Archive for August, 2011

Patent wars, Samsung may have something

Gizmodo notes that Samsung has cited a sci-fi film in its patent defense against Apple. The issue is a matter of proving prior art to disqualify a patent.

if the realm of science fiction becomes fair game, the fights of Samsung—and any other company Apple might square off against—could become easier. I’d never have guessed Space Age design and beautiful futurism could be a liability.

Another defense that comes to mind in this case is that a patent is supposed to be non-obvious. Patents are not supposed to be granted for some idea that is commonly used to solve problems. Both the prior art and obviousness issues are significant because the USPTO has not done well in these areas. A result has been to put the patent itself as the value rather than the thing the patent was to protect.

That is why, for instance, Google seeks to buy Motorola’s mobile business so it can acquire a patent portfolio. In order to fend off patent infringement lawsuits, the first defense is that of having a good, visible, offense to hand. The larger companies with patent portfolios can mount a counter-thread to any infringement threat they get. That means they can sign a ‘truce’ not to harass each other. The result is that it is the new entries in the field, the entrepreneurs, who are most at risk.

With the technology of today, sci-fi of the past might well be a good resource to help define both prior art as well as obviousness. That might help narrow down the patent brouhaha to matters of actual innovation or unique design and not general ideas. That would greatly assist in removing inhibitions in the marketing of new innovation.

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Debt, deficits, and entitlements

Byron York says Spending, not entitlements, created huge deficit. Social security, Medicare, and other entitlements are, and have been, a worry but that is about the long term and about trends when current demographics and laws are extrapolated out ten to fifty years in the future. You will see entitlements used as a cause for the current deficits as a convenient foil. That conflates two different problems faced by government.

There’s no doubt federal spending has exploded in recent years. In fiscal 2007, the last year before things went haywire, the government took in $2.568 trillion in revenues and spent $2.728 trillion, for a deficit of $160 billion. In 2011, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the government will take in $2.230 trillion and spend $3.629 trillion, for a deficit of $1.399 trillion.

That’s an increase of $901 billion in spending and a decrease of $338 billion in revenue in a very short time. Put them together, and that’s how you go from a $160 billion deficit to a $1.399 trillion deficit.

This gets into the ‘Blame Bush’ in trying to explain away the current situation. That tends to confuse TARP with the stimulus efforts as well as to whitewash the current fiscal situation – in addition to this entitlement conflation.

The bottom line is that with baby boomers aging, entitlements will one day be a major budget problem. But today’s deficit crisis is not one of entitlements. It was created by out-of-control spending on everything other than entitlements. The recent debt-ceiling agreement is supposed to put the brakes on that kind of spending, but leaders have so far been maddeningly vague on how they’ll do it.

The vagueness was illustrated by the recent debt ceiling debate. One side wants to increase taxes and spending and the other wants to reduce spending and lower taxes. At issue is whether the money for government can result for taxes or if it depends upon economic growth. Until the last elections, it was the ‘increase spending’ philosophy that was elected to office. That means that there are two entrenched viewpoints struggling for survival. That means that what might happen in the future and what is the case now just becomes something to manipulate for political advantage.

That is why the ‘both sides do it’ is so dangerous. When you will not take the effort to distinguish between concepts, ideas, and issues, you feed into the ‘vagueness’ and inability to solve problems.

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Wikipedea, trolls, bias, and yes, Virginia, there is a difference

David Swindle takes a look at Wikipedia and the problem with an ideology confronted by reality.

What binds together these ideologies is a utopian ideal that human beings are more prone to altruism rather than self-interest.

A core idea Wikipedia embraced.. was to assume good faith when interacting with others. The guideline promoted optimistic production rather than pessimistic nay-saying, and reads,

In the intervening years, though, it’s become more and more clear that malicious or simply thoughtless content added to Wikipedia BLP’s (“Biographies of Living Persons”) can be very damaging.

This sentiment is a cousin to Google’s corporate motto “Don’t be evil,” also a manifestation of the utopian hacker ethos.

By definition, more authority was granted to individuals with the significant free time to devote to a volunteer, utopian endeavor to shape the world’s information into a unified “consensus.” By and large such individuals are more likely to be leftists than the general population. Wikipedia’s own demographic statistics demonstrate this further: Only 13 percent are women. The average age for a contributor is 26.8 and most do not have a girlfriend, wife, or children.

This underscores the problem of the commons that is visible nearly anywhere you have open access to a social endeavor on the I’net. Trolls. People with nothing better to do and an itch to stir the pot. When this is coupled with a personal distance, usually in the form of anonymity or pseudonyms, matters of civility become an issue.

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The politics of personal destruction, continuing

Joanne Jacobs chips in on the attacks on Texas that are being made to impugn and denigrate its governor by noting that Texas schools outperform Chicago. Choosing Chicago as a referent is a quid-pro-quo to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who used to run that district and denigrated Texas education in a TV interview.

Perry has resisted Race To the Top, so perhaps Duncan’s antipathy is all about education policy. But it looks as though the education secretary is playing presidential politics. That’s not the way to build bipartisan consensus.

The attack on potential competitors continues and this example illustrates that there are no holds barred, either in scope or in tactics, for some when it comes to doing what it takes to win.

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Agenda driven ‘research’

At PhysOrg, a Study reveals cultural characteristics of the Tea Party movement. The headline offers the first clues that the ‘research’ might not be so ‘scientific.’ It sets up a straw man that it can define as a study desires and that straw man is a political group often despised by the left and academia.

Then you get into the ‘findings’ and can see that they fit a very well defined stereotype used by a political opposition to the Tea Party movement. That should stimulate a good deal of skepticism which is supported by looking at the methodology.

This sort of research is of the same ilk as the opposition research that is in full gear to attempt to diminish and impugn Governor Perry of Texas. The report should fall more into the category of propaganda. The fact that it is presented as a research paper in the social sciences tends to impugn and taint proper scientific research.

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Where’s it come from: envy and greed don’t tell

The idea is to solve the federal debt by increasing taxes on the rich. Mark Perry takes a look at the issue. The first table shows the number of ‘mega-rich’ (making $10 million or more) with the number of people in that club, their income, taxes paid, and share of the total income tax receipts. The source is IRS Publications 1304, Table 1.1

The count of these people reached a peak in 2007, almost double that in 2004. That was just one in 7,773 taxpayers yet they paid nearly 10% of the income taxes that year. By 2009, the number of these ‘mega-rich’ had dropped by 55% and the tax revenue from them dropped by 51%. That is half of the ten percent of all tax receipts paid by this group.

A ‘reduce to the absurd’ example is to posit the question “what if the mega-rich were taxed at 100%?”

Instead of paying $53.7 billion taxes as they actually did in 2009, we now assume that their entire $240 billion of income (AGI) was confiscated through taxation, raising an additional $186 billion in tax revenue … Even taking every last penny from every individual making more than $10 million per year would only reduce the nation’s deficit by 12 percent and the debt by 2 percent. There’s simply not enough wealth in the community of the rich to erase this country’s problems by waving some magic tax wand.”

Bottom Line: As the WSJ points out, “If Warren Buffett wants to reduce the deficit, he should encourage policies to create more millionaires, not campaign to tax them more.”

But the campaign rhetoric is towards the idea that the government knows better how to spend the rich guy’s money than he does. That is what is the core issue and it is polluted by the envy people have for those better off and the greed for getting a part of their “fair share.” That is why the disability income programs are gaining notice as those programs provide a goal for many who can qualify for ‘free money’ if they game the system right.

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Words mean things, even to creationists

Professor Moran notes that Evolution Is a Fact and a Theory. It has been 30 years since this distinction was clearly described yet some are still confused.

When non-biologists talk about biological evolution they often get confused over several different meanings of the word “evolution.” On the one hand, there’s the question of whether or not modern organisms have evolved from older ancestral organisms or whether modern species are continuing to change over time. On the other hand, there are questions about the mechanism of the observed changes… how did evolution occur? Biologists consider the existence of biological evolution to be a fact. It can be demonstrated today and the historical evidence for its occurrence in the past is overwhelming. However, biologists readily admit that they are less certain of the exact mechanism of evolution; there are several theories of the mechanisms of evolution.

Gravity is used as an example. We can see the apple fall out of the tree and hit the ground. That is fact. Its speed, acceleration, and trajectory can be measured. Models to explain that behavior have improved over time from the very early ‘heavier falls faster’ until Galileo to Newton’s laws of motion and then to Einstein’s theories. The facts are how we see things. The theory is the structure we can use to tie together all things that fall so we can predict the behavior of falling things. The theories have improved over time, become more inclusive of falling things and more accurate in describing how they behave. The facts remain the same.

With evolution, the facts include the geologic record, animal breeding, and observed changes in species over time. The theory is about how this happens.

But what is “fact”? Besides confusing fact and theory, some also get into games with the meanings of words. That usually gets into assertions that everything is in the mind or delving into a necessity for absolute meanings. Perceptions, error in measure, and how they fit into language are dismissed.

A “fact,” as Stephen J. Gould pointed out (see above), means something that is so highly probable that it would be silly not to accept it.

As with many things, there are people who hold to a reality they desire with an amazing tenacity. They don’t care whether reality is ‘silly’ or not because they have more important things (to them) at stake.

These people will not be convinced of the “facthood” of (macro)evolution by any logical argument and it is a waste of time to make the attempt. The best that we can hope for is that they understand the argument that they oppose. Even this simple hope is rarely fulfilled.

The same phenomena can be seen a range of issues from climate research to government economic theories.

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How to lie, truthfully

The logical fallacy is that of the reduce to the absurd. Texas is the target. That is because its governor has declared himself for the Presidency and that governor is Republican. The first effort was to diminish the recent Texas employment record either by going after unemployment levels or by asserting that any jobs created were of poor quality. The Big Picture cites four studies (an appeal to both authority and common voice) that purport to show this and then elevates the attack

So, putting employment aside, I thought I’d examine some other metrics by which states are measured. Using the excellent database at the Council of State Governments (which I’ve written about previously), I took a look at a dozen “quality of life” metrics to see how Texas ranks relative to its peers.

The selected statistics and ranking are much in line with what you can see about the U.S. as a whole being crime infested and poverty stricken. You will also see the Texas Governor labeled as “Bush III” and other such ‘guilt by association’ efforts. As the author continually replies in the comments to those who take note of other statistics, “I looked at DATA, too. Just not the employment data to which you refer.”

That is the first item to note in trying to establish a quality to the post. It has an agenda and is out to prove a point rather than make a finding or express an opinion. Another item is the attempt to establish credibility for itself by citation. A third is the focus on data rather than on its interpretation (and it is the interpretation that is at issue in the post). All of these items should create a good deal of skepticism about the quality of the post.

What such a truthful lie does do is to invite further inquiry for those seeking the ‘big picture’ and that is probably a good thing.

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Envy: tax the rich?

Warren Buffett stirred the pot at the NYT and some drank the cool-aid. Warren Buffett’s NYT Op Ed on Coddling Super-Rich says

There’s no heavy handed political rhetoric, there aren’t pitchforks, no emotional outbursts – just a level headed argument, backed with a lot of information, for something that makes perfect sense.

It only makes “perfect sense” if you don’t look past the surface. Mark Perry takes a bit more objective view by noting that Average Federal Income Tax Rates By Income Group Are Highly Progressive, Not Regressive.

What gives?

One factor is the social security taxes, which are only assessed for incomes up to $107,000 but intended to ‘earn’ a benefit after retirement. That benefit is tilted in favor of the lower income earners.

Another factor is the Buffett’s income in not just salary. Much of it is via ownership of corporate equities and the dividends they produce. In the U.S., dividends are taxed at both corporate and at individual levels resulting in something like a 50% tax rate overall. A rundown on how this works is at Forbes.

The worst sort of political rhetoric isn’t the heavy handed, emotional stuff. It is the deceitful and dishonest stuff provided under false colors. The false colors in this case is an appeal to authority where Buffett is the authority who is saying ‘trust me’ regardless of how nonsensical I may sound if you apply critical listening skills that include a smidgen of skepticism and know a little bit about the subject.

This topic taps into envy and greed: envy of those who have more and greed to get something for nothing. That emotional basis makes intellectual integrity a tough slog.

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Only certain people can hate?

An editorial at IBT takes note of the racial component of much of this summer’s violence. It is a component that is difficult to discern from media reports.

Across the U.S., mobs of black youths are organizing on Facebook to loot stores and beat whites. Yet none dare call the “flash mob” attacks hate crime, least of all the attorney general.

Mayor Michael Nutter, Philly’s second black mayor, said enough is enough. In an angry lecture from the pulpit of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, he blasted the punks, saying “you have damaged your own race.”

Similar attacks are under investigation in Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., where our first black president remains mum.

To Holder, blacks are the permanent victims. But his department’s own data say otherwise. In most cases of interracial crimes, the victim is white and the perp is black. Black criminals choose white victims 45% of the time, while whites victimize blacks 3% of the time. More than twice as many whites are murdered by a black than cases of a white murdering blacks.

Poverty and deprivation are often used to rationalize violence like this. That gets to be an interesting view in light of the ‘flash mob’ communications. Those who have I’net access to coordinate and plan mob activity are defining a mob that is able to get well past the basic needs of food and shelter.

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Inconvenient facts? Deny.

Two of the budget issues often brought up as a means to balance the budget with a bonus of castigating the previous administration are wars and tax cuts. Both don’t stand much scrutiny and that results in a defense that illustrates the weaknesses. John Gizzi takes note about how the White House Dismisses Fed Figures on Bush Tax Cuts for an example.

Press Secretary Jay Carney again denounced what he called “historically large tax cuts that were unpaid for and have contributed mightily to the debt that we have now.”

But the President’s top spokesman also went a step further. When HUMAN EVENTS cited figures from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) showing that the Bush tax cuts in 2004-06 produced the highest two-year tax revenue increase in the preceding 40 years, Carney dismissed the OMB statistics as “a very convenient slice of a figure.”

The fundamental issue to hand is where the money for government programs comes from. Is it fundamentally a matter of the health of the economy or is it simply a matter of taxes? The simplistic view is that taxes are independent of the economy and all government has to do to meet its need is to raise taxes. A more complex view is that taxes and the economy are interdependent and the government needs to adjust taxation for maximum economic health in order to generate the income it needs.

Besides the partisan effort exposed in labeling the tax cuts as Bush tax cuts, there is also the ideological effort on ideas of the “fair share” where those who have must share with those that don’t. What gets denied, as illustrated in Gizzi’s example, is the reality. The tax cuts not only stimulated economic growth and raised government income, they also make the tax system more progressive. A more progressive system is one that puts a heavier burden on the wealthy, which is what some color as a ‘fair share.’

It is the lack of integrity in dealing with these ideas that results in gridlock and a lack of progress towards effective solutions. An outright denial of the numbers is just one example.

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Scandal update

You may not have heard much about administration scandals (media bias, perhaps?) but Jay Tea has a good synopsis of three of them.

By my count, there are currently three major scandals being exposed from within the Obama administration. Three completely separate and independent messes, each with their own casts of characters and convoluted plot lines.

The ideological one is about “filling of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights division with career radical liberals who have, time and time again, had their vision of “voting rights” rejected by the courts, now pushing them as official government policy.” The political scandal is about running guns to Mexican drug lords. The economic scandal is about the NLRB inventing new rights to go after Boeing and South Carolina.

What is worthy of note is that these aren’t ‘manufactured’ scandals that depend upon how one defines words such as “torture” or based on myth or desire. All three are based on documented behavior with long track records. The only issue outstanding is just how important they may be on the scale of malfeasance.

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Dissembling: an example.

Greg Sargent seems to think the Wisconsin recall fight ends where it began: With a Big Lie.

the protests from Democrats were prompted by Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of their bargaining rights, protests that were later sustained by the deep cuts in his budget, leading to the recall drive.

The column illustrates several tactics often found in the straw man approach. The ‘rights’ at issue were not lied about and not falsified and not hidden. In the recall elections, the unions spend massive amounts of money to get their view of the word out. The outrage such as illustrate by Sargent is a false one and doesn’t really clarify just exactly what he thinks is the actual issue involved in the Republican malfeasance

The crux of those collective bargaining ‘rights’ that was the hot potatoe was the manner for paying dues. State law used to make it such that the unions could get dues from everyone in a worker class via payroll deduction. That was changed so workers could opt out of the union and members of the union would have to pay dues directly.

The demagoguery such as this coupled with the faux outrage and personal attacks tend to obfuscate the issues at hand. The question in front of the country is whether people buy into it or see past it for what it really is.

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Feral children and the wilding entertainment of the underclass

Peter notes that The urban underclass is an international problem citing this summer’s activities in Milwaukee, Chicago, Philadelphia, London, and elsewhere.

the mainstream media seem congenitally incapable of pointing out those facts, probably for fear of being branded ‘racist’. …

Fortunately, a (very) few local leaders are now showing the courage to identify the facts as well. Courtesy of a link at JayG’s place, we find two community leaders in Milwaukee who are speaking out. I believe their courage in doing so, and the undeniable truth of their message, deserves wider acknowledgment and circulation: so here it is in full.

Why these riots? Why do them seem to be entertainment for those engaged in them?

A key factor in delinquency is lack of effective sanctions to deter it. From an early stage, feral children discover that they can bully fellow pupils at school, shout abuse at people in the streets, urinate outside pubs, hurl litter from car windows, play car radios at deafening volumes, and, indeed, commit casual assaults with only a negligible prospect of facing rebuke, far less retribution.

Back a century ago or more, riots of the underclass could be easily understood as a response to privation, hunger, and actual, physical suffering. These rationalizations no longer apply. What does still apply is envy for those who are paying the bills and engage in productive work to do so.

The situation may be a bit broader as well. The rash of thefts of infrastructure, such as metal from powerlines and airconditioners, is also cited as a cancer in society that is growing and malignant.

I can only assure you that such riots wouldn’t last long in my neighborhood. That’s because all of us – black and white, old and young, male and female, whatever – would stop them. We’d do so any way we had to, up to and including the use of lethal force, without any hesitation whatsoever. I can’t help but wonder what’s happened to the people of so many towns and cities in formerly-great-Britain, or in Milwaukee, or Chicago, or Philadelphia, that they permit and/or tolerate such nonsense in their neighborhoods. Shame on them for their timidity and unwillingness to police their own areas and people.

The trend has been to delegate such unpleasantness to the police.That creates its own problems and is one reason why local Sikhs in England have gathered together to protect their churches and other property. They can only use baseball bats and such things because a part of the delegation of responsibility for civil order is that the individual right to self protection has been limited via such things as gun control laws.

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Simple models: government revenue and climate change

One of the ways that people can confuse a debate is with over-simplified models. One example is the model that posits that the global atmosphere will warm up as its concentration of carbon dioxide increases. Another is that government revenues depend strictly on taxes. In both of these models, the over-simplification is that of ignoring many other factors that may be more significant that the single variable used in the model.

John Gizzi describes the situation as S&P Downgrade Assumes Bush Tax Cuts Cost U.S. Needed Revenue. Here, the problem is the comment that the U.S. needs to “raise revenues” which is interpreted as meaning ‘raise taxes.’

And what’s worse is that the conclusion is flawed because the assumption—namely, that the Bush tax cuts cost the U.S. needed revenue—is incorrect. In sharp contrast, since they went into effect in ’04, statistics from the Office of Management and Budget show, the Bush tax cuts actually generated considerable revenue and sometimes in record amounts.

The idea here is simple. In basic marketing and business terms, it is analogous to being able to increase business profits by just raising the price of the product. The problem with that idea is that the price of a product influences its sales. What you really want to do, either with product sales to grow a business or an economy to fund a government, is to grow the base. The success of a business is based on how big its customer base is, not on how expensive its products are. The ability of a government to fund its operations is how big the economy is, not on the rate of its taxes.

This is why the changes in gross domestic product (GDP) are so important in governmental budget planning. A certain rate of growth is assumed. Revenue from taxes increases with growth of the GDP because there is more to tax. If budget expenses grow at a lower rate than GDP, then revenue growth exceeds expense growth and surpluses can occur. That is what happened in the late 90′s with the I’net business boom. If, however, expenses grow faster than the GDP, deficits occur and the debt builds. That is what is happening now.

The philosophical issue on the table that is causing most of the heated rhetoric is about this funding model. Those who favor raising taxes correlate quite highly with those who talk about ‘fair share’ or other vague social concepts that tend towards a socialist philosophy. History has not show such an approach to be very effective. On the other side of the table are those who say that government is best funded by a vigorous and growing economy and that sort of economy is the one that is most fair to all.

As Gizzi notes, it is the government restraint on spending coupled with policies that encourage economic growth that promotes fiscal health. The fact that the current political trend is the antithesis of this idea is why S&P downgraded the credit outlook of the U.S.

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The art of conversation and civility

Clarice Feldman says it is the Raging at the dying of their light.

Twice in recent years pleasant social events have been shattered by rage-filled outbursts when liberal men of a certain age learned that I disagreed with their views. In each case the rage with which perfectly polite disagreement was expressed suggested to me that more than political differences were involved. As time has passed, I have come to believe that the reactions I received represented a rage at the dying of all that which these men had embraced in the absolute certainty of the righteousness and soundness of their views, and their right to have them automatically accepted as the approved model for all right thinking people.

The issues mentioned include hatred of the previous president and the question of human caused disastrous climate change.

The investment in ideological ideas can also be seen in the discussion at Get rich slowly: whose fault?. The common memes are there: The U.S. is filled with starving people who are denied health care, it is the cost of illegal wars that is causing all the financial difficulties, the poor are obese because of fast food restaurants, … ‘and if you disagree with me then I will beat you to a pulp.’ That of course, is highlighted by the experience of a school janitor who wonders “why we keep serving food to kids who are obviously not hungry and won’t eat it. I noted that just one grade school’s wasted food would serve the City Mission and that all 37 grade schools’ wasted food could serve all the hungry in Lincoln.”

The most worrying problem is that you just can’t discuss it. As Feldman and some of her commenters note, any discussion into ‘dangerous’ territory has to be avoided if one doesn’t want a fight. Bring up a view that doesn’t fit and you will likely encounter rage. Start adding facts and asking questions and it gets worse. Learning is off the table. So is civility. So is tolerance. That is a phenomena worthy of worry.

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Cost effectiveness of solar: Yosemite

Engadget says Solar panels light up Yosemite National Park, don’t spoil your view. The numbers illustrate just how far solar energy is from becoming economically viable.

The installation cost $5.8M and provides about $50k electricity every year. Without considering the time value of money, that means it’d take 116 years for the energy savings to pay for the installation. That’s five times the expected life of the equipment. If the rebate from the power company is figured in, it would only take 102 years to pay off. If money was worth 5% per year, the $5.8M investment would cost nearly six times the value of the power produced. In other words, the payback, if it could be maintained for 100 years, would need to be six times what it actually provides.

This also serves as an example about why the government debt is such an issue. Projects such as this spend a lot of money under a false banner. It isn’t the ability to produce power that is the issue with this solar installation. Instead, the government money is buying “feel good” returns that produce no real benefit to society.

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Where’s Daniel Boone?

Wikipedia notes an inscription carved into a tree in present Washington County, Tennessee which reads “D. Boon Cilled a. Bar [killed a bear] on [this] tree in the year 1760″. It doesn’t appear that the death of a bear is celebrated the same way these days. The RGJ story is about a candlelight ceremony to remember a bear killed in Incline Village.

A candlelight memorial is planned Saturday in Incline Village as criticism mounts over the killing of a bear there by Nevada wildlife officials.

The event marks the July 24 death of a 5-year-old male black bear, dubbed “Charlie,” at an Incline shopping center and is designed to call attention to what critics call a growing trend of killing bears.

It was a “very sweet and gentle bear” you see. The problem isn’t the bear invading trash cans or even kitchens but rather those nasty humans who need to accommodate the bear’s needs and inclinations by using bear proof garbage bins and such things.

The difficulty with this view is that the bears don’t understand the nuances. They go for food wherever they can find it. The protection of bears is one reason why there are so many encounters in towns like Incline Village. A 360 pound hungry bear does not tend to respect the ‘cute and fuzzy’ idea and that can be very dangerous for humans who get between it and food. How much property damage will occur and how many people will be mauled before those who plan a memorial for the bear get to where they understand the reality of nature?

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Budgeting tactics

You may have heard about the stress and strain related to the FAA dealing with restricted funds. There is a story behind that and it is all about efforts to reduce government spending. A Rational Shut Down Strategy explains the situation and its implications.

About 4,000 or so FAA employees are furloughed, about $30 million in taxes and fees are uncollected each day, and airport construction work has come to a halt. The story is a convoluted one. Briefly told, the House is seeking to eliminate subsidies to rural airports outside Alaska and Hawaii. This is a small but significant battle as many unnecessary rural airports are unreasonably subsidized. The airport in Harry Reid’s district, for instance, receives subsidies to the tune of $3,700 per ticket. The Senate would allow many of these to remain. More importantly, the House seeks to keep the current rules for unionizing airport/airline employees while the Senate version would make it much easier for unions to win elections.

As a contrast to the recent ‘all or nothing’ debt ceiling problem, this one is tackling budget issues in smaller chunks. The issues at hand are common ones. Restraining pork is about reducing subsidies. The Union problem echoes what happened in Wisconsin recently.

As we approach yet another budgetary food fight when the current continuing resolution expires on September 30 what has happened with the FAA is instructive on how to reduce federal spending, including the elimination of agencies, without triggering a widespread government shutdown with uncertain outcomes. … Carried to a logical conclusion this particular fight tells us a lot about how to rein in government spending.

This is also an example about why bundling and amendments get a lot of opposition. Pet projects that won’t pass on their own often get tucked into something else that has significant benefit. The ‘pork’ gets by as a part of the price of the desired legislation. By separating things out and keeping a focus on smaller bites as illustrated in this case, it might just be that the fundamental issues will get proper play and effective solutions found as ideologies are fit into reality.

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New civility and MSM culpability

Capt’n Ed describes it and wonders This “new civility” sure is impressive, no?

Remember when, in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Left’s commentariat blamed Tea Party “extremist rhetoric” for the violent attack that left several dead and many more wounded in Tucson?

The Giffords shooting provided the stimulus that brought the idea of civility in political conversation to a convenient focus. There have been a number of incidences since then when some have wondered about why the rhetoric then seems to have passed on. The debate about the debt ceiling has provided a comparison and contrast that is fairly easy to discern.

Not only is the media not scolding Democrats like Biden who engage in vitriolic and entirely demagogic attacks in violent terms, the mainstream media keeps engaging in it. … The New York Times’ Joe Nocera is one of four Times columnists that compares Tea Party activists to terrorists

Dr. Krauthammer has noted that the vitriol and lack of civility is fundamentally an inability to deal with loss couple with an inability to rationalize with the loss or their desired view of the situation.

The key is really whether or not the public sees the lack of civility for what it is or whether they choose to condone it or even, perhaps, participate in it.

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