Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

A girl and her eagle

Posted by Richard on April 15, 2014

Forget about taxes, politics, and such for a few minutes and check out this amazing story and photographs of a 13-year-old Mongolian girl who hunts with an eagle. Wow.

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A sobering look at racial profiling

Posted by Richard on April 7, 2014

While I have police profiling on my mind, let me commend to you a thoughtful and sobering article by Christopher E. Smith in The Atlantic. Smith is a professor of criminal justice, and his son is a young black Harvard student. He recounts his son’s experiences with racial profiling, and it’s disturbing. Excerpts can’t do it justice; please read the whole thing.

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Driving while Coloradan

Posted by Richard on April 7, 2014

A week ago, I posted about the 70-year-old Colorado man whose car was stopped and searched in Idaho because it had Colorado license plates. But it’s not just Idaho cops who think that a Colorado license plate is sufficient probable cause to stop and search a car.

Apparently, driving while Coloradan can get you stopped and searched in Nevada, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee… and those are just the easily found cases that made the news somewhere. Most are anecdotal, but the Des Moines Register analyzed some state data on highway patrol traffic stops in Iowa:

By far, drivers with license plates hailing from California, Colorado and Illinois received the most warnings and violations over the past five years — more than 30 percent. Almost 12 percent of the warnings and violations were given to motorists with California plates; 11 percent to Colorado plates; and almost 10 percent to Illinois plates.

Drivers with Iowa plates, meanwhile, accounted for about 14 percent of the warnings and citations.

What percentage of cars on the road in Iowa do you suppose have Colorado plates? I’m going to guess that Coloradans are at least ten times as likely (and maybe much more) to be stopped in Iowa as Iowans.

Lawsuits such as the one filed against Idaho are one way to deal with this geographic profiling. But I think some grass-roots action would also be a good idea. Someone (not me) ought to organize a letter-writing campaign targeting state tourism agencies and newspapers in the offending states, encouraging Coloradans to send them letters along these lines:

We’ve been considering a road trip [to/through] [name of state] to visit [cite one or more tourist destinations, including in that state]. But we’re having second thoughts because of reports that police in [name of state] stop and search cars from Colorado. Is anything being done to put a stop to this kind of illegal profiling? The idea of spending two hours on the side of the road while our car is searched just because we’re from Colorado makes a visit to [name of state] very unappealing.

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Don’t visit a hydroponics store in Kansas or Missouri

Posted by Richard on March 30, 2014

For that matter, it’s probably best if you don’t visit a hydroponics store anywhere. And if you brew tea from loose leaves, you may want to switch to those little pouches with tags attached. Otherwise, you could find yourself undergoing the same ordeal as the Harte family of Johnson County, Kansas.

On April 20, 2012, Bob Harte answered an early-morning knock and found an armed SWAT team outside:

It was 7:30 a.m. when he’d heard a knock at the door and pulled himself out of bed to answer it while his wife and two kids slept.  A SWAT team surrounded his home, and a deputy had a battering ram ready to charge through the door had Bob had not opened it.

The deputies pushed Bob to the floor of the entry way of his home and stood over him with rifles screaming, “Where are the children in the home?” Bob told them they were in their rooms and the deputies ran to find them.

The commotion woke his wife Addie Harte who came downstairs to find out what was going on.

“We just kept saying ‘You’re in the wrong house!’ said Addie.

Deputies searched the sofa and then allowed the family of four to sit on it, in front of their picture window, as armed deputies searched the home. For two hours, the family sat on that sofa, afraid and puzzled as to why deputies were in their home.

The Hartes weren’t shown a search warrant until the search was concluded — that’s the law in Kansas. The cops were looking for “narcotics,” but didn’t find anything. The Hartes wanted to know why their house was raided, but no one would tell them.

Kansas has terrible public records laws. It took a year, an attorney, and $25,000 for the Hartes to learn why they were targeted, and the answer is mind-boggling and chilling. Months earlier, Bob Harte and his son went to a hydroponics store in Kansas City, MO, to get some supplies for his son’s science project. Unbeknownst to him, the Missouri Highway Patrol apparently has nothing better to do than monitor hydroponics stores (because they sell equipment often used by pot growers) and record the license numbers and vehicle descriptions of their customers.

Eventually, the information about Harte’s vehicle was conveyed to the Johnson County, KS, sheriff’s office. Deputies were subsequently sent to the Harte home on multiple occasions to rifle through their garbage. That’s where they found Addie Harte’s discarded tea leaves. A field test (notoriously unreliable) identified the tea leaves as marijuana. That led to the raid. The tea leaves were only sent to the crime lab for verification after the raid. Their more accurate test was, of course, negative for marijuana.

The Hartes have filed a federal lawsuit and testified in front of the state legislature trying to get the laws regarding release of police records changed.

“This not what justice in the United States is supposed to be. You shouldn’t have to have $25,000, even $5,000. You shouldn’t have to have that kind of money to find out why people came raiding your house like some sort of police state,” Addie Harte said.

You shouldn’t have your house raided for such bogus reasons like some sort of police state.

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It’s no longer safe for Coloradans to drive to other states

Posted by Richard on March 30, 2014

From CBS Seattle:

An Idaho state trooper arrested and fully searched a 70-year-old Washington man’s vehicle solely because he had a Colorado license plate – a state where marijuana is legal – a federal “license plate profiling” lawsuit alleges.

Read the whole outrageous story. And if you’re a Coloradan, keep this in mind when planning your next vacation.

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SNL lampoons Obama and Obamacare push

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2014

Saturday Night Live’s opening monologue lampooned Obama and the desperate attempts to sell Obamacare in the way that they used to lampoon Bush. It’s not uproariously funny, but it’s well worth watching. I’d embed it here, but instead I’m going to direct you to SNL Cold Open: How Far Will Obama Go To Sell Obamacare? Bieber Tongue Bath Far? Or Just Pope Pimpin’? by Caleb Howe. You can watch it there.

The alternative is to quote Howe’s comments in their entirety, because they’re really much more entertaining than the skit. Especially if you’re a “Once Upon a Time” fan.

Be sure to scroll on down and read Caleb Howe’s short biography. It’s pretty funny too.

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CNN lies about their lack of reporting on Leland Yee’s arrest

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2014

Despite the sensational nature of the Leland Yee story (see Anti-gun CA state senator charged with firearms trafficking, corruption), which features international arms trafficking (including automatic weapons and rocket launchers for an Islamic terrorist group), bribe-taking, and links to a notorious Chinatown gangster nicknamed “Shrimp Boy,” it’s been completely ignored by CNN and most of the MSM.

I just searched Google News for “Leland Yee arrest,” and except for CBS News, a Washington Post blog, and a very brief “released on bond” AP story in the Boston Herald, the first page of results was from local California news outlets. As of a short while ago, a search at CNN for “Leland Yee arrested” still returned the message “Your search leland yee arrested did not match any documents.”

CNN has received numerous complaints, including from me and others on Twitter. As Tony Lee reported on Breitbart, their response has been to lie:

CNN dismissed complaints that the network was not covering last week’s shocking arrest of Democrat Leland Yee, the California state senator who was arrested for alleged arms trafficking and bribery, and falsely asserted that it does not give attention to state senators.

That standard did not apply to Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, whom CNN covered relentlessly. …

In just one of many stories on CNN about Wendy Davis, the network gushed over and played up her biography–without even vetting it–after her filibuster [of a bill limiting abortions] made her their heroine. …

(Davis’s biography was later determined to contain several significant falsehoods.)

Davis also appeared on many of CNN’s primetime shows in 2013 as it blanketed its airwaves and online real estate with puff pieces about Davis, the state senator, long before she was even a gubernatorial candidate.

As Weasel Zippers noted, CNN has also covered the California state Senate candidacy of Sandra Fluke and Yee on many occasions.

As the mid-term elections get closer, expect CNN to extensively cover every story about a Republican dog-catcher or county commissioner caught with his hand in the cookie jar. In the meantime, they’ll continue to focus on such breaking news as the fact that airliners have trouble remaining aloft after running out of fuel.

CNN reports airplanes need fuel to fly

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Airport screening results

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2014

Like she said, hysterical.

UPDATE: To be fair, I should note that this overstates the number of members of Congress without balls by at least 33 — the 29 representatives and 4 senators who are members of the Liberty Caucus.

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Cutting gov’t spending is so easy a 6th-grader can do it

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2014

Peter Suderman at Reason Hit & Run reported:

Figuring out how to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on ink is so easy a sixth grader could do it. In fact, one did.

Suvir Mirchandani, a student at a Pittsburgh middle school, decided he wanted to look for ways to reduce waste at his school. So for a school science project, he measured how much ink was used …

It turned out his school district could reduce its annual ink usage by 24 percent and save $21,000 a year by switching to Garamond, a lighter font with thinner, less ink-heavy strokes.

After submitting his work to a journal for young researchers run by Harvard grad students, Mirchandani was encouraged to expand his research.

Young Mirchandani took on the more arduous task of analyzing the printer ink usage of the federal government’s General Services Administration and determined that it could cut ink costs by 30% — $136 million per year — by simply changing fonts. State governments, according to his calculations, could save an additional $234 million.

So will the Government Printing Office make a change? I wouldn’t count on it:

Gary Somerset, media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office, describes Suvir’s work as “remarkable.” But he was noncommittal on whether the GPO would introduce changes to typeface, saying the GPO’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web.

Sounds like Mirchandani may end up learning two lessons: With a little thought, a smart person can find simple ways for the government to save money—and the government doesn’t seem terribly interested in pursuing them.

I’m impressed by Suvir Mirchandani’s efforts. But I’m also a bit disappointed. I suspect his findings are the death knell for my crusade to have all government publications printed in Comic Sans.

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Sharia-compliant emoticons

Posted by Richard on March 28, 2014

Yes, it sounds a joke, but Weasel Zippers assures us it’s true. And has an adorable picture to prove it.

Apparently, Apple is going to expand its offering of emoji (little cartoon emoticons) in the interest of diversity. In addition to emoji resembling different ethnicities, there will be some wearing religious headgear such as the hijab.

Apparently, diversity advocates have complained about the “staggering lack of minority representation” among emoji. Good. If the political correctness police are down to complaining about emoticons, they must finally be running out of things to become outraged about.

I guess I’ve never spent much time exploring the wide world of emoticons. I’m old school, and my simple needs are generally met by just a few ASCII-character ones: :-), ;-), and :-( are really all I need. I’ve encountered emoji libraries in some apps/contexts. Based on those few casual glances, I thought they were pretty much all yellow circles or blobs with different expressions whose distinctions in meaning were far too subtle for me.

UPDATE: Weird. The WP editor translated my sad ASCII emoticon, but not the other two, into the corresponding emoji graphic. Never noticed that before (I don’t use sad much).

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Yearning for more inflation

Posted by Richard on March 28, 2014

At The Economist, someone identified only as R.A. wants the world’s central bankers to work harder at increasing inflation. I think it’s Paul Krugman writing anonymously.

Alone among big rich economies, Japan is now actively trying to raise inflation, in hopes of finally kicking its low rate, low growth habit. Higher inflation is the only reasonable way forward:

This would let central banks cut effective borrowing costs despite the zero bound on interest rates, since inflation reduces the burden of repaying a given loan. Just as important, higher inflation would speed up interest-rate normalisation.

The rich world’s central banks are behaving with a dangerous complacency. Low and falling inflation will retard ongoing recoveries. …

If low inflation retards economic growth, then Venezuela’s economy must be growing like crazy:

Venezuelan Inflation

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Power corrupts, and so does entitlement mentality

Posted by Richard on March 28, 2014

In case you haven’t seen details about Leland Yee’s arrest in the news, you can catch up with Anti-gun CA state senator charged with firearms trafficking, corruption (posted yesterday). MSM coverage seems to be scant. Despite the fact that we’ve been bombarding @CNN with tweets about their lack any mention, as of this writing a search at CNN for “Leland Yee arrested” returns the message “Your search leland yee arrested did not match any documents.”

Yee is the third liberal Democrat state legislator arrested on corruption charges in California in the past year. In an excellent column, Eric Golub attributes this to two reasons. The first has to do with power:

While corruption knows no ideology, it is more than a coincidence that liberal Democrats in very progressive areas are the ones who keep getting accused of breaking the law. In California, Democrats control everything. The Democratic Party’s veto-proof majority gives them absolute power.

Lord Acton’s maxim about absolute power corrupting absolutely has rung true again.

Los Angeles and San Francisco are liberal cities, with San Francisco being a haven for hard-left policies. When no one is able or willing to challenge the dominant ideology, corruption is bound to set in as it does in third world dictatorships.

States where Republicans control everything tend to see fewer Democrats getting into trouble.

The second reason has to do with entitlement:

… the Democratic Party has become the party of entitlement; California epitomizes that entitlement mentality. When people believe they are entitled to things, greed sets in.

California is where liberal Democrat Sandra Fluke is running for a Los Angeles Senate seat so she and her fellow feminists can receive the free birth control they are entitled to. California is where liberal Democrat San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was forced out after a lifetime of sexually abusing women — the epitome of a man with an entitlement mentality.

While Fluke has not broken any laws, her behavior is similar to Filner’s. Other people have stuff they want, so they think it is just acceptable to take it.

When people believe that their right to have stuff trumps the law, laws will be broken. Wright, Calderon and Yee were just behaving the way many other people representing their ideology continue to behave.


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Mindless application of the Body Mass Index

Posted by Richard on March 27, 2014

Check out what’s categorized as “borderline obese” by a British NIH nurse who mindlessly applied the crude instrument called the Body Mass Index (BMI) to a female bodybuilder. By all means, scroll down for the photos.

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CO cyberbullying bill criminalizes protected speech

Posted by Richard on March 27, 2014

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh (of The Volokh Conspiracy) and Mike Kraus of the Independence Institute have called on the Colorado Senate (originally published in the Denver Post) to kill a cyberbullying bill that has passed the Colorado House:

On March 12, the Colorado House passed House Bill 1131, on “cyberbullying of a minor.”

While undoubtedly well-intended, the bill as written is an unconstitutional restriction on protected speech, and should be swiftly dispatched by the Colorado Senate.

The bill would criminalize using social media in a way intended to “cause the minor to suffer serious emotional distress, or makes a credible threat against a minor that the actor knows or reasonably should know will be communicated to or viewed by the minor, commits cyberbullying if the conduct results in serious emotional distress to the minor.”

Now the punishment for making credible threats seems quite sensible. Such threats are constitutionally unprotected, and should indeed be punished. But the ban on intentionally causing “serious emotional distress” to a minor is far broader, and runs afoul of the First Amendment.

Volokh and Kraus suggested several examples of speech that would be criminalized by this bill, but is protected by the First Amendment.

HB14-1131 (PDF) was introduced by Rep. Rhonda Fields, one of the legislature’s leading advocates of gun control. I can understand (but not excuse) her antipathy to guns; in 2005, her son and his fiancee were assassinated to prevent him from testifying against the murderer of his best friend. But Rep. Fields apparently is no more concerned with upholding the First Amendment than she is with the Second.

The examples given by Volokh and Kraus are of well-intentioned speech that would be criminalized. But even ill-intentioned, hateful speech — if it doesn’t involve making a credible threat — is protected by the First Amendment. Posting “everyone hates you,” “you’re disgusting,” and “why don’t you kill yourself” is not in the same category as posting “I’m going to kill you.”

When I was young (many years ago), every kid knew — and deployed whenever appropriate — the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” When I was young, the term “bullying” applied to physical acts of aggression or threats of aggression, not to mere hateful words.

Children today seem to be these fragile hot-house flowers that can’t deal with rejection, criticism, ridicule … all the negative aspects of interacting with others that one should learn to deal with growing up because they’re an inevitable part of life.

I think there’s something seriously wrong with what passes for parenting and educating children today.

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Obamacare is an abysmal failure by its own standard

Posted by Richard on March 27, 2014

The raison d’être for Obamacare is to provide health insurance coverage for the 30 million to 50 million people (depending on whose wild-ass guess you believe) uninsured. How’s it doing so far?

The Obama administration and its media shills have been crowing that 5 million people have “enrolled” for Obamacare on the state and federal exchanges. When asked how many of those have actually paid the first month’s premium, they claim they don’t know, although their own rules require insurance companies to report that information monthly. Estimates of the number of “enrollees” who haven’t actually completed the process by paying their premiums range from 20% to 25%.

So let’s do a little math. Assuming 20% of the 5 million “enrollees” haven’t paid brings the number covered down to 4 million. According to the management consulting firm McKinsey, as of the end of February, 27% of the “enrollees” were previously uninsured, but they were even less likely to have paid their premiums than the previously insured. McKinsey’s number crunching arrives at an estimate that only 14% of those actually now covered were previously uninsured.

But let’s be generous and assume that more of them have paid premiums since February. Heck, let’s be real generous and assume that a full 25% of the 4 million were previously uninsured. That’s 1.25 million.

Divide 1.25 million by 50 million or by 30 million, and you discover that Obamacare has covered somewhere between 2.5% and 4% of the previously uninsured. Epic fail.

And to achieve that underwhelming result, it’s cost millions of the previously insured their insurance plan of choice, forced millions more to pay higher premiums, and resulted in probably tens of millions having a smaller provider network that may not include their doctor or hospital of choice. Not to mention saddling insurance companies with a process so screwed up that, if it isn’t fixed soon, many (most?) may just stop offering individual (and probably small group) health insurance entirely.

One could be forgiven for suspecting that the real purpose of Obamacare all along was to destroy the private health insurance market in order to replace it with a British-style, government-run, single-payer socialist system. After all, one of the architects of this abysmal failure has said as much.

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