Thursday, July 31, 2014

Something I Still Don't Get ...

... is why, in criminal trials, prosecutors or judges should have any power at all over what kind of defense someone accused of a crime might choose to present to a jury.

We've seen this a number of times with respect to marijuana prosecutions, where federal judges have ruled that even though "medical marijuana" is legal in a particular state, defendants can't tell the jury "I should be acquitted because what I did wasn't illegal where I did it."

Now in Florida, judges are deciding, based on prosecutorial requests for suppression, whether or not defendants can claim that the "Stand Your Ground" law clears them of murder charges.

The case that caught my attention this morning is that of Paul Charles, accused of murdering sailor Matthew Snow. Based on the alleged facts of the case, I doubt that a jury would buy a "Stand Your Ground" defense, but Charles has just been forbidden by a judge from even presenting that defense (as well as a "Castle Doctrine" defense, which also sounds sketchy enough that a jury would likely find it unconvincing). [hat tip -- Sayfie Review]

That is, pardon my French, bullshit.

It should be up to the jury to decide whether they believe Charles and/or agree with Charles, not up to the judge to decide what Charles can say.

This ruling is an attempt by the prosecution, aided by the judge, to suppress any possible hint of "reasonable doubt" that might, just might, convince one or more jurors to vote for acquittal.

Between prosecutorial pressure to take a "plea bargain" and prosecutorial/judicial gaming of this kind to keep conviction rates in the 90%+ range, it's fraudulent to refer to the current regime as a "justice" system.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Best Ride I Ever Had ...

... that didn't involve sexual intercourse.

I found the new bike, bought the new bike, rode the new bike eight miles home.

"New," of course, is a relative term. It's actually used -- a very tall Trek 7000 road bike that I got for the insanely low price of $100:

I enjoyed the ride home so much that I almost decided to do my daily 11.3-mile "loop" for a second time today. Almost. I'm actually pretty sore from doing that loop the last four mornings on Daniel's knobby-tired mountain bike while I looked for a new ride. Thank God that's over. And thank God I balked at the last minute Monday night when I had actually rolled yet another Wal-Mart special to the register and decided to hold out for the right bicycle.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yes, I Fell Off The Blogging Wagon ...

... mostly because I've been climbing on the real bicycle. Continuing to lose weight and build muscle. Not as fast as I'd like to, but steadily.

I was set to break 100 miles on the bike last week -- on a single-speed "beach cruiser" with out-of-true wheels and that probably needs a tuneup in other respects -- when I had a flat with no spare tube and couldn't find the hole to patch it (15 miles into a planned 30-mile ride; my "regular daily ride if I have nothing else going" is a little over 11 miles, but each Friday I pick some fairly distant place where I'd like to eat lunch and ride there and back to "earn it;" this week that place was Satchel's Pizza, a little over 14 miles from home -- had a slice of "The Major" and their made-on-the-spot, stevia-sweetened diet cola ... mmmm, good). I ended up at about 82 miles for the week, the last 11 on my son's mountain bike.

I'm looking at other bikes, and may buy one as early as tonight. I'd prefer to stay single-speed, but I'm awaiting reply from someone selling a 7-speed road bike right now -- it looks like the best thing going for the money I have to spend.

At commenter Shawn L's recommendation, I finally went and had a look/sit/brief pedal session on a recumbent bike. Interesting, but I just don't think it's for me. In addition to any decent recumbent bicycle being well out of my current price range (low three-figures -- VERY low three-figures unless I wait), it just doesn't feel right. I've been biking either sitting up straight or bending forward for about 40 years now. I like it. I suppose I might like recumbent biking better once I got used to it, but I don't want to get used to it ... at least not right now.

If I can get onto something comfortable, I'll have my first 100-mile week this week, and start working up from there.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Short Notice -- Podcast Appearance!

I don't do radio or podcasts very often any more because frankly I find my own voice annoying as hell. But tonight I had an invitation I didn't want to refuse ...

I'll be calling in to talk with Mike Shipley on the Freedom Caucus Podcast (not sure if that link will include the live show, so here's a direct one to BlogTalkRadio). Likely topics include immigration and NOTA 2016, but who knows what else might pop up?

Tune in from 11pm to midnight eastern if you're interested. And you know you are.

Better yet, let me see if I can get the embed code to work (but still visit the Freedom Caucus site even if you listen to the podcast from here -- just sayin' ...):

Popular Politics Internet Radio with Outright Arizona on BlogTalkRadio with Outright Arizona Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio

Bike Living Notes #1: I Know This Much Ain't True

I intend, somewhere in the 2020 timeframe, to ride a bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific (literally -- I plan to start at water's edge, with the waves lapping at my feet, in St. Augustine or thereabouts and end with my front wheel in the Pacific).

That gives me plenty of time to get with the essentials -- ramping up to riding long distances, learning how to maintain a bicycle myself and planning/setting up a "tiny house on a bike" rig.

Right now, I'm riding a $100 single-speed Huffy Cranbrook cruiser and I already know it's not a bike I can count on for a 3,000-mile tour. I had hoped to keep it going for another couple of years (it's about 18 months old right now), but I'll probably knuckle under and move to the next bike around the end of this year.

Have you ever tried to "true" bicycle wheels? I didn't even know it was a thing until I went looking. Once I did go looking and then turned the bike upside down and spun the wheels to learn that both front and rear were way out of lateral true, I went to work using web tutorials.

It took me about an hour to throw up my hands and decide it's not something I'm going to be able to do well myself. And looking at a local shop's prices, I see that "major truing" on two wheels will run me $50. On an 18-month old, $100 bike. By the time I replace the tires too (they're not bald but they're definitely showing wear), it would be like buying a whole new (cheap) bike!

So what I'm going to do is nurse this baby along awhile longer and just buy that new bike (it won't be quite as cheap, although if I find it used it may be less expensive ... as usual, watch me suddenly find a great deal on Craigslist and decide not to wait five more months). I'll cannibalize the old one for lights, bell, rack, basket and probably seat (it takes awhile to break a seat in right -- why not take it with me?) ... and I'll check how true the wheels are on the new one before I buy it (I'm pretty sure this one came with wheels out of true, although they've probably gotten worse over time), baby the new bike more, get an annual "tune-up" that includes "minor truing," etc.

I expect (read: Hope) the next bike will last for four or five years and that I can replace it a few months before the Big Trip (in time to shake down/break in the trip bike). In between now and then, I'll be riding longer distances and perfecting my "tiny house on a bike," as I expect to camp along the way almost every night (other than e.g. visiting friends and relatives en route). I already have a rear rack with a milk crate attached, but I'll be adding panniers (they hang off the sides on the rear) and so forth. Minimum weight and bulk for maximum utility is the goal there.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Maybe They Should Have Had DoJ Prepare a Legal Memo First ...

Per the New York Daily News:

Two Manhattan men were arrested early Monday after they piloted a drone close to the George Washington Bridge and nearly struck an NYPD helicopter, police sources said.

Some other papers' coverage (yes, I'm looking at you, Post) try to make it sound like the chopper was just minding its own business and got buzzed by the drone. The Daily News version is more along the lines of the chopper "observing"/approaching the drone and getting in its flight path.

The cops claim the drone was flying at 2,000 feet. The model in question allegedly tops out at 300 feet.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Hobby Lobby @ C4SS, and Some Thoughts on Words

Four pieces by people associated with the Center for a Stateless Society on the US Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:

"Dissecting Hobby Lobby," an op-ed by David S. D'Amato
"Hobby Lobby -- a Question of Agency," a feature article by Kevin Carson
"Hobby Lobby Ruling Falls Short," a Future of Freedom Foundation article by Sheldon Richman
"A Quick Thought on SCOTUS, Hobby Lobby and the Affordable Care Act," a blog post by me

Some thoughts on words ...


"Health coverage" and other terms of art are finally starting to replace the word "insurance." That's a good thing, but "insurance" is still used far too often and is completely inaccurate.

"Insurance" is a pool of hedged bets that the bettors don't want to win. It's payment of small premiums against the possibility of unlikely, but expensive, outcomes. Just as an example, your house is very unlikely to burn down, but it would be very expensive if it did. So you and others purchase "fire insurance." It doesn't cost a lot, but it's worth it because if your house does burn down, the insurance company pays you a large amount of money to replace it. The insurance company makes money because it calculates the risk and sets the premiums such that the entire amount it's taking in from all those people exceeds the amounts it will pay out to the few people whose houses burn down.

What we have in health care these days, and have had for decades, is not for the most part "insurance." It's "pre-paid health care." We pay a premium, and we expect the company we pay that premium to to cover routine expenses like annual physicals, doctor visits for the flu, etc. Yes, there is an "insurance" angle in that we're also covered for less likely but more expensive things like cancer, heart attacks and so on, but mostly we're just paying in advance for stuff we should have just bought at point of sale. And the company collecting the premiums has to take in more money than it pays out or it will just go out of business.


"Contraception" is medication which prevents conception (fertilization of an egg resulting in pregnancy).

You may be under the impression that Hobby Lobby objected to the ObamaCare requirement that it cover contraception in its employee health plan. In point of fact, Hobby Lobby covered no fewer than 16 forms of contraception in its health plan.

It refused to cover two medications ("Plan B" and "EllaOne") and three intrauterine devices ("Paragard," "Mirena" and "Skyla") which it held were not "contraception" -- or at least not just contraception but also "abortifacients" (which would kill fertilized eggs, thus constituting early-term abortion).

Supporters of abortion rights have been trying very hard in recent years to re-define "contraception" to include early term abortifacients under the label "emergency contraception." In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, they seem to have proceeded to the next step: Dropping the "emergency" descriptor.

The ultimate goal there is pretty obvious. Most people have no problem with "contraception." A lot of people have a problem with "abortion." So if some instances of the latter can successfully be falsely categorized as the former, they can be removed from the abortion debate.


This one's been subject to political re-definition for a long time. "Access" used to mean that something was available. These days it's more often used in its negative form ("denial of access") to mean "no one else is forced to buy it for me."

The Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby didn't have any impact at all on its employees' "access" to the five medications/devices in question. Those medications/devices are still legal. Those medications/devices are still available. It's just that the person wanting them "accesses" them with his or her own checkbook instead of Hobby Lobby's.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Torture 200 People, Collect $3,000 a Month for Life

Per the Chicago Tribune:

In a split vote, the Illinois Supreme Court today upheld a Cook County judge's ruling that allows disgraced former Chicago police commander Jon Burge to keep receiving his pension despite his 2010 conviction for lying about the torture of suspects. At issue was whether Attorney General Lisa Madigan had the legal authority to challenge the administrative board's split decision that allowed Burge to keep his approximately $3,000-a-month pension. ... The key issue before the board [of directors of the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago] was if Burge's conviction was related to his police work. Four current or former Chicago police officers elected to the pension board by their fellow officers supported Burge, while four civilian trustees appointed by then-Mayor Richard Daley voted in opposition.

At least some of Burge's victims received settlements from the city of Chicago (read: The Chicago taxpayers who also paid Burge's salary) totaling at least $19.8 million (according to the Wikipedia article, as of 2008 some Cook County victim claims had not yet been settled).

So, the administrative board has ruled that Burge's conviction -- and therefore the actions for which he was convicted -- were not related to his police work.

It seems to me that this decision is a needle which pops the balloon of any "sovereign immunity" type defense he might have against a civil suit by the victims (to get additional compensation for their torture) or by the city government (to recover the money it shelled out in settlements). Either of which (or for that matter, the cost of litigating the suits) would, I strongly suspect, come to far more than the $360,000 in pension payments Burge can expect to collect if he survives to the average male lifespan in the United States, not to mention the value of his house, his 40-foot cabin cruiser and his 22-foot motorboat.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Tweet of the Week

Regarding the (state) left's response to the Hobby Lobby decision:

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

An Unsurprising Announcement and a Possibly Surprising Press Release

After going solo for about four years, I've re-joined the Libertarian Party.

Why? Lots of reasons. I miss the party. I miss the people. A guy I think a lot of just got elected chair and invited former members to "come home." And I think I've figured out a way to square my conviction that electoral politics doesn't work with my desire to be active in an organization that mostly tries to do electoral politics. Here's a press release explaining that part ...