CNN Not Dead Yet

If I were a completely cynical bastard… oh, wait, I’m reliably informed by my spouse that I am. Anyhow, since I’m a completely cynical bastard, I might think that CNN was trying to drum up a little controversy to get people to pay more attention to them. As much as I enjoy conspiracy theories, you’d probably be reaching pretty far to get there. I might be persuaded of the malice of individual CNN staffers leading them to gross lapses of judgment. In the final analysis, I’m going to have to have to go with Hanlon’s Razor. CNN is staffed by incompetents. Over at Instapunk, an alternative explanation is presented for your perusal. I might be convinced of the rightness of their explanation, if only because they liberally reference the finest moment of Rowdy Roddy Piper’s career.

Really, isn’t the whole thing a tempest in a teapot? Find something more important to obsess over. CNN’s journalism sucks and their ratings are down. Let ‘em go peacefully.


Whole Other Country

Texas is such a grand place to live sometimes. In the personal is political column, I just got a jury duty summons in the mail yesterday. While the opportunity to get to be the guy who decides who lives and who dies is usually something I can’t pass up, I was forced to decline the invitation of my friends and neighbors to pass judgment on their sordid little lives. The decision was made much easier when you consider I was summoned to a jury in Travis County. For those unfamiliar with Texas geography, I live on the east side of Houston roughly 190 miles from the courtroom where I was commanded to appear. To get to said courtroom, I would have crossed three, possibly four, counties. While deciding the fates of my peers is fun, it ain’t that fun. The whole thing was made odder by the fact that my correct name, address, and driver’s license number were on the summons. The Travis County Clerk indisputably meant to summon me. I haven’t lived in Austin since 1997. Why they waited until now to summon me is beyond my comprehension. However, they did have a spiffy little web-based app to reply to the summons. I was a good citizen and informed them I was ineligible as I did not live in the correct county. So one of you folks that lives in Travis County will have to buck it up and go in my place.

Moving right along, I see that the Supreme Court of Texas has thrown the school financing system here into complete disarray with one fell swoop. School finance is a perennial bugbear here in Texas. The only things most everyone agree on are the current system sucks and income taxes are bad. Beyond that, everyone has some happy plan to figure out how to sort out school finance. I have a simpler approach. Amend the state constitution to remove the "general diffusion of knowledge" requirement. Actually, my preferred approach is to point out that while a well-educated populace benefits all of us, fundamentally you are responsible for your kids. You want them to have an education? Pay for it or teach them yourself. In other words, get rid of the public schools. Screw the kids. You had the horrid little sprogs, you educate them. I realize this approach is unthinkable to a vast majority of the public and will never win approval, so I’ll shut up now. In the meantime, the Lege will dither around and wait until the last possible minute to pull some buggered compromise together that will once again satisfy nobody and land the state back in court in a few years. Yay! I’m so excited I could just twitch. Oh, wait, that’s the caffeine. Never mind.

My final bit of Texana for the day is the Sony lawsuit. Sony committed an egregious fraud upon the public by installing software with some rather spectacular security holes. I hope they get their ass handed to them over it. I find it funny that other states that pretend to care more about their citizens did nothing when a multi-billion dollar corporation tried to screw said citizens over. Yes, I’m looking at you, California. Of course, it’s never been about protecting the citizen in CA. It’s always been about circumscribing the choices residents can make so that they will arrive at the predetermined conclusion selected for them by their benevolent overlords. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of Cali? Anyhow, props to Greg Abbott for trying to hold Sony to account. We’ll see how well it works.


Stainless Steel and Full Metal Jacket

My birthday is coming up soon. As birthday presents are supposed to be a surprise, I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting for my birthday. I might be getting one of these. At least, I watched J pay for it after I filled out the ATF paperwork. So I think the odds are pretty good, but I still have to act surprised.

This is mainly because my wife is very process-oriented sometimes. It is not yet my birthday, so I don’t get my present yet. So I’ve been accessory shopping instead. I picked up 200 rounds of .45 at Wal-Mart, since it was the appropriate day, anyway. I’ll need to pick up more before I actually get my present and go to the range. I also need more magazines. The pistol only comes with one magazine. There’s the loaded coupon that’ll get me up to 10 more factory mags, but it’s in the box with the pistol. I may just say screw it and get some Chip McCormick or Wilson mags until I receive my gift. Then I can order more factory mags.

I also need a range bag to haul all the sundry equipment around in, plus additional stuff so J can learn to shoot as well. All kinds of stuff to buy to go with the gift. Woo-hoo! I’m going back to shopping.


Bikes and Boomsticks

So this weekend was another gun show, this time at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. I am having no luck finding a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec with the parkerized finish. Stainless steel, yes. Parkerized, no. I don’t really want stainless steel. So it’s back to calling people and seeing if they can special order it. I have decided, however, that I am probably going to buy a Hi-Point carbine. I have browsed around and read several reviews and the general consensus seems to be ugly, but shoots well. They retail for $169 in 9mm, and $179 in .40. For that price, as long as it shoots tolerably well, it’s worth picking one up just for giggles. I will have to continue calling around to see if someone can special order the Springfield at a reasonable price.

We also went to the bike show at Reliant Center. I have seen my future, and it is big, black, shiny, expensive and fast. The new Kawasaki ZX-14 is gorgeous and I want one. I have to do something with my Triumph first, like convince some fine suckerindividual that they want it for a unreasonable sum. Then I can go talk to the credit union about a loan for a shiny new motorcycle. The credit union likes to see me when I come talk to them about shiny motorcycles. Hopefully, J will have her license taken care of by then, so we can get two shiny new motorcycles. The credit union will be ecstatic at that point. My insurance agent will love me even more. I’ve run the numbers on insurance, and adding J and a bike for her will be more or less free. The annual premium increases by 10% with the addition of a second driver and motorcycle to the policy. Of course, that’s because the insurance premium on a ZX-14 is ridiculous no matter who you are. I think the only way to get cheap insurance on a liter-class sport bike anymore is promise never to ride it. If you can document that the bike is hermetically sealed away from human contact, you can get a small discount.

After the bike show was the Nutcracker Market. This was an unplanned stop. The Houston Ballet holds it as a fundraiser every year, apparently. All kinds of horrible Christmas themed crafts against humanity are offered for sale, along with clothes and jewelry designed to appeal to the kind of people who support the ballet. I think J referred to them as ‘old biddies’. I went because J wanted to go, and after dragging her to the two testosterone fests, it was time for some more gentle pastimes. I learned that the bar staff working Reliant Center did not give a damn about Aramark’s profits. They were pouring out some strong drinks. I had a Holiday Sparkler at the Nutcracker market. Start with raspberry vodka. Pour over ice in a large highball glass. Splash in a small amount of white cranberry juice. Add a molecule or two of Sprite. Top off with champagne. Mix and serve. I’d add exact amounts, but that will have to wait until I get a chance for some experimentation.

Oh, yeah, post title is a nod to Tamara K. and her fine blog. Note to self: update blogroll.


Election 2005, On Tape Delay

I have pages of painfully detailed notes on the election yesterday, since I had my laptop and took notes in between reading Steven Erikson’s Memories of Ice and assisting voters. Ultimately, I discarded most of it because the mechanics of an election just aren’t that interesting. We have 8 people sitting in a room at the Community Center. People come in, they vote, they leave. It’s really pretty dull, so I doubt any of you are interested in the minutiae of an election. If you are all that interested, I suggest you volunteer to help some time. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the process.

Instead, I have a general observation. Old people vote. That’s pretty much the only people that do. Some of these elderly citizens (I figure that sounds nicer than ‘decrepit geezers’) take their civic obligations seriously. We have one lady who votes every election. She brings her walker and her oxygen bottle and totters on in to vote. Every time I’m convinced she won’t be back, and every time she totters on in. Some of these folks look like they got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, but by gum, they are voting. Keep it in mind next time you feel like taking on the AARP. If you’re under the age of 40 and want some say in how things are run, you need to get people out to the polls. And good luck with that, I might add.

I also have an election day rant, which will come as a complete surprise to the faithful reader. For the dim-witted among you, it is against the law to be registered in more than one place. Given that electoral fraud is a constant concern, the gummint checks for duplicate registration. So when you were living in another state and registered to vote, your registration got canceled here in Texas. Similarly, if you registered to vote somewhere else in Texas, your registration here got canceled. If you think the issues on the ballot are so damned important, why the hell didn’t you re-register? Don’t come in and get all indignant about your right to vote being denied when you registered somewhere between 200 and 2,500 miles away. The process does require some minimal effort on your part. Furthermore, neither I nor anyone else here at the polls has a damned thing to do with the voter rolls. Don’t bitch at me that you got dropped because you left the precinct and voted elsewhere. I didn’t do it and I don’t care. Once again, had you registered, you could vote and this conversation wouldn’t be happening. Furthermore, don’t come in and argue what the law says, because you obviously don’t know. If you know that damned much about election law, you’d know simple things like your registration gets canceled when you register elsewhere. You also can’t walk up and fill out a form and vote today. The deadline is long past. In the brave new future where the government knows everything about you the instant it happens, all those problems will be gone. You will also be a chattel of the state and your vote won’t matter. In the meantime, you have the responsibility to make sure that you are registered where you live. Otherwise, no vote for you, idiot hippie.

I have yet to check the voting results statewide, but just judging on our precinct, Proposition 2 got passed overwhelmingly. To paraphrase the alternate judge, I’m disappointed that a portion of my fellow citizens will not have the privilege of standing in front of a judge while he gives away half of your stuff. The citizens of Texas have spoken and they have said: No marriage for you, homo! Not the choice I would have made, but I was overruled. The major peril of democracy is that your fellow citizens may disagree with you in large enough numbers to enforce their policy preferences. Oh, well. I hope your fellow citizens agreed with your choices yesterday.


White Riot, I Want a Riot…

Or, as a little Austrian man once asked, "Brennt Paris?" I have been the recipient of yet another pearl of received wisdom from the oyster of reality. Pay attention, boys and girls. I know who’s right about the riots in France: everybody. Well, everybody except the little man in my head who thinks it’s a plot to soften up Earth for the inevitable alien invasion. He’s been reading too much John Ringo.

If you think the MSM is downplaying the Muslim connection, you’re right. If you think it’s the failure of socialism coming back to haunt the frogs, you’re right. If you think that teenage boys just like to burn shit, you’re right. If you think that poverty and a lack of social mobility caused the riots, you’re right. If you think Muslim extremists seized upon a thin pretext to start civil disorder, you’re right. The beauty of dealing with what is obviously a fairly complex multi-variate emergent phenomenon is that if you claim only one thing is to blame, you are partially correct. You are, as well, partially wrong, so all you people are wrong, too. The degree in which each of the particular factors is important is the real question, because that might point the way to a possible solution, or a least some way to mitigate future occurrences.

Of course, parsing the degree of influence of any of the factors is not the highest priority right now even if it would help with a solution. What matters is getting the situation under some kind of control before more people and things get burned. All I have to note on that score is that the gummint in France is looking particularly ineffective right now. I don't see a lot of armed civilian defense of property and persons going on, either. Expect more burning cars as the frogs fiddle.

Votin’, Votin’, Votin’

So tomorrow is the day. We went and got the equipment and supplies yesterday. Apparently, showing up on Sunday has benefits. There was no line and no wait for supplies. Usually, we go early on Saturday and the warehouse looks like a zoo where the keepers absconded. However, it’s always very well organized and everything runs pretty smoothly, except for parking. Beverly Kaufman’s people do a fine job of handling the madness. Tonight we’ll go and set up the eSlate booths. I can hardly wait. I’m agog with the antithesis of excitement. Ennui? Despair? I think apathy is the actual opposite of excitement, so maybe that’s not quite right.

Now, I went ahead and gave you my recommendations for your votinating pleasure. Paul has his recommendations up as well. Apparently I am not a South Park Republican, but that’s hardly news. A little commentary on why Paul favors his choices would have been nice, but alas, such insight is denied us. Of course, since you are going to vote the way I have proposed, it’s all irrelevant anyway.

All attempts to sway your voting habits aside, please do go out and vote tomorrow if you live in Texas. If you live elsewhere I’m sorry for you, but vote if there’s an election on in your particular locality. While you’re out voting, be nice to your poll workers. Offer them snacks! But only good ones! Don’t try to pawn off the rice cakes hiding in the back of the cupboard left over from some abortive attempt at a diet. Pretzels are favored by some poll workers, while others may prefer chocolate. Leftover Halloween candy might be appreciated too, if you aren’t the kind of person who bought expired candy corn at the dollar store. Nobody needs that on top of dealing with the election.

Anyhow, all jokes aside, go vote tomorrow. The future of the free world depends on you. Scary thought, isn’t it? Oh, and finally, please remember that the eSlate is not a touchscreen.


Bad Donk, No Reelection

I’m looking at the vote totals for a motion to suspend the rules and pass the Online Freedom of Speech Act. For the slow among you, this is a bill designed to exempt internet sites from campaign finance regulations the FEC decided applied to internet sites, like, um, blogs. If you’re reading this, both of us have a vested interest in seeing this bill pass.

What I find funny is the party breakdown on the issue. 179 efenants voted for, 143 donks voted against. Now, neither party is my favorite group. I think both have systemic problems and neither represents my interests very well. However, how do you claim to be the "progressive" party and the party of the "common man" when your members vote against laws that are designed to restore the freedoms they should have under the Constitution? Given that John McCain and Russ Feingold should be horse-whipped out of DC for the abomination that is campaign finance "reform", how do you justify not exempting as many people as possible from the pernicious effects of that crap? It really is the incumbency protection act, and I guess the donks figure they’ve got more to lose.

Of course, I’m also glad to see my representative voted for it. Anything to overturn or weaken what someone (I forget who) referred to as the 21st Century Sedition Acts is a good vote in my world.

Update: Matt Welch has a better headline.


Vote, But Don’t Touch

Speaking of voting, here in Texas we have an upcoming election on the 8th. We will once again be explaining to our fellow citizens that the e-Slate is not a touchscreen. Some local races may be decided. I think Houston is doing Mayor and Council elections.

The main issues on the ballot are constitutional amendments. A summary of the amendments from the Texas Legislative Council is found here (Word format). The Free Market Foundation has a summary here. Of course, who cares what those people think. You’re coming here for the commentary only found at YPS! So I’m going to do my duty as a mildly informed member of the commentariat to sway your thinking into a path more acceptable to someone of my virulently ideological bent. Seeing as how the only person who thinks like me is me, I’m going to use my amazing powers of meme generation to make you think like me! You should probably be frightened if you feel there’s even the vaguest possibility of it working. Anyhow, in order, here’s my recommendations for your voting on the 8th.

Prop. 1 – No. The railroads can go pound sand like every other business with problems. It is not the state’s responsibility to bail you out from the results of your crappy decisions.

Prop. 2 – No. If gays and lesbians want to get married, let them. Divorce court will get much more entertaining.

Prop. 3 – No. It smells like creative government accounting to me. The state is trying to reclassify things to juggle money around and give them greater flexibility. Somehow, I think greater flexibility means "screw the taxpayer".

Prop. 4 – Yes. If people are screwing around while they’re out on bail, lock that ass back up. More coherently, the defendant must have violated a condition of release that endangers the safety of the victim(s) or the community. Sure, keep them locked up until trial.

Prop. 5 – Yes. The government shouldn’t be setting interest rates. However, given that usury is written into the Texas Constitution, I’d rather have the Lege determine interest rates than have them hardwired in the Constitution. I’d much rather the article in question was removed, but that ain’t gonna happen.

Prop. 6 – Yes. Additional public members on oversight boards are always good.

Prop. 7 – Yes. Texas has way too many restrictions on contracts designed to make sure people don’t get screwed. You shouldn’t be trying to protect people from their own stupidity. Fraud, yes, stupidity, no.

Prop. 8 – No. I don’t fully understand the issues involved, so I’m going to have to go with not amending. It looks on the face of it to be an issue that shouldn’t have to be settled with an amendment.

Prop. 9 – No. Regional mobility authorities are disastrous refuges for incompetents. Giving those weasels six year terms is a horrible idea.

So there you have it, my recommendations on the upcoming Texas’ Constitutional Amendments. Go forth and vote in accordance with my wishes. Just remember, if you live in Harris County, the e-Slate is not a touchscreen. And as always, be nice to your poll workers. They are volunteers trying to make sure that our republic functions as necessary. As horribly rude as I may come off here and in person at times, I try real hard to be nice to everybody on election day. When you're out voting, try to return the favor.

Way To Protest!

Okay, it’s been a number of years since I was in high school. I remember my hippie stoner friends going to anti-nuke peace protests in downtown DC. I never went, because I always figured it was a dumb position and a bad idea. I will, however, admit to blowing off school on a fairly regular basis. Convincing me to not go on any given day was easier than convincing me to go. This is why I always find "protests" like the one advocated in Seattle to be hilarious. Hey, kids, make a political statement by ditching class! It’s a cynically brilliant move to claim that all the kids who bailed that day support your cause.

Of course, the ugly truth of trying to appeal to high school kids is that politically speaking, they’re irrelevant. You don’t get any political clout unless you have money or vote in large numbers. The entire under-25 demographic fails on both counts. The young don’t vote, and they're broke.


Bad Horror Movie

So as it was Halloween, we sat around and watched a bad horror film. The copious amounts of rain combined with the lack of sidewalk on our side of the street kept the neighborhood urchins from pestering us for handouts. So we got to eat the candy and watch House of 1,000 Corpses. I’ll give it 2 stars. Some visually interesting work, a thoroughly disjointed plot, and enough holes to drive a truck through. Some of the scenes are funny in a very macabre sort of way. I think it fails primarily because it doesn’t have a clear enough plot. Parts are just disjointed, with no real connection to the rest of the film. Parts struck us both as being different for the sake of being different. I think there wasn’t a clear enough vision of what the hell Rob Zombie was trying to accomplish. Without that, he didn’t get there. I also think his extensive music video experience worked against him. Anyhow, it’s a fun bad horror movie, in part because it’s only 88 minutes. But it does have a sequel!

Take Two Aspirin

I have no earthly idea what to think about the nomination of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court. I read good things, I read bad things. His nomination is pissing off some people I want pissed off. On the other hand, there’s this statement:

"Sam Alito is just what George Bush is looking for: a big government conservative who will almost always side with the government against the individual, and the federal government against the state,"
Bleagh. I have no opinion at this point. I honestly think it’s going to take more work than I’m prepared to do right now to come to a conclusion much beyond ‘meh’. Some rulings are encouraging. Some appear narrowly procedural. Some make my head hurt if I try to read them. I think he’ll probably get confirmed unless it comes out that he’s been doing something beyond the pale since the last time he got confirmed. By beyond the pale, I mean screwing goats or something, not writing judicial opinions that offend sensitive progressives.

At least Ms. Miers spared me the grandstanding, posturing, and bloviation that are the primary products of the confirmation hearings. I will once again get to witness the members of the Senate prove that the one group of Americans in no need of additional representation is the asshats.

Gun Show Follies

J and I went to the gun show this weekend over at the Pasadena Convention Center. The Center is literally 5 minutes from YPS Manor, so it’s surprising we haven’t made it out to one before, since there’s at least one a month. I am coming to the unfortunate conclusion that I am either going to have to special order or find online the pistol I want. I have yet to see one either at a gun show or at a dealer. I’m going to call around and see if I can find one in town, but I am dubious. My specificity in regards to my desires is at times aggravating. I know what I want, but nobody seems to have it.

What makes things even more aggravating is the asshats I have to deal with sometimes at gun shops and shows. I do not, generally speaking, go shopping without information or insight into what I am looking to buy. When I have reached the stage where I’m going to spend my money, I know what I want and I am not susceptible to bullshit from sales people. Gun sales people are at times the worst offenders. If I want a 7.62 battle rifle, don’t try to tell me what a fine round the 5.56 is and how I really should consider it. Most especially, don’t try to dress up the asinine uninformed opinions with references to someone you know who used to be in the military. Strangely enough, I don’t need second hand anecdotal military stories. I have plenty of old Army stories* I can tell. I don’t really need to hear one somebody told you. Right along with this peeve is the one where you insult my intelligence. Don’t try to tell me that x is the same as y from a different manufacturer or that this specific model has/lacks certain features. I know what the hell it is and what the manufacturer says should be on the item in question. If you don’t, all you’re doing is losing credibility every time you flap your gums and tell me shit that is patently false. If all you know is the price of the gun, then tell me the price and STFU. I would much rather deal with someone who stands there silently than someone who spouts nonsense.

Anyhow, now that I’ve digressed slightly, the gun show was small, but mildly entertaining. I didn’t find anything I wanted. I broke down and ordered one thing from Midsouth this morning. I will have to resume my quest for a pistol over the phone. I will note that if I wanted a Kimber or a Glock I would have been set. They were all over the place, as were innumerable bolt-action hunting rifles, a type I have little interest in. However, the Springfield I want was not in attendance. The closest was a Mil-Spec in stainless steel. Almost perfect, but I want the Parkerized finish, not stainless. I could have had my pick of AR-15/M-16 accessories and parts as well. A fair amount of SKS rifles, as well as giblets and accessories. Also, there was the usual random assortment of odd stuff one finds at any gun show. I also noticed a variety of items from Hi-Point Firearms. I know nothing about them, but their stuff was all cheap as hell. It all looked like ass, but if it functions well, who cares? Appearance can be secondary at their price point.

After the show, we went over to Carter’s Country and looked at stuff, where I encountered yet another asshat passing along second hand mil-stories. They also don’t have the pistol I want. They do have one of the rifles I would like to get, and at a reasonable price. J is slightly baffled by all of the shopping, since the external differences between one 1911 and another are generally slight and not noticeable to the uninitiated. However, she accepts the fact that in certain issues, I’m a picky SOB, so she goes along with it.

After that was a trip to Academy to burn through a gift card I won at the company picnic. J suggested ammo, but I have a sufficiency right now. Academy did a lot to win points with J during that trip. J has a pet peeve about the fact that it is easier to find merchandise from my alma mater or Texas’ best vo-tech high school than it is from the school where she spent all her time. You would think that when you’re in the city where the college is located, merchandise would be easy to find. You’d be wrong, and there are days when it grates on her nerves. However, Academy had a plentiful selection of UH merch, so I got her some.

* Old joke: The difference between a fairy tale and a true Army story? One begins with ‘once upon a time’ and the other begins with ‘now this ain’t bullshit’.