, just like they were starving to death for the first 160 years of our country before Social Security.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Glenn Beck's Rally and the NY Mosque

We shouldn't build a mosque at Ground Zero and Glenn Beck shouldn't have a rally on the day that Martin Luther King gave a speech. Both ideas bring up the same question? Why not?

If the guy wants to build a mosque is not involved in terrorism, why oppose him? Because it is sacred ground? Don't we allow Japanese technology at the USS Arizona site? Isn't that sacred ground. And just where does Ground Zero begin and end? Is it just the footprint of World Trade Center 1 and 2, or are all of the World Trade Center buildings a part of it? Does it extend out from the epicenter 200 feet? 1000 feet? 2000 feet? So at what distance would building a mosque not be offensive?

Glenn Beck held his rally on a weekend (probably so more people could attend). Since he is religious himself and probably the majority of the crowd was, it makes sense to have it on a Saturday so folks can go to church on Sunday (or just travel back home). Plus it was going to be in the summer (better chance of good weather), after school got out, but before Labor Day (don't want to appear as if he is intruding on the Unions holiday). The weekend of July 4 is out since that would obviously be pandering to people's patriotic senses. That only leaves about 10 days that it could be. Based on his scheduled commitments, I imagine that probably half of those were not feasible when he was planning it. So after consulting the schedulers who "rent" out the National Mall, there was probably 3 feasible days to choose from. He chose one. So do momentous speeches make dates sacred such that other events can't happen on them? And who gets to be the arbiter of whether YOUR event is appropriate? (BTW, maybe we should tell the terrorists that so that they don't attack us on 9/11, then we can have a day that we can go to the airport without worrying about whether we have a 4 oz tube of toothpaste or a pair of nail clippers in our pocket).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homeschool Help

My Oldest Son is doing a graph for school and needs your input. Please answer the following question in the comments so he can gather some data:

What is your favorite movie?
A. Star Wars
B. Indiana Jones
C. Shrek
D. High School Musical

(Please choose your favorite from the four options given. Remember, this is from the mind of an early elementary kid, so please keep it clean. Thanks!)

Going on Mecca Time!

Some day we all may be looking to Mecca for the time. Or not. There are delusionals in every culture. The Arab world is no exception. Once they get over the fact that they long ago ceded their scientific knowledge to western Europe, then they will realize that the rest of the world isn't changing to Mecca time any time soon.

To begin, official time isn't kept by a giant clocktower. The giant clock tower in Greenwich is a mechanical device which isn't as accurate as the atomic clocks that are around today. Coordinated Universal Time is based on these atomic clocks and clock towers (or computers) are synced to those.

If Mecca wanted to become the "official" time keeper, they should have come up with time zones and the idea of standardization more than a century and a half ago. As it is, the British did largely due to maritime requirements for navigation, and railway requirements for standarized timetables. Even if the Greenwich Observatory vanished overnight tonight, the location of the Prime Meridian wouldn't change. And my clocks would still read 6:00AM when I roll out of bed (depending on how many times I hit the snooze button).

So, perhaps the Arab world should focus on an accomplishment that is easier to change than the entire time keeping system of the world. The US has been on the verge of going metric for 40 years now. There is a lot of sand over in Arabia, perhaps the semiconductor field might be easier to break into. (Of course to compete with Taiwan, Japan, and Korea you would have to admit that women are just as capable as men in the sciences.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Would You Believe that Flood Insurance is Bankrupt?

Yes, the National Flood Insurance Program is nearing bankruptcy. And any Tom, Dick, or Harry that has a modicum of knowledge about economics could see it coming from a long way off. The National Flood Insurance Program is for places that are too great of a risk for private insurers. Why is this?

Because they flood all of the time. Ergo, private insurers are smart enough to realize that these are sucker's bets. And private insurers don't take sucker's bets. But the government (in the name of compassion) is more than happy to. Well for 40 years the NFIP has been insuring these homes that shouldn't be insured, and rebuilding them, and rebuilding them again, and sometimes rebuilding them some more. I had a friend in Houston whose parents lived in a flood prone plain. Their home was flooded (as in you are sloshing through water on the first floor) at least three times over a 10-15 year period.

For those who may live in the desert, there is a reason why we don't live in the ocean and have more experience exploring the moon than the seas. Water tends to have the nasty habit of destroying things. Even "waterproof" things. Floods have the nasty habit of bringing water (and whatever else is in the vicinity - mud, oil, gasoline, algae, mold spores, etc.) into places we don't want it. All that stuff tends to destroy things faster than water does. Here's an experiment for you. Take a wet washcloth (not dripping wet, just more than damp) and leave it on your 14 step coated (including waterproof polyurethane top coat) dining room table (or chair, or china hutch, etc.) overnight. Be sure to have your Mom or Wife or Significant Other's permission before you do it. Now imagine that the table is immersed in water, for three days, and there happens to be some nice solvents mixed in as well.

My wife and I bought one rental property that also happened to be in the a flood plain. To be more precise, the very back corner of the lot (which dipped down towards the gulley behind it) was in the flood plain. The building itself was at least 50 feet away from the flood plain. The place had never flooded (and didn't have a basement to flood first either) in the thirty years it had been standing. Two houses on one side of it did not have any part of their property in the flood plain. Yet, because of the layout of the building and the street, both of them were actually closer to the boundaries of the flood plain than my structure was. Yet, I had to insure my property with flood insurance.

Flood insurance cost as much (if not a little more) than property insurance. I am sure that the private insurer loved my property since there was little to no chance of it ever flooding. Yet the premium I paid was the same as a building that sat inside the flood plain. Insurance companies make their money based on risk. They try to figure out how much risk there is to action A, and then charge you X amount of dollars to cover that risk (based on the amount of people they insure that are going to engage in action A). They are a great barometer for things like safety since unlike a government dictate that says action B is safe, the insurance company has to put its money where its mouth is.

So, they will give you discounts for wearing a seatbelt (a safe action), but don't give a rat's rear end about how many guns you have in your home (something that is irrelevant to safety). If however, you do want to insure your guns against theft or damage beyond what your home owners insurance will cover (or your jewlery, or rare baseball card collection), then the insurance company may want to know how it is stored (i.e. in the closet = higher premium, case hardened multi bolt safe = lower premium)

For human induced risks (automobile accidents, home owners insurance), they have a lot of data and aren't worried about losing money on the deal. There is not some huge rash of car accidents that is going to bankrupt some company. For environmental related risks (huricanes, flooding, forest fires, etc.) they are more leary because the risk is less predictable. Hence, premiums are higher, policies are more restrictive and in some cases they just won't insure you (hence the NFIP). For crackpot induced risks (war and terrorism), they don't insure at all. Not because the risk is high (it is actually miniscule), however the localized costs are unpredictable and range from 0 to ginormous. Its a lot easier to predict how much damage a Category 5 hurricane will do to a major metropolitan area than what the next terrorist attack will be.

NFIP on the other hand, really doesn't care about the costs. They probably charge something similar to what a private company would charge for a less risky place. If they charged what the market rate was (i.e. what would be needed so that the NFIP was not underwater), then no one would be able to afford to live someplace like that. This is not rocket science, its risk analysis. Every successful business (insurance or otherwise) has figure this out long ago. Why can't our government (frankly, I don't care why not, I don't want the government in that business anyway).

Profit is an excellent incentive to determine the cost of risk. The insurance industry has been doing it successfully for centuries. Government hasn't done it successfully yet.

But then some people will lose their homes.

Yep, and then we won't have to pay to rebuild them over and over and over again. We sold that property after a year of holding it. There was no positive cashflow, the flood insurance basically ate it all up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

GUN "Almost" FACTS 101: Assualt Weapons

There is a series of videos from the organization "Protest Easy Guns" titled Gun Facts 101 that can be found on YouTube. Comments are not allowed so originally I had the idea of fisking them with my own video. Alas, that takes way too much time. So I just will do a line by line analysis of the "Almost Facts" (in italics) that are presented. The first one is Assault Weapons.

What is an assault weapon?
An assault weapon is a made up term by the gun control lobby from the late 1980s used to confuse people into thinking that they are machine guns. They're not. Semi-automatic firearms are distinct from assault rifles or machine guns in that they only fire one bullet with each pull of the trigger. Don't believe me, then let's just look at the words of the gun control lobby:

"Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and
plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the
public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic
assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a
machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on
these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these
weapons." -Josh Sugarman Violence Policy Center report Assault Weapons and
Accessories in America 1988 at http://www.vpc.org/studies/awaconc.htm

So to start with this debate is about a made up term with the gun control groups trying to capitalize on the confusion their made-up term engenders.

An assault weapon is a gun that is designed to be spray fired from the hip.
Spraying from the hip is a Hollywood anachronism. No competent military or law enforcement agency in the world teaches people to shoot from the hip. It exposes the entire person's body to return fire, it is less accurate, and there is no backstop (like a shoulder) to aid in the control of recoil. Some light machine guns CAN be fired from the hip while a soldier is moving to another position, but this is mainly to lay down supressive fire, not actually trying to hit anything. However, it wasn't specifically designed for this purpose.

In fact no firearm in current use was designed to be “spray fired from the hip”. A pistol grip actually hinders your limited ability to shoot from the hip, because of the awkward angle that you have to put your hand and wrist in. Of course, if you only believe half of what you see on TV and in the movies you would think that the majority of people can be deadly accurate shooting from the hip.

They were created to be used in trench warfare when soldiers found that regular long rifles did not suit them in the trenches.
The last major war where trench warfare was widely used was WWI. It was basically a failure as an offensive concept, but decent for a defensive concept. If you wanted to take land or move your lines forward, you had to get out of the trench, which exposed your whole body and run towards the enemy line a couple of hundred yards away. Meanwhile, the enemy gets to sit in their defensive position with only a portion of their head showing and take pot shots at you for the 60 seconds it takes you to cover the distance. Mustard gas could be used by either side.

Where long barreled rifles might be a hinderance is the few times that one side actually got soldiers in the other side's trenches. During WWI the most common infantry weapon on both sides was a bolt action rifle. They also had a bayonet which was good for stabbing people. But the best weapon for invading a trench was the shotgun. Yep, the same one people had been using to hunt game for 50 years (and its predecessor for 100 years before that). The soldiers found that if they shortened the barrel it was much more manueverable in the tight confines of the trenches. Except when the gun control lobby talks about assault weapons, they aren't talking about sawed off shotguns, those were already regulated by the 1934 National Firearms Act.

They were used for decades primarily in war.
Well, if we are talking about the bolt action rifles that were used in the trenches of Europe, then yes, some bolt action rifles have been used by militaries for almost a century. However, if you are talking about the assault rifles (those selective fire weapons that “assault weapons” look like), well they haven't been around that long.

The first assault rifle, the Sturmgewehr (which happens to be where the assault rifle term is derived from) wasn't developed until the middle of World War II. The AK-47 was put in service after World War II and the M16 was developed at the beginning of the Vietnam war. So, yeah they have been used for decades. And since most every country with a stable government restricts ownership of assault rifles, they have been used primarily by the military.

On the other hand, the WASR-10 and AR-15, semiautomatic versions of the assault rifle (semiautomatic means one shot for one pull of the trigger), have never been used by any nation's military. The lack of selective fire makes them inferior to their assault rifle counterparts which can fire in single shot, burst, or fully automatic mode. So, no, assault weapons have never been used primarily in war.

About 30 years or ago or so the gun industry in an effort to address a declining gun sales,
In the early 80s, there was a slump in the gun industry. Heck there was a slump in the entire country, take a look at a graph of the stock market. Gun sales declined more than 30% between the middle of 1981 to the middle of 1982. The stock market declined a little over 20% during this same period. So the fact that the gun industry had a slump during a time of the US having a slump is no surprise. Furthermore, this slump was followed by a 60% increase in the US market, (meaning there was more wealth to be had) by 1984. This provided the perfect opportunity for firearm manufacturers to increase sells and market some of their pricier firearms.

modified a weapon for civilian use and started marketing assault weapons heavily towards civilians.
While some military firearms were modified into semiautomatic versions during this time, like the Uzi, firearm manufacturers had marketed “assault weapons” to the civilian population for more than a decade. The M1A is a semiautomatic version of the M14 Assault Rifle and came out in 1974. The AR-15 (semiautomatic version of the M16) had been marketed since the end of the Vietnam War when the Colt firearms company found that some returning soldiers liked the rifle they had become accustomed to in Vietnam. Even semiautomatic versions of the AK-47 were available in the US before 1980.

In any respect, the so called “assault weapons” market was a niche market throughout the 80s. A couple of events helped shape the increase in the popularity of assault weapons. First, the Hughes Amendment to the Gun Control Act banned the civilian ownership of any fully automatic machine gun that was not already registered in 1986. So, the supply of true assault rifles was limited causing their prices to drastically increase (from $1000 to $10-20,000). This now meant that the only economical way to own an AK-47 or an M16 was to purchase a semiautomatic version.

The second development, was that the patents on the AR-15/M-16 had all expired so several companies began making semiautomatic versions of the AR-15 that before only Colt could produce. Third, in the late 80s and beyond, there began to be serious talk about “banning assault weapons.” Firearm enthusiasts saw what limiting the supply of assault rifles had done from the Hughes Amendment, and firearm manufacturers saw the potential to capitalize on this.

So, whereas before in the 1970s and early 80s, the “assault weapons” was small and contained a relative few companies, the developments listed above caused “assault weapons” to rapidly gain market share. In other words, the popularity (and subsequent proliferation) of “assault weapons” was caused by the very people who sought to put restrictions on those firearms.

The danger with assault weapons is that bullets fired from assault weapons can go through doors,
Well, yeah, that is true. But then again, almost any rifle round including the venerable .22LR (what they shoot at Boy Scout Camp) can go through doors. Let's face it, they don't make oak doors like they did in the middle ages. Even the metal clad doors of today are usually foam filled. Foam is just not a good bullet stopper. About the only type of projectile that won't go through metal clad doors is birdshot. For wooden doors, all bets are off. And for the hollow core interior doors found in most homes in America, a good punch with your fist will go through it so how do you expect it to stop a bullet?

they generally can pierce many of the bullet proof vests that law enforcement wears,
OK, lets get something clear here. There is no such thing as a bulletproof vest. There are bullet resistant vests which are made in various levels of protection. As with most things, there are trade-offs. The more protection, the higher the weight and decreased maneuverability. In America, almost every police force wears vests that provide protection against the majority of handgun cartridges. Why? Because 95-99% of the time that they may be shot, it will be with a handgun round. “Assault weapons” like the AR-15, fire rifle rounds. They will go through pistol rated vests without a problem. Your average hunting rifle cartridge, like a .30-06 is two to 10 times as powerful as the cartridges used in “assault weapons.”

so they pose a particular threat to law enforcement.
Really? And what about the rest of us who don't wear body armor all day long. There is nothing like stating the obvious.

In fact we know from data that 1 in 5 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty was killed with an assault weapon.
I like when people throw out statistics, they usually don't know what they are talking about. Remember, “assault weapons” fire rifle cartridges. Body armor worn by police is not designed to defeat body armor. Since this video was made in 2007, I looked at the FBI's report for Law Enforcement Officers killed or assaulted. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/killed/2006/feloniouslykilled.html

For the previous 10 year period, 562 officers were killed (521 were killed with a firearm). Right below that number on table 27 is the number of officers killed with a rifle, 105. Or 1 in 5. Is this where they get their statistic, they don't say. Looking at table 33, we find that 79 were from the most common calibers of “assault weapons”, .223, 5.56, 7.62, and .30. Other calibers may be used in “assault weapons”, but these “assault weapon” calibers are also used in non “assault weapons.” Since the FBI doesn't define “assault weapons” they don't break any data out.

So, based on this I would say that 79 of 562 or 1 in 7 is killed by a so called “assault weapon.” However, that is because the “assault weapon” calibers are rifle cartridges, and the body armor is not designed to defeat it. Of course, even then table 39 shows that only 15 of these 79 deaths were cases where the bullet went through the body armor (because it wasn't designed to defeat it. The other 64 deaths were when a bullet hit where body armor was not protecting the officer (as in the officer wasn't wearing it or he was hit in the leg, groin, arm, neck, or head). All 64 of these deaths would likely have occured if it had been a pistol round instead. Only one death was from a pistol round that defeated the body armor. So our 1 in 5, which became 1 in 7 is actually "1 in 37 (15 in 562) police officers killed were killed by an 'assault weapon' caliber bullet which defeated their body armor". In other words, “assault weapons” are dangerous to police officers because they fire rifle rounds. Of course, regular rifles do to.

The US had an assault weapon ban for 10 years it expired in 2004,
Yep, from 1994 to 2004. It had a sunset provision attached to it because it couldn't get the necessary votes to pass without one. In 2004, Sen. Fienstein tried to renew the ban but the bill it was attached to was soundly defeated 8 to 90. The Democrats loss of the house of Representatives in 1994 was credited to the AWB, giving Republicans control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

and the ban that was set up was riddled with loopholes.
This is a funny argument, especially since during the ban, and after, gun control groups were praising all of the good things that it did. Besides, there is nothing wrong with loopholes. If the gun control groups didn't want them at the time, then they should have lobbied more to get them taken out. Gun control groups didn't start saying that the AWB was “riddled with loopholes" until after it had expired and several non-partisan studies (including ones done by the government) found no connection between the AWB and a reduction in crime. Frankly, the amount of crime commited with “Assault weapons” is so small, that statistically, any changes probably would not show up anyway.

This chart shows the guns that were originally banned here on the left column,
This chart is very misleading, it calls the AR-15 and the AK-47 assault rifles. Assault rifles are capable of fully automatic fire and are used by militaries throughout the world. Any AR-15/M-16 or AK-47 that is capable of fully automatic fire is regulated by the 1934 National Firearms Act. The AWB did absolutely nothing to increase the regulation or ban assault rifles. Zilch. Nada.

and then the gun industry made some slight modifications to comply with law
That is because the AWB, defined an assault weapon based on the cosmetic features that a firearm had. Basically, it is like saying that if you have a spoiler, a sunroof, and two exhaust pipes on your car then it is a sportscar. Under this definition, a custom conversion van could be a sportscar. None of the features actually are important to the function of the car, they are there to look pretty. So what were the cosmetic features that constituted an “assault weapon”:
  • Folding stock – decreases overall length of firearm
  • Telescoping stock – allows different sized individuals to shoot the firearm comfortably
  • Pistol grip – due to the buttstock being inline with the barrel for better recoil control, this is necessary to have control of the weapon with the firing hand.
  • Bayonet mount – cool to have, but relatively useless. No known crime has been committed with a bayonet mounted on a rifle.
  • Threaded barrel (for flash supressor) – a flash supressor is a safety feature to decrease (not eliminate) the chance of flash blindness while shooting in low light conditions
  • Grenade launcher – No, not the kind that you see slung under modern military weapons, this was one that went on the end of the barrel. All of the grenades for it are restricted by the 1934 NFA so you wouldn't be able to get them, they are good for launching tennis balls though.
  • Barrel Shroud – this covers the barrel so that you don't burn your hand when you touch the barrel during or after firing.
  • Detachable magazine – lots of firearms have detachable magazines, the AWB singled out those that are not part of the pistol grip, probably so that they didn't accidentally ban the manufacture of pistols which every law enforcement agency in the country was using.
and ended up creating copycat weapons
Note that not a single one of these features affect the actual firing potential of a firearm. To be scientific, the potential lethality of a firearm is a function of its energy. Energy is a product of mass and velocity. Mass is the bullet size, velocity is a function of cartridge size and barrel length. These lethal features, bullet mass, cartridge size, and barrel length were not found anywhere in the AWB.

that were not within the spirit of the law
We are not in church here. Because the ultimate arbiter of the US laws, the Supreme Court, is made up of people, who are fallible and open to a myriad of interpretations, and not an omnipotent God, we don't rule in this country based on the “spirit of the law.” If we did that, then corrupt government officials could always invoke the “spirit of the law” whenever they wanted to put you away. That's a dictatorship or an oligarchy. We didn't sign up for that in 1787. Laws are written in very specific language so that their interpretation can be as narrow as possible. If we want to be governed by the “spirit of the law”, then lets get rid of the thousands of pages of federal law (including the constitution) and just pass a law that says “Be nice to people.” That would work!

but were within the letter of the law.
Exactly. The gun control lobby helped craft and pass a law that only affected cosmetic features. The gun manufacturers did away with those cosmetic features and sold essentially the same firearm, because the law only governed cosmetic features.

So even with the AWB we had assault weapons that were legally sold.
One thing to point out again, is that even if the law had have banned manufacture of something that actually affected firepower and no new pseudo law compliant “assault weapons” were sold, it did not prohibit the ownership or selling of pre-ban "assault weapons" already on the market. In other words, if you had a semiautomatic AR-15 that was manufactured in July of 1994, it was still perfectly legal to own and sell that AR-15 on October 1, 1994 and beyond. The AWB only banned new manufacture of certain cosmetic features. Although, even then that is generous, you had to have a certain number of cosmetic features, so really the AWB banned new manufacture of certain combinations of cosmetic features.

Some states like NY still have AWB in place, but in NY we still have those loopholes so that these post ban assault weapons can still be purchased in NY also.
Yes, some states like NY, MA and CA have never met legislation that supposedly limits firearms that they didn't like. Most of the rest of the country realized this silliness long ago.

The reason that they impose a particular danger is because the velocity
OK, now we get to actually facts again. As I already mentioned, danger=lethality=f(energy)=f(mass, velocity). However, the cartridges they fire are considered intermediate power rifle cartridges. The guns that hunters commonly use are full power rifle cartridges and just as deadly (if not more so) than “assault weapons.”

and the way they fire,
Huh? They fire by pulling the trigger. This isn't a unique feature for “assault weapons”, pretty much every handheld firearm since the 1500s has fired by pulling the trigger (in fact the term fire is derived from the fact that the first cannons and firearms had to have a lighted fuse -- the fire -- touched to the flashpan or fusehole to ignite the main charge). If we are going to quibble and say that we are talking about the semi-automatic nature of the firearms, well, those have been around since the 1880s. If they really mean fully automatic fire, well then they are lieing since no “assault weapon” is capable of fully automatic fire and wouldn't be regulated by the AWB anyway.

the fact that their designed to spray fire
Once again, this statement is untrue. A claymore mine is designed to spray fire, a showerhead is designed to spray fire. If an “assault weapon” was designed to spray fire, then it wouldn't have such essential features for aimed fire as butt stock, sights, and fore end guard. Also, it would be better suited if it was fully automatic, since spray fire with a semi-automatic is difficult to accomplish.

and that they are an attractive weapon to those bent on mass murders
Ah yes, if the criminals like it then lets get rid of it. Just as an exercise lets go through some of the largest mass murders in the US and see how many of them were attracted to the “assault weapons”:
  • 9/11 – 3000 dead, weapon of choice – airplanes that had full fuel tanks
  • Oklahoma City bombing – 168 dead, weapon of choice – fertilizer explosive
  • Happyland Arson – 87 dead, weapon of choice – gasoline and fire
  • Bath School Disaster – 45 dead, weapon of choice – dynamite and pyrotol
  • Virginia Tech Massacre – 32 dead, weapon of choice - .22 pistol and 9mm pistol (neither of which was regulated by the AWB)
Are you seeing a pattern here? Mass murderers like to use explosives and fire. The only time that firearms are used for mass murder is when you have all of your “unarmed” victims in a small area with limited exits, like a classroom. And even then any firearm will work, the key is your victims are unarmed. You never hear of mass shootings at police stations, gun shows, or NRA conventions. Mass murderers don't seek out "assault weapons." The seek out explosives and fire.

such as the Columbine murders
Interestingly, only one of the four weapons used by the Columbine killers could be a considered an “assault weapon”. The TEC-DC9 was an AWB compliant version of the banned TEC-9 (remember the AWB meant that you couldn’t manufacture new ones, not that you couldn’t possess and sell previously manufactured ones). The Hi-Point 995 carbine wasn’t even first manufactured until after the AWB was in place. It was specifically designed to be compliant with the assault weapons ban. It isn’t used by any military in the world. There may be some police forces that have it, but that is because they don’t have the money to buy rifle caliber carbines.

Did I forget to mention that both of these guns are semi-automatic (remember one shot for one pull of the trigger). The other two weapons, a pump action shotgun and a double barreled shotgun, were in no way regulated by the AWB. The killers did saw off the barrels which violated the 1934 National Firearms Act.

and the DC snipers who used an assault weapon.
The DC snipers did use what gun control groups claim is an “assault weapon”. A Bushmaster XM-15 which is based on the AR-15 design. The XM-15 is a semiautomatic rifle (remember one shot per pull of the trigger) that fires a cartridge that is popularly used for target shooting and varmint hunting. Yes, varmints, like ground hogs and squirrels. They didn’t use any spray fire techniques, hence the name the DC snipers not the DC spray firers.

So did they choose this weapon because it was particularly suited to mass murder? Not really. One of the killers had served in the US Army and so was familiar with the M16 assault rifle (the selective fire kind). The XM-15 platform is a semiautomatic version of the M16. So he chose the weapon he was most familiar with. Is it a suitable weapon for a sniper? Technically, any weapon is suitable for a sniper if he can shoot a target from a concealed position. The DC sniper shootings were done at a range of 50-100 yards. Every rifle in existence can be an effective sniper weapon from this distance. Is an M16 or similar rifle used by military and police snipers? No, military and police snipers usually use a bolt action rifle designed for distance and accuracy. By this simplified definition though, any decent hunting rifle could be a “sniper rifle.”
In summary, “assault weapons” are no more deadly than any other firearm.

So, if you want to ban "assault weapons," at least be honest and say that you want to ban all firearms. Then we can sit down and have a respectful conversation. In the meantime, I'm going to go throw some lead down range.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And You WANT Government Run Healthcare?

My wife blogs about a little bureaucracy at the school. And our kids only go one day a week as part of the Home School Assistance Program. Of course we all know that the smartest health professionals are hired by our public schools.

"The TROUBLE comes when you have to enroll your child in a school and you have three different states regulations and doctor's decision involved. If even one shot is given at the 'wrong' time according to your current state's bureaucrat's rules they'll kick your child out of school until you 'correct' the problem."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Generic Peanut Butter is Not the Same as Generic Drugs

While driving home today, I heard a comment from a candidate for an office in Arizona. She was a physicist. While talking about how Obamacare was wrong for the country she brought up as support that we were all being forced to use generic drugs and sometimes they work, but sometimes they don't work as well as the name brands. With all of things that are wrong with Obamacare, generic drugs are not one of them (mandating generic drugs is, but mandating name brand drugs would be just as wrong, as is mandating coverage of pre-existing conditions).

First off, my guess is the physicist doesn't understand something about generic drugs. This can be excused. I'll take peanut butter as an example. If you go to Walmart, they sell the brand of peanut butter that God eats, Skippy. They also sell, Peter Pan and their own no-name brand. Or generic peanut butter. Generic peanut butter is not the same thing as Skippy. They are chemically different. The ingredients (and proportions of ingredients) are different. This is because Skippy's special recipe is protected by trade secret (which means the company doesn't tell anyone). Coca Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and McDonald's Special Sauce are likewise protected as trade secrets.

Trade secrets are good, if your company is able to keep it a secret. No one can breach a trade secret. Not because the courts will prevent them (on the contrary, the courts have no jurisdiction over mere trade secrets), but because the companies jealously guard the secret. I have heard (but can't confirm because I am not one of them) that there are only two executives at Coca Cola that know the entire formula and they are not allowed to be in the same location together. The KFC recipe of 11 herbs and spices is mixed at separate facilities and then combined at a third. A trade secret gives the company a monopoly on their corner of the world as long as the secret remains a secret.

Drugs on the other hand are not protected by trade secrets. Not a single one of them (at least not any that are anywhere close to coming to market). Drugs are patented early on in the process and as part of it, their chemical makeup is divulged. They are then tested, retested, retested, and retested before being blessed by the FDA. It is really a race against time from when the drug is patented to when it is finally approved and marketed to have enough time left on the exclusivity of the patent to make back the investment. The patent process protects the invention (in this case a drug) so that the owner of the patent has exclusive rights to make or sell license to make that particular drug.

Once the patent time runs out, it is fair game for anyone. Companies that make generic drugs don't waste valuable dollars on R&D, they make tried and true formulas which they get for free from the patent office. The drug they make is approved by the FDA because IT IS THE EXACT SAME AS THE ORIGINAL. OK, that is not true. Company A stamps their pill "R-87" while Company B stamps their pill "5N0P". The active ingredients are the same, the inactive ingredients are the same, the dose is the same (and usually the size and shape are the same - unless that is protected by a different patent).

So Skippy peanut butter tastes better than generic peanut butter because it different. Equate Acetiminephin works identical to Tylenol because they are the same thing. Whats more, in some cases the generic brands are made by subsidiaries of the name brand companies. Furthermore, in a lot of cases the generic companies will sell their drugs to everyone. So not only is Walmart Tylenol the same as K-mart Tylenol and Kroger's Tylenol and Walgreen's Tylenol, more than likely they came off the same assembly line and just were detoured to a different labeling machine.

So to say that generic drugs sometimes work and sometimes don't work as well as name brands is patently false. If the generic doesn't work one of two things is happening: 1) the name brand doesn't work either or 2) you have a psychological response that is inhibiting the drug (sort of a reverse placebo effect). In case #2, this is an expensive problem that you should be able to solve with a little positive thinking and getting rid of your irrational fears.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Office Supplies and Booby Traps

It seems there has been some pilfering going around the office. It was brought up at our morning meeting s this last week. Why someone needs to "borrow" a stapler from one desk when they can ask their admin assistant to order the Whamodyne 9000 Paper Perforator, I'll never know. Personally, I think the company has an unlimited budget for office supplies. I have never been turned down for a request.

So after this was brought up, I raised a question:

Me: "Since we have this pilfering going on, can we booby trap our cubicles?"

Manager (immediately without thinking): "Everyone else can, but you can't!"

Me: "Why not me?"

Manager: "Because I have seen your teddybear mortar and I have heard your conversations about your hobbies. If I gave you permission I have no doubt that a) you would do it and b) it would be effective."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Logic Fail - As Seen At Work Edition

Normally, I don't blog at work. But, I got in the office today and received the following email:

"This is a real issue across the board. Everyone cannot do everything well. Especially in speciality fields. "You can't count on a dentist for heart surgery" Both are MD's."

Um ... no. A heart surgeon has an MD (Doctor of Medicine). He went to medical school. A dentist has a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine). While the DMD may have MD in the acronym, it is not the same thing. A dentist goes to dental school. Dental school and Medical school are not anywhere close to the same thing. An MD that specializes in mouth stuff is called an orthodontist.

So while it would be correct to say that both are doctors, both are not MD's. Of course it would also be correct to say that a college professor and a heart surgeon are doctors.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cheerleader Outfits

As I sit and watch some college football, I have a question to pose. If your cheerleader outfit consists of a short skirt and a bare midriff, why do you have long sleeves?

Face it, in spite of all the athletic/gymnastic prowess that you profess (and probably do) have, as a cheerleader, you are eye candy. Your purpose at the game is not to rally the fans (the team will do that just fine if they play), your purpose is to serve to take the male mind off of a horrible game that he has probably paid $25-$100 for. Don't believe me, during a well played game that goes down to the wire, try either a) putting on a burqa or b) stripping down to nothing, and no one will notice you.

OK, that is not entirely true, if you chose option (b) then there will be a cadre of fans that will pay attention to you. Having gone to a university that didn't have cheerleaders, I remember when the game was turning into a blowout the conversation would end up being whether the opposing teams' cheerleaders were worth watching. After about 3 touchdowns they always were.

Of course, one thing that has continued to perplex me is why schools with conservative/religious values/reputations (Baylor, BYU, SMU, TCU, etc) even have cheerleaders? I guess the idea that they are athletes somehow convinces some people.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Movie Review: Reign of Fire

The other night, my wife and I had nothing to do at home, so after flipping through the channel guide I asked if she wanted to watch a dumb movie. Sure. Reign of Fire was on. Now, I had never seen the movie before, but I had read about it at Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.

It definitely lived up to its review. Stupid to the nth power. If I had have seen this movie when it came out, I would never have let my wife talk me into watching any movie with Matthew McConnahay (sic) in it. Having the image of the suave ladies man, just makes it hilarious to see him as a shave headed commando (still talking in the slight Texas drawl).

The whole idea of dragons not being able to see well at dusk and dawn sounded good, until you saw the final battle and saw that the dragon could see rather fine at dusk. And if all of your heavy weaponry didn't work, why would you even assume that a battle axe was going to do anything. (Hint: It doesn't.)

As with most stupid movies, I lost 2 hours of my life to this that will never be recovered.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Teen Mom: "I'm Broke"

I saw this headline at the checkout stand at the grocery store on US Magazine. I have never read US magazine and have no desire to (as well as every other magazine that is on the checkout stand).

Why would a magazine boast such an obvious statement? Teenagers don't happen to have a whole lot of marketable skills - hence, the reason they are paid minimum wage as opposed to $100,000. I am assuming that the girl pictured is probably 15-17. Next, teenage moms, particularly single teenage moms are among the poorest demographic in the country. Turns out the lack of marketable skills combined with the expenses of a newborn end up resulting in poverty.

From reading more on the cover, I figured out that there is a reality show about teenage moms. Guess what, reality tv doesn't pay a whole lot (unless you have previously made a sex tape and are famous for being famous). The whole rise of the reality tv genre was to counter the fact that actor/actress based shows were getting very expensive.

So, if you are a network TV exec (remember the primary goal of for profit companies, even media ones, is to make a profit) and you have the TV show "Friends" which costs at least $6 million per episode with 22 episodes per season. And there are 8 million people that watch "Friends" regularly. That is $132 million each season.

On the other hand, someone pitches you the idea of "Survivor". There will be 16 episodes, and the grand prize will be $1 million dollars. All the contestants will just be ordinary people who want their 15 minutes of fame. Even though you are putting them in an exotic local, and you plan on spending gobs of money on sets and stuff, in the end, the cost per episode is only about $1 million. Total cost $17 million. Oh yeah, and you are going to get 8 million people to watch it. So which do you choose?

I can't imagine that whatever channel has the teenage mom show is paying the teenage moms anything more than $100,000 per season (probably more like $10,000). On it you probably have a bunch of narcissitic teens who are looking for their 15 minutes of fame. More than likely they are as good with money decisions as they are in deciding the best time to start a family.

So "Teen Mom: "I'm Broke"" - NO DUH!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

College Football and the DVR

Last night, I found out why God inspired someone to make the DVR. College Football. I had started recording the Utah/Pitt game while I was out at some other activities. I arrived home and was able to start watching it at 9:45 (at the beginning of the 3rd quarter).

Fast forward was great. Slow motion was great. Skipping all of the commercials and halftime was great. Pausing so I could review the stats was great. In the end, I go through the entire game in about 1-1/2 hours. I was about 5 minutes late at the end to see overtime live, but thats fine.

I think I will have to do more planning so that I only take 1.5 hours per football game this season rather than 4 hours. That should make my wife happy.

Whoever invented the DVR, St. Peter has a free entry pass when you die!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Environmentalism Gone Nuts!

At the office yesterday, we briefly discussed an issue with some equipment. It seems Mother Nature likes to continuously grow slimy lifeforms on said equipment which makes for a slip hazard when people walk on it. Solution: Use a biocide.

But not just any biocide, one that is safe for the environment. I heard this and my jaw dropped open. Herbicides kill plants (herb=plant, cide=to kill), pesticides kill pests (pest=pest, cide=to kill), insecticides kill insects (do I still need to spell it out?), fungicides kill fungi (pretty cool naming convention, huh?). So what do biocides kill?

Bio=life. That's right, biocides kill everything. There is no such thing as an "environmentally safe" biocide. That's why its called a biocide!

I kept my mouth shut. You can't win them all

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Ain't 16 Anymore

Four days in the office, primarily spent sitting at a desk or a conference table, followed by a Friday morning of shooting rifles and shotguns, followed by a Saturday morning of playing softball, all leads to a Sunday of sore muscles and not being able to bend the way you want to.

I don't remember this happening when I was 16.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Guess What: Business Outsmarts the Federal Government, AGAIN!

The new banking law just went into effect, lo and behold, the banks have found a way to recoup the fees that they lost from the law. I've mentioned this before, but this outcome was totally predictable. A "free" people (or group of people in the case of a business entity) whose purpose is to make money (which is the ultimate goal of every business, otherwise they would be a charitable organization) will ALWAYS outwit anything but the most draconian government. Profit trumps regulation every single time. Sure it may take a while, and the business may have to jump through some hoops, but regulation alone cannot deny profit.

Totalitarian governments on the other hand have shown that they can squash profits, of course then you usually end up with one of two scenarios: 1) the people revolt and throw off said tyranny (not necessarily in a violent way, case in point Shanghai and Hong Kong two of the most capitalistic places in the world despite being in communist China) or 2) the country remains as a third world backwater (a la North Korea), which will eventually lead to 1.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rest In Peace Rosemary

I found out this afternoon that my friend Rosemary passed away this morning after being diagnosed with cancer six months ago. I met her a little more than three years ago. Two years ago I began to help her and her husband rebuild their home which had been flooded. She was involved in her church, in the community, and raised a great family.

Last year, I took her shooting for the first time in her life at the age of 75. She was about 5' 2" and weighed maybe 110 pounds with all of her winter clothes on. While others were starting off with a .22 LR, she picked up the 9mm and asked how to load it. And then continued to shoot it after commenting that "That kicks a little." She continued on and tried out the AK-47, the SKS, the Saiga-12, and the Mosin-Nagant. Her comment at the end, "That was fun, I'd like to do it again."

Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to go shooting again together. Perhaps John Moses, Jonathan, Samuel, Eliphalet, Oliver, Horace, Daniel, Edmund, Theodor, Sergei, John, Samuel, John, Richard, Nikolay, Sergei, Fedor, Christian, Hiram, Benjamin, Paul, Wilhelm, David or Leon will invite you to go shooting with them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How Exactly Does One Go About Boycotting BP?

With BP capping the well finally, I was wondering if someone could explain to me how they went about boycotting BP for the horrible, evil, wicked thing they did.

I mean, boycotting something like Starbucks is easy (like the Brady Campaign was trying to do), you just don't shop there. Boycotting a multinational entertainment corporation like Disney (like the Christian Coalition did when they began providing benefits to gay employee's partners) is a little more difficult. Sure you can not go see the "Disney" movies, but do you also extend it to not getting the Happy Meal toys? What about if your daughter's friend has a Disney Princess birthday party during your boycott?

Boycotting a state like Utah (which the anti Prop-8 tried to d0) starts to border on the absurd. So you don't travel to Utah. What about connecting flights through Salt Lake City? It is really funny since Utah wasn't the ones who passed Prop 8, and even if none of the Mormons in California voted, Prop 8 still would have passed. Of course the entertainment industry in California has a significant interest in the Sundance Film Festival. What about companies headquartered in Utah? Do those need to be boycotted as well? What if the company started in Utah but later moved to a more tax advantaged place like Delaware or the Bahamas? How about agriculture products like alfalfa and salt? Should those be included in the boycott? Finally, there is a big rail line that goes through the Beehive state. Do we not use products that were brought to us on that rail line?

Questions like these help to show why boycotts rarely (if ever) even have an affect on their intended target. If it is a small localized organization that is being boycotted, then you might (MIGHT!) have some success. With BP, you won't. Do you start with not buying gasoline from BP branded gas stations? Well, this is only going to have an effect if you were buying from BP to begin with. OH, except that those gas stations are simply that, BP branded. They are independently owned and operated and only sell gasoline that happens to have BPs special mix of chemicals (but the gasoline itself may have been refined by Shell, using oil from Exxon). So, what else do you buy from BP. Well, nothing directly. BP doesn't sell much of anything to end consumers. However, they do provide materials to other businesses that make stuff. Oil is used to make fuel, plastics, food, medicine, asphalt, tires, paints, etc. The list goes on and on. Oil is one of the most versatile products out there (which is probably why it is such a major part of our economy. So, I guess if you are going to boycott BP, you can just not use all of those products that are made from oil. Because some small fraction of every plastic water bottle you buy is going to BP (the oil all gets mixed together anyway).

Of course, then your life would be like living in the dark ages.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Public Parking in San Jose

OK, I understand that parking is a premium in San Jose. The hotel had valet parking for $21 a day. The company may be paying for it, but I am not going to try to justify that. The public lot across the street from the hotel was $1.25/15 minutes, maximum of $20, and $9 overnight if you got there after 5 pm.

Except there were some caveats that weren't listed. When you arrived before 5pm, you got a ticket and then you would pay on exit to the boothman. If you arrived after 5pm, you paid $9 to the boothman right away and as long as you were gone by 8am, no other charge. However, the boothman wasn't there from midnight to 8 am. So, if you arrived before 5pm, you got a ticket and then if your car stayed there over night and left before 8am, you paid nothing since there was no one to take your money (and the gate was left open between midnight and 8am.

The second night I tried to explain this to the boothman since I was getting there before 5pm, but he didn't want to take my money. Oh well, I tried.

Movie Review: Transformers

This can't be a full movie review since I didn't see part of the movie. It was on TV late one night and I was vegging. I will admit, the transforming was cool for about the first 10 minutes. Then it became annoying. I grew up with transformers, and part of the cool thing about them is that you could partially tell what the robot transformed into. These ones, you couldn't tell by looking at them.

Best line had to be "Based on the boy's pheromone levels, he wants to mate with the young woman." Which brings me to Megan Fox. Eye candy, yes. Acting ability, no. Lines, I don't remember her saying much.

The other thing that I found disappointing was the autobots, Optimus Prime in particular, were wusses to the nth degree (excepting Bumblebee). Optimus kept on getting beat up and it was up to the kid to beat Megatron at the end. Which reminds me, didn't Megatron transform into a gun (a giant Walther PPK) in the cartoons? I'm not even sure what Megatron was in this.

Finally, what the heck was this Allspark thing? A giant 100 foot cube that transforms down to a handy 1 foot cube for transport. Anyway, the storyline that I saw didn't make much sense, but maybe that was because I didn't see the beginning.

A Travel Dream

OK, so it wasn't really a dream. It all started on Monday morning. Waking up, my stomach felt queasy. I had a flight that I needed to leave for in an hour or so. I got dressed and then proceeded to lay down on the living room floor. About 45 minutes later, I proceeded to the bathroom and violently relieved my stomach of its contents.

Vomiting does have a sort of cathartic release. Immediately before, I feel absolutely awful. Right after the stomach is emptied, I feel great. Except of course for the nasty taste that is left in the mouth. And the post vomit burps which taste just like vomit. So, the good feeling is a nice surprise but it is no reason to do something stupid like drink yourself silly just to have that feeling.

In any case, my travel/work plans just got shot. I left shortly thereafter to go to the airport. Normally when I am sick enough to throw up, I will do it two or three times with an hour or two break in between. At the airport I sat by the restroom, just in case. If I was going to throw up again, I wanted it to be in the bathroom not on the airplane. Thankfully, my first flight was delayed by about 25 minutes, and I threw up again about 10 minutes before boarding.

Throwing up once has that good feeling after it. The second time you throw up, the feeling isn't that good, because your stomach is mostly empty and your muscles feel like they are overly contracting. By the third time, your dry heaving and you just feel like you want to die. Thankfully, the second time was the end for me.

Originally, I had brought a ton of work related reading material to consume on the flights and during the waits in the airport (I was even planning on catching up on my blogs). Unfortunately being sick forced me to focus on keeping my stomach calm and I wasn't able to do much reading. The connecting flight boarded on time, pulled back from the gate, got in line for take off, and something in the cooling system was broke. So, we taxied back to the gate, they fiddled around for about a half hour and found a filter that was clogged.

Attempt two began, we pulled back from the gate, and find something wrong with an engine. Back to the gate. This problem was expected to take an hour or so and they were kind enough to inform us that all other flights that day to San Jose, Oakland, and San Fransisco were booked solid. They broke out the water and I had cup since I hadn't had anything to drink since the night before. They even let people deplane as long as they took their stuff. I elected to stay on the plane since I didn't want to move around too much.

After about an hour, the plane was starting to get really hot and they told all of us who were left to get off the plane, but leave our stuff on it. Shortly after we made our way to the concourse, they changed their mind and decided to change planes so those of us who had just got off the plane had to get back on to get our stuff. The new plane was delayed further for about a half hour but they never told us why. It had been five hours of waiting already so we were happy when they took off. They also gave us 7000 miles for the inconvenience.

I didn't mind too much since my being sick had already ruined the work plans I had for the day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Top Shot 4: Shoot - No Shoot

Well, once again I am almost a week behind. Since I have Monday off, I think I might try to blog the next Top Shot after I shoot off fireworks... er I mean light sparklers (because that is what the State of Iowa allows us semi-free citizens). The practice is shooting an AR-15 at black and white ceramic plates (while the reactivity of glass and ceramic is nice to see, I don't use them because they are a pain to clean up - then again, maybe the Top Shot Key Grip is the one stuck with that job, assuming they are being environmentally friendly).

Most people have no problem, except for Jim (who I think said he had never shot an AR-15 before - who in this world has not shot an AR-15, its only like the most popular rifle next to the AK-47). But he manages slowly. So at the competition it is a memory game as well. That makes it somewhat interesting. The Red Team rocks it, and the Blue Team tanks (although Caleb did shoot well).

So is there celebration by the Red Team? No, they are playing it cool and acting all macho. They get back to the house and the Blue Team immediately implements their plan and "nominates" Iain and Jim. Jim I can understand, he hit a wrong plate, and his specialty is historical rifles (which they shot in the first episode). Iain I am guessing was self nominating so that he could eliminate Jim. Frankly, Tara missed a shot too and it would have been nice to see her go against Jim. But whatever, the Blue Team is all smiles and giggles about it.

And guess what the Red Team does? Yep, they begin to whine. They whine because they won, they whine because the Blue Team isn't depressed, they whine, whine, whine. Its almost like they lost the challenge. Basically at this point I would not be disappointed is all of the rest of the Red Team is eliminated and we continue the competition with just the Blue Team (however, with the scant knowledge of reality shows that I have, I doubt that will happen - they may get down to 3 players and the Blue Team down to five and then they will combine to become the Purple Team for the rest of the game). In any case ... QUIT THE WHINING. You are all adults here (even Kelly is old enough to buy alcohol and apply for an FFL).

The elimination practice is with the TZ-99 pistol. I never heard of it before so I looked it up. Turns out to be a South African knockoff of a Sig. OK, well, why not just use a Sig? Anyway, they get to shoot at a moving target. Both Iain and Jim (forgot to tell you they were actually nominated) shoot well.

At the elimination competition they are shooting at plates on pendulums, so they have to hit the right moving plate, without hitting the other plate. Tricky, Iain scores perfectly, and then Jim gets to shoot. He appears to score perfectly including a line by another Blue Team member "Oh man what are they going to do for a tiebreaker?" But alas, it was just good camera editing. On Jim's last shot he broke the correct plate and the wrong plate that was lined up behind it. He shot suprisingly good for being a rifle guy that rarely (read never) shoots pistols.

The previews for next week appear to show them shooting a musket. That should be interesting. So far they have done historical rifles, Beretta 92F, long bow and crossbow, modern rifle and pistol, and musket?. Haven't seen any shotguns yet. Or cap and ball pistols. Or blunderbuss, or sling, or javelin, or chinese throwing stars, or cannon, or derringer. But there are 12 contestants left (which means probably 11 to 15 more types of weapons).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Zero Tolerance = Zero Brains

At what point do we say enough is enough? Toy soldiers glued on to a hat violates a weapons policy? We are talking about molded pieces of solid plastic that are less than a millimeter thick. I don't think you could hurt let alone kill anyone with a toy soldier.

And the schools response, "Well, if you replace the soldiers with ones that aren't carrying weapons then the hat will be OK." So molded plastic in the shape of a radio that is a millimeter thick is soooooo much more acceptable than a firearm shaped plastic gun. I do have one question, what about a plastic molded holstered pistol? Is that acceptable if the main item the soldier is holding is a radio. How about if the pistol has a full flap so that you don't know whether there is a molded pistol inside? What if the soldier has a couple of plastic grenades clipped onto his plastic uniform.

These soldiers weren't even engaged in the act of pretend shooting at each other. It was just part of a patriotic theme. You know, soldiers, the ones that defend and protect the Constitution. But then again, they probably don't teach much about the Constitution anymore. I would guess that pencils, rulers, and scissors (which are all over the schools) are used as weapons far more often than some of the ridiculous things that "weapons" policies ban.

I'm the Technological Neanderthal??!!!

The newest iPhone came out and guess what? I didn't get one. Not only that, I have no desire to get one, ever. I didn't get an iPad or an iPod. (alright I admit, I am only mentioning them to increase my Google relevance score). Recently, I was accused of being a technological neanderthal because I don't have a cellphone (to set the record straight, I do have a Tracphone, it just hasn't been used in more than a year). I thought this accusation was rather humorous.

I have more computing power in my home than my parents and all siblings combined. I was the first in my family to have a DVD player and a portable DVD player. I had a Palm Pilot for many years. I was the first with a webcam in my family and helped facilitate video conferences with the family.

I use MagicJack to make free calls when I am overseas. I am the one my father would call for technical support (until he got a Mac - sorry, I like my cheap computers that I know there is software for, and I don't think Microsoft is the devil incarnate - besides if you want to look at unfair business practices, you don't have to look any further than Apple, they just weren't the biggest fish on the block until recently so expect a lawsuit against them in the next couple of years - but I digress). I pride myself on being able to read a map and not having to rely on a GPS unit to find my way around different cites or even foreign countries.

I helped my wife make the conversion to digital scrapbooking. I have designed database driven websites (that make money) and taught myself PHP, Perl, and MySQL. I have had high speed internet at my home for almost 10 years.

Yet somehow, I am a technological neanderthal because I don't have a cellphone.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sometimes Mother's are Wrong

We all love our mothers. And our mothers love us. Sometimes though, mothers are wrong. Joran is no choir boy. He is a liar and all the evidence is pointing to being a murderer as well. Its OK, just because your son turns out to be a rotten human does not mean that you are a rotten human. I won't even say your a bad parent. Part of being human is we each get to make our own choices in spite of how our parents may have tried to mess with our minds (mine limited it to cereal rules).

Roads in Iowa

I spent the last two weekends on the roads of Iowa with different results from a month ago. Last weekend I saw zero deer in eight hours (although there were a couple of mangled racoons or some such small dog sized varmint). This weekend I only saw one deer. So, I can surmise a few things:

1) the Iowa DNR issued a bunch of new hunting permits based on my suggestion
2) the deer got smarter and started avoiding major traffic thruways
3) it was too hot and rainy in the last two weeks and the deer while not smart enough to avoid cars, are smart enough to stay in shelter for the weather.

Hint: Jason Bourne Isn't Real

Just in case you didn't know, Jason Bourne is not real. Even before Matt Damon popularized him in the movies, he was just a figment of an author's imagination on the pages of a book. He wasn't even loosely based on a real person like Indiana Jones was. He was, is, and always will be 100% fake.

Anyway, some criminal has some guns and manages to slip out the fire escape and people compare him to Jason Bourne. This news report is atrocious in its treatment of facts. At one point the binoculars are "trained on the Federal Reserve building", only later to be found beside a tripod by a window that overlooks the Federal Reserve. So which is it?

Then we find out that the investigation was stymied because of the most unusual tactic of ... wait for it ... using TWO fake names. Jason Bourne would be proud. Its not like this tactic is widely used in the criminal world. He has friends in the clothing industry which was substantiated with the designer clothes and European shoes in his apartment. I mean, we all know that you can't get designer clothes and European shoes in any mall in America. Besides, this was Los Angeles, not exactly the most cosmopolitan city in the US.

He had set up a machine shop in one room where he was "manufacturing the parts of assault rifles that ammunition magazines are slotted into ..." To the average person, this may sound ominous. In gunnie terms, he was probably making receivers from blank plate. The receiver is what is legally a firearm (i.e. it has the serial number stamped on it). There isn't anything wrong with making receivers (or making your own complete firearms). Furthermore, it is not that complicated. They do it in caves in Afgahnistan. They even do it in prison. If you own a file and a hammer, you have all of the tools you need to make a fully functional firearm. Everything just makes it easier.

Then there is this gem, "Detectives found a loaded sawed-off shotgun and handgun, an AK-47, ammunition and other weapons parts including a gun barrel. " This is the "cache" of loaded weapons they found. Three. A rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun. Notice that they don't say multiple shotguns, rifles, and handguns. A single rifle, shotgun, and handgun. I guess people who compete in Cowboy Action Shooting and Three Gun Matches don't realize they are carrying around a "cache" with them. And what is with the other parts including a gun barrel? A single gun barrel? So perhaps he could have made one other firearm with the parts he had (last I checked you needed at least one barrel to make a firearm).

Based on his past record, drug possession and theft, I am assuming that he already has at least one felony. Which makes his mere possession of the firearms illegal. Oh yeah, in the state of California. Guess all of those gun control laws kept us safe, because he didn't own, ... er I mean do anything wrong, ... er I mean hurt someone.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Shot 3: Bows and Arrows

I guess I better do my review of this one before the next episode comes out. My wife watched it with me and during the middle I tried to make the comment that "at least there wasn't as much whining as other reality shows."

"Are you kidding me? There is just as much whining and these are supposedly grown-ups who play with macho guns all the time." Point conceded. "The only difference is that they aren't running around in bikinis." Shortly after this we had the bedroom scene of Bill whining while getting changed and I pointed out that now they had a half-naked fat guy, so my wife wasn't totally correct.

Anyway, the weapon of choice was bows and arrows. I shot a bow when I was younger for the archery merit badge. They made a big deal how this was an ancient weapon, the long bow. And that it could rain devastation from hundreds of yards. So for the contest today, instead of using a 180 lb yew wood long bow, they were going to use a 40 lb fiberglass long bow at only 100 yards (for a target that is 30 feet across). What? Why build up the great aspects of the weapon if you are not going to test it? I think it would have been much more fun to see the contestants attempt to pull back on a 180 lb long bow. Besides, the long bow wasn't used for accuracy, you had several hundred that all together loosed their arrows at another group of several hundred soldiers a few hundred yards away. There wasn't much aiming, you just needed to get in the general direction and the sheer mass of arrows would ensure that some would get hit.

What do you know from practice, there aren't a lot of bullseyes. Then again, this group was an assemblage of firearms shooters (a few of whom happen to have experience with other weapons). At scout camp, we were shooting 60 lb recurve bows, and at 100 yards after a day of training, I (and pretty much every one else) could hit a three foot target 2 out of five times. Maybe their training wasn't as good as the pimply faced kid that gave me mine. So we get to the contest and Kelly gets an arrow in the yellow. For a while it looks like the red team might actually win. Then JJ gets up and hits in the yellow. While the host makes it sound like the arrows are close, from the first shot I could tell that JJ's was closer. Yep, after official measurement, JJ's is several inches closer.

There is some minor background drama and to make a long story short, Bill and Brad get put in the elimination round. Brad is whining constantly about having to compete with a bow and arrow when he is an IPSC Grand Master. Wah, wah, wah. If anyone is rooting for Brad at this point, it is probably because you are even more whiny than he is. They go to their practice session and find out that they are going to be competing with the crossbow. As with the previous contest, they build it up as the great ancient weapon that it is and then use a modern equivalent, complete with scope. Brad is very sensible and states that he spent a lot of time practicing his loading.

At the contest, they are shooting apples, in a very loose "re-creation" of William Tell shooting an apple off of his son's head. Of course, William tell didn't have optics on his crossbow, and it probably was not made of specialized materials, but I digress. The teasers of the shot showed the instructor (fuzzy in the background) shooting an apple with a bulbous head which naturally caused the apple to explode into fragments when hit. I was hoping that Bill and Brad would be doing the same thing. No such luck. They had bolts with a simple target point that would fly right through the apple, in some cases, it wasn't apparent except when they showed it in slow-mo that the apple was hit. This was a let down from previous competitions when they had reactive and/or exploding targets. Brad won. Mainly because he could load faster. For as much as he whines, that guy does know a thing or two about strategy.

Bill leaves and doesn't bother to say goodbye to Kelly (who he had a tuft with earlier). Good riddance. Right now, Brad has won two elimination challenges. I am beginning to think that he might be the last of the red team. Next week (today) is a shoot/no shoot with AR-15s.

Protecting the Skys, One 6-Year Old at a Time

The TSA is there to protect us. They are working hard to stop terrorists everyday. In fact, there are a whole host of stories where the TSA has prevented bad things from happening. There was that one time that they stopped a terrorist from detonating a bomb in his underwear ... oh wait, that was passengers on the plane. But there was that other time that they stopped someone from passing a note that said there was a bomb onboard ... oh wait that was the stewardess. Well, there have been a couple of unruly passengers that they stopped from boarding the plane ... oh wait, no they didn't airline employees identified them and had them removed.

So what has the TSA done? Well, they have strip searched amputee's traveling with their small children. They steal money from wheelchair bound passengers. They subpeona bloggers who re-post their security directives. They can't keep their hands off of 3 year olds. And they force mom's to drink their own breast milk.

But remember, this is the agency that is sooooo much more professional and better trained than the screeners we had before 9/11 who basically were minimum wage employees that left you alone. You know, the one's who let the 9/11 hijackers onto the plane as opposed to the one's now who let the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber onto the plane.

But we have the restricted fly list of those people who are so dangerous we won't let them fly. They haven't actually been convicted of anything, or even charged with anything, but we will only let them roam around shopping malls and have access to gas stations because large crowds are immune to burning gasoline, but we wouldn't want them to get onto an airplane with 200 other passengers and 3 ounces of hair gel.

So who is on the no fly list? Well to start with, some of the 9/11 hijackers on are the no fly list - yes, those ones who burned up in the plane crashes. We can't be too careful. Afterall, someone else may use that dead person's identity. There are heads of state (Bolivia and Lebanon - but not Iran and Venezuela). Robert Johnson is also on the list - not exactly the most common name, but pretty darn close. Ted Kennedy was on it, but he was allowed to rent a car without further scrutiny. Recently, it was discovered that a 6 year old girl was on the list. I thought it was just Iran that executed 7 year olds as spys. In America, we are much more civilized. We just subject suspected 6 year olds to strip searches and prevent them from traveling with their families.

The change in airport screening has done NOTHING to make air travel safer. The only thing that has made air travel safer is 1) reinforcing the cockpit doors and 2) passenger awareness that terrorists are going to blow up the plane. Surely if all of the Orange Alert Levels, 16 weeks of TSA training, and confiscation of nail clippers actually made an impact, then the TSA would be able to tout at least one example where a terrorist plot was thwarted. Afterall, there are millions of flights a year.

chirp ... chirp ... chirp

Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Top Shot Episode 2

Top Shot episode 2 was shown on Sunday and as promised, I DVRed it and watched it later. I was rather liberal in use of the fast forward. Today was going to be a pistol shooting competition using a Berretta 92F (the same one they used for the elimination round voting).

There were a couple of pistol shooting champions and they did their requisite showing off (at least on the blue team Blake did). What I want to know by this time is what in the heck are they doing with all of their off time? Each team had 140 rounds to practice with. Assuming (and this is being generous) that you are spending 1 minute for each shot, then that is less than 2.5 hours per team. What about the other 14 waking hours of the day?

Is there a shooting range that they can just have fun at? Do they have airsoft set up in the basement? And did I hear that right, they are in California? Why go to such a gun unfriendly state for a show about firearms? Lots of questions.

What was good to see was the inexperienced pistol shooters took direction and followed it explicitly and were in many cases shooting better than the experienced shooters. Then there was Brad, the red team's expert. I understand that he shoots Glocks (he only mentioned it about 500 times - which means if we didn't have the video edited he would have mentioned it 10,000 times in real life). But this is a pistol at roughly 7-10 yards. You aren't doing anything fancy. If in your first five rounds you are shooting low and to the right, then adjust your aim for the next five shots. It's not rocket science!

There was enough coverage of him and other teammates comments about him that I was fairly certain he was going to be in the elimination round. The competition the next day was rather creative, shooting a plexiglass cover out the end of a tube. No paper or other target to see your misses. The red team was up first. The "inexperienced" shooters did well hitting on the first shot. Then the misses happened. Including Brad.

When the blue team was up, the old guy started off and missed, then again, from what I gather he hadn't shot a pistol before the practice session the day before. The rest of the team all hit theirs on the first shot, it was back to the old guy. He was taking his time and some of his teammates were whining, but it was good that he took his time and scored on his second shot. Plus he had 30 seconds to spare. The Blue Team won again. I think it was JJ who did his signature legs wrapped around his teammate's body jump. (Its just an immunity challenge, you didn't win Miss America or anything.)

So the red team gets to go to elimination again. Shooting at the targets, Andre again nails the bullseye (this guy seems pretty good, I think there are teammates that are underestimating him), and there is a tie for the second place person. Frank is the first competitor and an ammo box is brought out with the people's names to choose who gets to choose the second contestant. And Brad gets chosen (see I called it earlier).

Their elimination competition involves movement. Practice is relatively boring, but the competition is not. They get to ride a zip line and shoot at targets on either side of them. This looks really difficult. There are about 12 targets total. The first time through, they each hit 5 targets. So they get to go again. One of them mentioned possibly trying to do a little strategy (after the first couple of targets just focus on one side) but then didn't carry through.

The second time through Brad again hit 5 targets and Frank hit 1. Sorry frank. Brad was a real whiner. I hope they don't shoot Glocks at all during this competition (or at least not until Brad is eliminated). I was disappointed that neither tried to hit the bonus exploding targets, but then looking at the field, you probably would only have time for one shot inside of 10 yards while you were moving at 15 miles an hour (a sprint for those who need help with the units conversion). Certainly not an easy shot to make.

Episode 2 was better than 1. The teaser for Episode 3 was for the long bow. Not sure how that will work out for them. With Frank gone there are only a couple that have archery experience form their bios.

Lawnmower Problems

With all of the rain lately, I decided to try and take advantage of a small window of opportunity when it wasn't raining and get the lawn mowed before I lose any kids in the grass. My philosophy on push lawnmowers (and lots of small engine equipment) is that their cost is so little relative to my earnings that I will fill it with gas when it stops and fill it with oil just before it seizes up and then basically do nothing.

I don't drain the fluids before winter. I don't sharpen blades every year. I certainly don't change the oil. I did have a riding lawnmower once when I had a half acre to mow. It came with the house and was about 30 years old. It would run out of oil about once a season and semi-seize up. I would put a quart or two in it and then wait an hour for it to cool down some, and it kept on working.

Small engines are designed to take the abuse of the casual home owner. Last year I didn't mow the lawn at all (my wife did it all), this year I have noticed that the lawnmower wasn't running real smooth. Choppy, changing speeds, although right before it ran out of gas it would rev up to its normal operating speed (and then promptly die).

So, halfway through the yard I ran out of gas. Got the gas can (which has gas that is probably 1-1/2 years old and didn't have the fuel stabilizer put in it last winter), and filled it up. Normally, the lawnmower starts on a single pull. But, this time, I could get it to sputter a bit and then it would poop out again. After several minutes it was time to get some tools out and check the thing out.

First thing I did was check out the air filter. The air filter is nothing more than a sponge with a hole in it. At the intake holes it was cakes with oily grass clippings. Well, that could be a problem. The lack of air would definitely affect the engine causing it to run rich for the amount of air (explaining the sluggishness), and then working fine at the end of the tank when it was just sucking a few fumes (and getting the fuel-air mixture just right).

So, I took it inside and cleaned it with some dish soap (dish soap is good for oil - they use it to clean off animals from oil spills - or at least that is what the Dawn commercials say). While the filter was off, I decided to check to make sure that gas was spraying through the carbeurator. A couple pumps on the primer and a nice stream of gas was spraying. So, I attempted to start the engine with the air filter off. No luck, it was doing the same thing as before.

So, the next thing to do was pull the spark plug. Sure enough, it was caked with carbon deposits. One of the problems with a engine constantly running a rich mixture is some of the fuel is left on the spark plug and chamber walls. This gets hot enough to smolder, but doesn't make a clean burn. Instead, it coats the surfaces with a black carbon deposit. Eventually, this gets thick enough that the spark won't happen, hence the engine won't sustain itself.

Some wiping off with a rag and a file to clean up the sparking surfaces and I was ready to go. Put it all back together and the lawnmower started on the second pull. I let it run for a while to be sure it didn't die. So, the next time I am at Lowe's I'll probably pick up a new air filter and a spark plug. After all, I have had the lawnmower for three years and I haven't done any maintenance on it until today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mental State of Candidates

If you haven't heard about the Democratic primary in South Carolina, it is an ongoing bag of jokes that keeps on topping itself. To begin, the primary was won by a candidate who is dirt poor and did no campaigning, in spite of the other candidate being the one supported by the Democratic Party.

Then, we find out that the winner happened to have displayed not so appropriate pictures to someone and is charged with a felony (I am not sure if he was convicted or even if it has gone to trial.

Next, the loser decides to question whether the winner did something fishy to stuff the ballot box. My guess is, since he didn't do any campaigning, there is probably only a 50/50 chance that he even voted himself.

And now, the loser is questioning the mental state of the winner. I am sorry, what does it say about YOUR mental state when you are backed by the party and can't win your own primary against an alleged (or convicted?) felon who didn't even campaign, and then you have the temerity to suggest that this mental midget was able to hatch some brilliant ballot stuffing plan which has so far gone undetected by anyone?

The Democratic Party in South Carolina should just slink into a corner at this point and realize something went horribly wrong, but not make it worse by dragging it out and making the party look like imbeciles.