Thursday, March 29, 2012


So says Worldnet Daily.

U.S officials were unwilling to state emphatically that the soldiers would not be turned over to the Afghan legal system for burning the Qurans.

William Speakes, a spokesman for the Pentagon said, “It would be premature to speculate at any potential outcomes. Any disciplinary action if deemed warranted will be taken by U.S. authorities after a thorough review of the facts pursuant to all U.S. military law and regulations and in accordance with due process. We have made no commitments beyond that.”

Is there anything the Obama administration does that cannot be understood by assuming that it hates America?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Math in the Movies

I grabbed the following screenshot while watching Moneyball the other day:

Moneyball Screen Shot

If I understand it correctly (and feel free to jump in), the formula

is the probability that, say, a team with a track record of winning 52% of its games (during, say, a 51-47 season) will win exactly 41 of its next 53 games, without respect to the order in which they are won.

With the help of my trusty HP-15c (yes, I found it!), I calculated that probability as .0000906, which is (1) a pretty low probability and (2) pretty much what you will always get when you are trying to find one among a whole lot of possibilities.

What I don’t know is why you would want to know this, or from what book this page was taken.  (In context, my best guess is a Bill James book.)  Anybody?

All Is Forbidden

Via Volokh, the 7th Circuit opinion on open carry: Gonzalez vs. West Milwaukee.

I'm not especially upset by this decision, since as the judges readily admit, the substantive issue has been superceded legislatively. Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment in 1998 securing the right to keep and bear arms. Late last year, it also implemented CCW regime and, significantly, clarified the "disorderly conduct" statute specifically excluding the carrying of firearms from its scope. It was on this latter charge that Gonzalez was arrested twice, in 2008 and 2009.

Gonzalez is hardly the ideal poster child for the 2nd Amendment, as his subsequent conviction for negligent homicide demonstrates. The right to open carry should be asserted by all with the courage to do so; however, simultaneously dressing like a character from The Matrix trilogy, as Gonzalez did, is probably not the best approach.

What's interesting to me about the opinion is its window into the way judges think when they choose to: everything is forbidden. There was no law in Wisconsin against the open carry of a firearm, but the district court believed that “'[n]o reasonable person would dispute' that openly carrying a firearm in a retail store 'is highly disruptive conduct' and 'virtually certain to create a disturbance.'” So daren't actually exercise the freedom.

The 7th Circuit agrees with this, but for the state constitutional affirmative right. But then it writes,

At the time of Gonzalez’s arrest, the legality of open carrying was debatable and had in fact been debated in two cases in the state supreme court testing the scope of Wisconsin’s recently adopted constitutional provision guaranteeing an individual right to bear arms.

So the people of Wisconsin pass a constitutional right, and this merely makes it debatable whether it supercedes a mere statute, and one as broad and ill-defined as "disorderly conduct"?

Ultimately, Gonzalez was never charged. This case was brought by Gonzalez for "declarative relief", which I think means that he wanted it established that he shouldn't be arrested anymore. But for some reason, perhaps because he wasn't charged, Gonzalez' Fouth Amendment claim was against the individual officers, and on this the court gave the officers "qualified immunity".

Now, I'm not a lawyer, so maybe one of my readers can explain this to me. I'll admit that I'm a bit uncomfortable holding police officers individually liable for actions that don't obviously contravene their department's policy. It's the policy that's the appropriate target here. But it seems that the standard set forth by the 7th Circuit, were it to be applied broadly, would make it pretty dang difficult to assert any right at all. Ultimately, while it's nice to not be prosecuted, giving police officers "qualified immunity" for molesting citizens guarantees that few people with, you know, jobs and mortgages are going to actually exercise any of the freedoms they theoretically retain.

Happily, the people of Wisconsin seemed to have finally made it clear to the courts that the right to keep and bear arms means exactly what it says. But . . . what about Christians in Dearborn, Michigan, routinely harrassed by police for exercising their rights of speech and assembly? This is obviously illegal, and the police know it, but that alone doesn't stop them.

UPDATE: More disorderly conduct nonsense.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Who’s Justice?

It took some legwork on Google, but I dug up the name of the white teenager shot to death by Eric Holder’s goon squad in a Studio City, CA parking lot back in 2010:  Zachary Champommier.

You remember the round-the-clock Trayvon Martin-treatment the media gave to the story, right?  No?  Yeah, me neither.

The LA Times gave it brief coverage when it happened.  Other local media basically recycled law enforcement press releases.

The only real coverage (and I’m not even sure if this counts as real media) came from the Toluca Lake Patch and the Studio City Patch.

Laid Low by Appliances

Access Denied

From: []
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 12:15 PM
To: Dr. Φ BigGovernmentAgency
Subject: Red Sweater Site Review submission response

Submitted URL: category: Unrated

Your comments:

Although the category listed above is "Reference", when I attempt to visit this and other science articles on Wikipedia, I am informed that the page is also "Adult/Mature Content", which I assume is the reason it is blocked. Please fix.

Reviewed: March 22, 2012 4:15:19 PM GMT

Thanks for submitting to the RedSweater WebFilter team for review. We appreciate the opportunity to provide the results of our analysis with you.

After careful evaluation of the Web content submitted, a Web Content Analyst has left this URL categorized as Reference.

Red Sweater does not select which category or categories are blocked or allowed.  This decision is controlled by policy defined by our customers. If you feel that a certain category or site should be either blocked or allowed, click <here> to find out more about how to change your Internet access policy.

If you have any other questions that should be directed to the Red Sweater WebFilter team, feel free to reply to this message.

Thank you,

Red Sweater WebFilter


From: Dr. Φ BigGovernmentAgency
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:59 AM
To: GROUP-Filtering
Subject: RE: Red Sweater Site Review submission response


Thank you for the opportunity to reply to your email. Attached is a screen shot of the results of attempting to connect to the website given below. As you can see, it is categorized in two ways: "Adult/Mature Content;Reference".

Please eliminate the first of these categorizations.



From: Comstock, Tony []
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 1:03 PM
To: Dr. Φ BigGovernmentAgency
Subject: RE: Red Sweater Site Review submission response

Dr. Φ,

A member of my team incorrectly rated as Adult/Mature Content and Reference while attempting to directory rate a page within Wikipedia. She corrected it 28 minutes later (that was 19 hours ago) but during that time a category update file was built and several customers (including the BigGovernmentAgency) downloaded it. Once you download a new category update file from us you should see the restriction has been removed. We create update files every 4 hours but the BigGovernmentAgency only downloads once per day.

Apologies for the inconvenience,

Tony Comstock
Web Analysis Senior Manager
Red Sweater Systems, Inc.


From: Dr. Φ BigGovernmentAgency
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 11:30 AM
To: Comstock, Tony
Subject: RE: Red Sweater Site Review submission response



Thank you for your prompt reply. Which article in Wikipedia is it that Blue Coat is rating "Adult/Mature Content"?




From: Comstock, Tony []
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 1:34 PM
To: Dr. Φ BigGovernmentAgency
Subject: RE: Blue Coat Site Review submission response

There are many. The one germane to this conversation is (you asked).


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Range Report

I was inspired.


Not inspired enough to make make a spreadsheet like Professor Hale, but enough to post some pictures.

Prvi Partizan 69 gr. BTHP Match, $10.95/20:

Prvi Partizan 69gr


Rem Fiocchi 69 gr. Matchking, $16.95/20:

Fiocchi Matchking 69gr


PMC Precision 75 gr. Match, $16.95/20:

PMC Precision 75gr


Right to Bear Ultra Match 75 gr., $14.95/20

Right-to-Bear Ultra Match 75gr


After a couple of sight adjustments, I resumed.

PMC Bronze 55 gr., $10.95/20*:

PMC Bronze


PMC X-Tac 55 gr., $10.95/20*



Precision Cartridge Inc. 55 gr. (factory reloads), $19.95/50*:

Precision Inc.


Precision Cartridge Inc. w/Iron Sights**:

Iron Sights



  • All targets were shot at 50 yards.
  • The first four loads were hollow points.
  • You get what you pay for.  Only the Fiocchi and the PMC Precision even look like they came from a rifle.  But at $16.95/20, I can’t see myself using much of it for anything but varmit shooting.
  • * Prices are estimated.  I bought this ammo a while ago.
  • ** These shots may have been my 7 y.o. daughter’s, since we were sharing this target.  One of us completed missed.
  • I don’t seem to be an especially impressive shooter on a .223 rifle.

Monday, March 19, 2012

When you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe in nothing.

Via Mangan and Half Sigma, the Pew Forum Religion Quiz.  For what it’s worth, Φ scored 14/15, missing the question about Nirvana (it’s Buddhist, not Hindu).

Here is the Executive Summary:

religious-knowledge-01 10-09-28

On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average). Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

Well, the questions were about what the Supreme Court says about religion, not the actual text of the Constitution, but whatever.  The interesting thing to me was that all groups scored highly on what SCOTUS doesn’t allow (teacher led prayer), but everyone tanked the question on what they do allow (Bible as literature).

Jewish performance is of course complicated by it being an ethnic as well as religious category.  But I’m curious as to why atheists take the trouble to seek out (as opposed to absorbing from the culture around them) information about eastern religions (if that is a fair characterization) when their identity as atheists ought to imply a rejection of all religious belief, not just Christianity.

Or . . . maybe it doesn’t?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Can’t an American Franchise Do This?

A while back, Ace of Spades HQ posted the trailer to a coming  computer-generated anime called, in English, “Cat Shit One,” the call sign for a pair of PSCs doing hostage rescue in SWA.  The fun part is, the PSCs are rabbits while the evil ragheads are camels.

The characters were rendered using some kind of motion capture technology on actors who obviously had military training.  The result is a pair of bunnies who move exactly as American infantrymen are trained to move.

Part One of Episode 1:

Part Two:

If anyone knows where an English dubbed version or  additional episodes are to be had, please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Who’s Up, Who’s Down

One of the advantages (okay, perhaps the only advantage) of my slowly advancing years is that I notice when things change.  For instance, just recently, I noticed some changes to the Standard Form 86, the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions.”  For the uninitiated, this is the form we use to account for basically our entire lives before we can get a government security clearance.

Section 29 of the SF 86 asks seven questions, six of which are variants of “are you or have you ever been a terrorist”.  But the last question asks:  “Have you EVER participated in militias (not including official state government militias) or paramilitary groups?”  [Emphasis in the original.]  I don’t remember this question from 20 years ago, or even ten years ago.

So . . . why are they asking it now?

Keep in mind that this is the only question they ask about what in and of itself is a legal activity.  For instance, given our security situation today,  I would think it would be much more useful to ask if me if I was a Muslim (or a Scientologist for that matter). But they don’t.  Instead, they ask a half-dozen questions about activities that are actually against the law.

So why pick on militia members?  Islam has directly motivated multiple terrorist attacks on Americans, but has a “militia” ever been implicated in a criminal conspiracy in a case that hasn’t fallen apart at the first objective look, a la the Hutaree fiasco?

I haven’t looked in on the militia movement lately, but I’m pretty sure that most of them consider themselves patriots.  I would think them especially unlikely to pass national security information to foreign intelligence agencies.

The SF86 also has some new questions about computer hacking.  Section 27 has three questions asking for the details of any unauthorized access, alteration, or destruction of information on any IT system.  To be fair, this is obviously wrong.  But there are a lot of wrong things that people do.  The SF86 asks about only a fraction of them.  How did hacking make the list?

I’m wondering how much these questions have to do about national security and how much they have to do about status competition:  a way for the government to signal who it likes and who it doesn’t like.

. . . .

In related news, Steve Jobs had a top secret security clearance:

[T]he information included in the investigation mirrors some of the challenges faced by investigators today – past drug use, a series of legal actions requiring research and investigative hours and conflicting reports from colleagues and associates concerning Jobs’ personal character and personality.

Monday, March 05, 2012


I had always assumed, without really thinking about it, that the writer of XKCD was a woman, probably because of what I saw as compellingly drawn female characters. I didn't fully understand how attached I had become to that notion until I discovered that, no, he isn't

I'm not sure why that disappoints me so much. It may be that strips like this now look douchey instead of edgy. It may be that the author's manifest atheism was unexpected, and therefore interesting, in a woman, but in a man just comes across as unreflective.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Devil You Know

Steve’s written a number of posts on Israeli influence on both American policy and American interests.  He links to a story about a false-flag operation in which Mossad agents pretended to be CIA agents while aiding Jundallah, an anti-Iranian Sunni terrorist group.  Steve comments:

Anyway, lately, I have a hard time getting too worked up over this kind of thing.  These days, Israel just kind of wants to win at the Great Game more. It's their hobby.

I was I could be as sanguine about this as Steve is.  It’s bad enough that the American government recklessly wagers America’s national honor in provocative foreign policy.  Because once (let’s say) Pearl Harbor gets bombed, it renders moot discussions about the wisdom of our oil embargo.  We can’t be America and not go to war.  But at least the American government is constitutionally empowered to make these wagers and is at least theoretically accountable to the people for the outcomes.

But the Israelis action was calibrated to provoke an Iranian attack, not on Israel, but on America.  Such is not the action of a friend.

But what are our choices?  Steve writes about the recent media attack on the Center for American Progress for alleging outsized Israeli influence:

What I do care about is the liberty and quality of debate in the U.S.

The difference between the Israel and the Cuba lobby is that the Cuba Libre Lobby is happy when you mention out loud how powerful they are, because that makes them seem even more powerful.

In contrast, the Israel Lobby, although it boasts itself about its own power (just check out the annual AIPAC conference in D.C.) tries to destroy people who mention its power, or who might even someday get around to mentioning it, as long as the Israel Lobby isn't comfortable with them. "Pay no attention to that lobby behind the curtain!" The latter has a severely chilling effect on thought in the more careerist parts of America.

I assume here that Steve wants what I want:  a free and substantive debate about how to advance American interests.  Yet is the emergency of that debate a likely outcome absent what Pat Buchannan once called the “Amen Corner”?

I doubt it.  Here is my bet for what happens:  Israel becomes . . . South Africa.

Think about it for the second.  All the things for which apartheid South Africa was criticized apply to Israel, and all the differences between them are unlikely to be especially salient to the kind of people that got worked up over apartheid South Africa, except for the ability of AIPAC to keep us from having that discussion.

I don’t want the Israelis to be compelled by the weight of American policy to commit national suicide in the manner of the Afrikaners.  I want our policy to be pro-America, not anti-Ashkenazi.  But maybe we have the best of the bad options?