Combs Spouts Off

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

Is Beto the John Edwards of 2020?

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2019

Shot:

‘That’s gross!’ Beto O’Rourke’s stunt in Iowa just killed our appetites (and hopefully his chances) [pics]

Chaser:

HACKTASTIC: Look closely this other fawning magazine profile of a rising Democrat pretty boy

Say what you will about John Edwards, but at least he didn’t campaign on coffee shop counters.

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Happy Pi Day!

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2019

Well, Pi Approximation Day. A better Pi Approximation Day, if you use the more sensible day/month notation instead of the American month/day, is the 22nd of July (22/7).

But any excuse to eat pie, right? I’m going to have my favorite kind of pie, pizza, at 1:59, the Pi Minute.

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Denver’s flexible snow plowing policy

Posted by Richard on February 23, 2019

When we get snow in Denver, the city generally plows only main streets (those with a yellow stripe down the middle). The official policy is that residential streets only get plowed when a foot or more of snow falls. Last night’s storm dumped only about half that in my neighborhood.

But this morning, either my block experienced about a week’s worth of traffic or a plow came through. I’m pretty sure it was the latter. So what gives? Why the deviation from policy?

Oh, that’s right. The mayor is up for reelection this spring. Ain’t politics grand?

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Israeli lunar lander to launch tonight

Posted by Richard on February 21, 2019

Israel is set to join the exclusive club (US, Russia, and China) that has landed a spacecraft on the moon. But it’s not the Israeli government’s undertaking. This will be the first private lunar mission:

Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) say that Israel’s inaugural voyage to the moon – the world’s first privately funded lunar mission – will begin Thursday night at approximately 8:45 p.m., U.S. Eastern time, when the lunar lander “Beresheet” (“In the Beginning”) blasts off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceIL was a finalist in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, which ended last March with no winner when Google withdrew its support. The XPRIZE Foundation is seeking a sponsor for a new Lunar XPRIZE.

As usual, SpaceX will provide a live webcast of the launch.

So, how long until Hamas declares that Mohammed, in a dream, rode his winged horse to the moon and claimed it for Islam, making this mission an act of Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people?

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Coloradans strongly support TABOR

Posted by Richard on February 21, 2019

All those newly-elected Democrats in Colorado had better pay attention to this:

new poll was released indicating overwhelming support of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which most Coloradans lovingly refer to as TABOR. Fully 71 percent of the 500 Coloradans surveyed expressed support for the policy, and lest you think these numbers are skewed, the breakdown of who was asked is… rather reflective of an actual election in Colorado: 37 percent of respondents were either unaffiliated or members of a third party, 32 percent were Democrats, and 31 percent were Republicans.

Interestingly, the survey found that just under half of respondents supported TABOR and a fourth were unsure when no description of it was provided. When respondents were given a brief objective description of TABOR, virtually all the previously unsure became supporters:

On the initial position on the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), 47% of respondents favor it, 26% oppose it and 26% are unsure.
After an explanation of TABOR, 71% of respondents favor it, 28% oppose it and 2% are unsure. The explanation provided was the following.
TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is an amendment to the state constitution passed in 1992 which requires state and local government to seek voter approval in order to raise taxes and also limits growth in state spending to population growth plus inflation. If the state collects more revenues than it is allowed to spend, then it must return the surplus to the taxpayers.

The description caused virtually no change in opposition. So maybe the quarter of respondents opposed already all knew exactly what TABOR does. Or maybe their opposition isn’t based on what TABOR does, but on the fact that all the “right people” in government hate it and all the racist, homophobic, misogynistic monsters (e.g., conservatives and Republicans) support it.

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IJ scores 9-0 SCOTUS victory in Timbs v. Indiana

Posted by Richard on February 20, 2019

Good news from the Supreme Court today, as reported in the Institute for Justice press release:

In an historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning held that the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment protects Americans not just against the federal government, but against states and local authorities too. No matter which state you live in, every level of government must now abide by the federal Constitution’s guarantee that property owners will be safe from excessive fines and forfeitures. “[T]he historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Court, “is overwhelming.”

Six justices signed onto Ginsburg’s opinion. Justice Thomas wrote a concurring opinion reiterating his contention that the court should base incorporation decisions on the 14th Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause, not the Due Process Clause, quite properly calling the concept of substantive due process “oxymoronic.” Justice Gorsuch also wrote a concurring opinion stating that “the appropriate vehicle for incorporation may well be the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause, rather than, as this Court has long assumed, the Due Process Clause.” The PDF of the opinions is available here.

The Privileges or Immunities Clause was essentially made irrelevant by the Supreme Court’s 1873 ruling in the Slaughterhouse Cases, one of the worst SCOTUS rulings of all time. IJ has a good brief summary.

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“Rattlesnake Kate,” the musical

Posted by Richard on February 20, 2019

If you watched the Next on 9News program I posted recently about Travis Kauffman, the man who killed a mountain lion bare-handed, you also learned a little about Rattlesnake Kate. For much more about this remarkable woman, check out this Greeley History story.

There’s more. It turns out that former Lumineer Neyla Pekarek recently released her first solo album, “Rattlesnake,” and is close to completing “Rattlesnake Kate,” the musical:

A rough draft, bare-bones version sans costumes and choreography will be available to watch in its rough-draft form as part of the Colorado New Play Summit at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Seawell Ballroom in Denver, 1350 Arapahoe St. Tickets are $20 but space is limited, so call the Denver Center for Performing Arts ahead of time at 303-893-4100.

“I think we underpromised,” said Pekarek, a University of Northern Colorado graduate who recently left The Lumineers last fall to pursue her solo career. “Things have gone really well. It’s definitely not a finished product but we have some great, exciting things to show people.”

Pekarek’s first solo album “Rattlesnake” dropped last month. It’s an ode to her muse, “Rattlesnake Kate,” whose story she fell in love with while living in Greeley. The legend slithers its way through each of the tracks.

The album also is the foundation of the musical. Pekarek will also write two new songs.

And here’s Carter Sampson’s song, “Rattlesnake Kate,” with some really tasty guitar accompaniment by BJ Baartmans:


[YouTube link]

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Next on 9News: “King of the North”

Posted by Richard on February 15, 2019

Travis Kauffman, the trail runner who killed a mountain lion with his bare hands on February 4, finally stepped forward and held a press conference Thursday. Kauffman was running on an open space trail west of Fort Collins, Colorado, when a juvenile mountain lion attacked him. The story made national news even before his identity was known, so unless you pay no attention at all to what’s going on in the world, you’ve probably heard about it.

The young cougar weighed about 40 pounds, but if you think that should make it easy to subdue, you’re not a cat owner. As someone who’s tried to physically control an angry/scared 10-pound house cat (and has the resulting scars), I can assure you that a cat four times that size is a legitimate threat to your life. Despite serious injuries to his arm, hand, and face, Kauffman, who is 5’10” and 155 pounds, was able to avoid the disemboweling efforts of the cat’s rear claws, pin it to the ground, and suffocate it. I suspect that if the cat had been even 20 pounds larger, he would surely have lost the fight.

I’m posting this to get you to watch Thursday night’s episode of Next on 9News, which as my friends know, I’m a big fan of. It’s certainly the best local newscast in Denver and I suspect one of the best anywhere. The host, Kyle Clark, appears to be the typical liberalish millennial, and he freely offers his opinions on the show (kudos to 9News for letting him do it his way), but he’s also a big proponent of listening to differing opinions and of encouraging dialog. It’s a refreshingly different kind of newscast, with lots of humor. For instance, one of the regular features is called “The Most Colorado Thing We Saw Today”; a recent one involved a guy on a mountain bike pedaling up the road with a snowboard strapped to his back. It’s now been renamed “The Most Travis Kauffman Thing We Saw Today.” Some time ago, before Kauffman stepped forward, Kyle Clark declared that the anonymous mountain lion killer would henceforth be known as the “King of the North.” And in this episode, he solemnly declares, “If this man ever pays for a beer again in the state of Colorado, we have failed as a people.”

Next on 9News has a YouTube channel, where they sometimes post certain segments and sometimes complete shows. Here’s the complete Thursday show featuring Travis Kauffman. After the opening segment about Kauffman, there’s a story about the Denver teachers’ strike (boring) and a story about gun control efforts in the legislature (aggravating). But if you don’t want to watch those, skip ahead to about the 11:00 mark, when Kyle Clark takes on the many critics of Travis Kauffman. Outstanding commentary. Truly outstanding. And after that, you learn about another amazing Coloradan, known as “Rattlesnake Kate.” Trust me, this show is worth your time.

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State of the Union: pretty darn good

Posted by Richard on February 8, 2019

I’m pretty pleased and impressed by Trump’s State of the Union address. I’m not quite as impressed as Newt Gingrich, who thinks it “changed history.” But he makes some good points, and I agree that watching it is better than just reading the transcript.

There were, of course, things that rubbed this libertarian the wrong way, chief among them being his embrace of “nationwide family leave.” I guess Ivanka finally got to him on that. The last thing this country needs is yet another entitlement, and forcing employers to pay for it instead of taxpayers doesn’t make it any less bad. It will just further reinforce the already far-too-prevalent belief that one person’s (perceived) need constitutes a morally legitimate claim on someone else’s property.

But there were also some truly moving moments (I’m thinking especially of his honoring of Judah Samet, Joshua Kaufman, and Herman Zeitchik). And some parts of the speech made me want to cheer. Here are two:

Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.  America was founded on liberty and independence –- not government coercion, domination, and control.  We are born free, and we will stay free.  Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.

Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years.  In Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 7,000 American heroes have given their lives.  More than 52,000 Americans have been badly wounded.  We have spent more than $7 trillion in the Middle East.

As a candidate for President, I pledged a new approach.  Great nations do not fight endless wars.

The polling numbers for the speech looked great for Trump, including the YouGov survey immediately afterward commissioned by CBS News. It showed approval/agreement numbers for Trump’s specific ideas ranging from 71% to 78%.

CNN also had a post-speech poll with similarly positive numbers. But both networks emphasized that the audience for SOTU broadcasts leans heavily to the President’s own party. CNN in particular, as NewsBusters noted (emphasis in original):

So I just want to stress here, for a State of the Union address, the President’s partisans, his supporters tend to turn out to watch the speech. This is true of a president of either party,” he warned viewers after also noting the poll was only of people who actually watched the speech. “So tonight, we saw a heavily Republican skewed audience turn out to watch the President’s speech.”

As this author wondered last year: If you’re polling a skewed pool of respondents, then why take the poll in the first place? It’s because they like to hold up the results when it’s a Democratic president giving the State of the Union address.

Remember when CNN and CBS always discounted the favorable poll results after Obama’s SOTU speeches because viewers were mostly Democrats? And reminded us that the results weren’t representative of the country as a whole, only of those who watched? Me neither.

Both networks made a laughable attempt to find something negative in viewers’ reactions by focusing on their poll’s bipartisanship question. The CNN-commissioned SRSS poll asked, “Do you think President Trump will or will not succeed in increasing cooperation between Democrats and Republicans?” 53% said he will not succeed. The CBS YouGov poll asked, “Did what you heard tonight make you think that Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi will…” 33% thought they’d work together more, 4% thought they’d work together less, and 63% thought it won’t change things much. Both networks made this sound like a failing of Trump’s.

But who do you think this “skewed Republican” audience is more likely to blame for lack of bipartisan cooperation, Trump or Pelosi, Schumer, et al? Well, here’s a clue: YouGov also asked, “Looking ahead, do you think the President’s speech will do more to…?” 56% said unite the country, only 8% said divide the country, and 36% said it won’t change things much. So a lot of viewers think Trump’s speech had a positive effect on the country as a whole, but that it won’t help with Pelosi. Sounds about right to me.

UPDATE: I almost missed this bit of hilarity. NPR is not only partisan, but clumsily and stupidly partisan. And boy, did they get called on it.

Donald Trump Jr. joined the pile-on attacking NPR Wednesday morning over the organization’s “fact check” on President Trump’s State of the Union address that many criticized as partisan and unfair.

“FACT CHECK: President Trump praised the record number of women in Congress, but that’s almost entirely because of Democrats, not Trump’s party,” NPR wrote late Tuesday.

The tweet was referring to a rare moment in bipartisan celebration Tuesday night when Mr. Trump acknowledged the record number of women serving in Congress.

“Exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” the president declared.

The Washington Times has several more great responses (including David Harsanyi’s), so go read the whole thing.

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QOTD

Posted by Richard on February 7, 2019

The quote of the day comes from the Denver Post’s daily Mile High Roundup email, which would be a useful quick news summary with links if it weren’t so tiresomely leftist. This line by Matt Schubert is the best I’ve seen from that rag in some time:

You know things are bad when the temperature outside matches the number of pants you’re currently wearing.

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Senator Warren’s wealth tax won’t fly

Posted by Richard on February 6, 2019

Fauxcahontas wants to tax wealth, not just income. If your net worth is north of $50 million, she wants to take 2% of it annually. (If your net worth is north of $50 million, can we talk?) Being rich is evil, don’t you know, because if you’re rich you must have stolen it from all the poor people. Or at least that’s how leftists think. And if she got her way, you can be sure that the $50 million floor would be lowered rapidly and relentlessly, bccause there aren’t enough people that rich to bring in the amount of loot that the leftists want to get their hands on.

But don’t worry, it’s not going to happen. Not without a radical change in the Supreme Court. As Professor Erik M. Jensen noted at City Journal, a wealth tax would at best be “constitutionally problematic.” That’s because a wealth tax would be a direct tax, and the Constitution makes levying direct taxes difficult:

… The Founders worried that Congress might use the relatively dangerous direct taxes as everyday revenue-raisers. To prevent abuse, the Constitution requires apportioning a direct tax among the states based on population: regardless of how the tax base is distributed across the country, taxpayers in each state in the aggregate must pay tax in proportion to their state’s share of the national population. The apportionment rule makes imposition of a direct tax often technically—and politically—impossible. That’s not a glitch, as some suggest; that was the point.

Suppose Warren’s wealth tax had to be apportioned. Imagine two states—one rich, one poor—each having a population of, say, 2 million. Despite the disparity in wealth, the tax collected from the two states must be the same. To make the numbers work, either tax rates would have to be higher in the poorer state than in the richer one, or some other absurd mechanism would have to be used. The result would obviously not satisfy Senator Warren’s goals. If apportionment is required, the proposed tax is dead in the water.

“But what about the income tax,” you say, “isn’t that a direct tax?” Well, our stinkin’ Progressive forebears amended the Constitution to make that possible, but they didn’t go as far as Warren and her ilk would have liked:

The Sixteenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, exempted “taxes on incomes” from apportionment. That made the modern income tax possible, but the amendment doesn’t allow an unapportioned wealth tax. The income tax targeted the wealthy, but late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century debates specifically distinguished taxes on income from taxes on wealth. Senator Norris Brown of Nebraska, who in 1909 introduced the resolution that ultimately became the amendment, refused to extend the amendment’s scope beyond taxes on incomes. Many members of Congress wanted to do away with apportionment altogether—to make the meaning of “direct tax” irrelevant—but Brown said no, and he prevailed. As a result, a direct tax that is not a tax on incomes remains subject to apportionment. Like it or not, that’s the law.

I like it. It’s about the only thing I like about the Sixteenth Amendment.

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Are your shoes offending Allah?

Posted by Richard on February 1, 2019

Some Muslims think a new Nike Air Max shoe is blasphemous because the stylized version of “Air Max” on the sole resembles (!) the Arabic script for “Allah.” They’re demanding that Nike recall the shoes.

Where to begin? Based on the picture in the story linked above, I don’t even think the sole looks very much like it says “Air Max,” much less “Allah.” It’s not even close to looking like Arabic script for anything.

This is classic offense theft (taking offense where none was given), a tactic that radical Islamists love to engage in. I hope Nike tells them to “sod off,” as the Brits would say, but I’m not holding my breath. This kind of nonsense has worked far too often in the past.

In any case, neither Nike nor the non-Islamic world in general is obliged to adhere to Sharia law. So their demand, which seems invalid to me even under those strictures, is utterly without merit. It should be laughed off.

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Polar vortex fun

Posted by Richard on January 31, 2019

CBS4 meteorologist Lauren Whitney (@LaurenCBS4) shared a cool photo from a viewer on Twitter today. It shows how much fun you can have blowing soap bubbles in Wisconsin when it’s -23°.

 

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Libertarian praise for Trump’s health care vision

Posted by Richard on January 30, 2019

The Independent Institute’s Dr. John C. Goodman has been called the father of Health Savings Accounts, and his two books and numerous articles and op-eds on health care make  a strong case for free-market reforms in health care and health insurance. In a new Forbes column, he notes that “the most serious problems in the health care marketplace are almost always the result of ill-conceived public policies” and has high praise for the Trump administration’s health care reform proposals:

For most of the past half century, health economics has been dominated by the idea that private sector medicine has numerous flaws – flaws that must be corrected by government.

Fortunately, the conversation is about to change.

The Trump administration has produced an astonishingly bold document:  Reforming America’s Healthcare System Through Choice and Competition.This is the first time any administration has explicitly acknowledged that the most serious problems in health economics arise not because of market failure, but because of government failure. It is also the first time the federal government has committed to the idea of liberating the medical marketplace. In many ways the document builds on and extends ideas I first discussed in Regulation of Medical Care (Cato) almost four decades ago and that Gerald Musgrave and I discussed in Patient Power (Cato) almost three decades ago.

Although cooperation from Congress and state governments is necessary and desirable, the Trump administration is accomplishing a lot through executive authority alone. I described some of the most important of these changes in a recent post.

The introductory letter from the cabinet secretaries is at the link Goodman provides, along with a link to the entire 120-page PDF. I’ve only read the introduction and dipped into a couple of topics that caught my interest, in particular “Governments and Market Failure in Healthcare,” which begins as follows (emphasis added):

It is a common refrain that healthcare is “unique,” and in some ways, it is. But “unique” is frequently used to imply that free-market principles that govern other major sectors of the economy cannot be applied to healthcare. The reasons given for the uniqueness of healthcare vary, but some of the most common are: the difficulties involved in shopping for services, the expertise gap between patients and healthcare professionals (asymmetric information), economies of scale intrinsic to the sector, and the predominant reliance on third-party payers. The merit of these commonly cited reasons for why healthcare is unique is considered below.

Notably, government policies promote some of these features, particularly third-party payment. While some of these features do limit the application of free-market principles, the common claim that the healthcare sector as a whole cannot function under free-market principles is not true. Notably, government policies promote many factors that prevent the free-market from operating. Specifically, government has encouraged excessive third-party payment, created counterproductive barriers to entry, incentivized opaque pricing practices, skewed innovation activity, and placed restrictions on the reimbursement policies of government programs. Overall, these practices have resulted in less choice, less competition, and sub-optimally functioning markets that deliver higher prices and lower quality.

Sounds pretty good to me.

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Cats may make you schizophrenic?

Posted by Richard on January 30, 2019

Eek!

In what researchers describe as the largest study of its kind, scientists have found new evidence of a link between infection with the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, and schizophrenia.

Causation remains very much disputable, but the brain-dwelling parasite – commonly carried by cats and present in their faeces – has been linked to a huge host of behaviour-altering effects.

Virtually all warm-blooded animals are capable of being infected, and when T. gondii gets inside them, unusual things happen.

What kind of unusual things? Well, infected rodents lose their inhibitions and their aversion to the odor of cats.

Mmm, cat odors.

In humans, T. gondii infections seem to be associated with risk-taking, suicide, and various neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy. Of course, correlation is not causation. Maybe people who are prone to these effects for other reasons are also for some reason more inclined to have cats.

Still, there’s this new study by Danish researchers analyzing the blood of 80,000 Danes that suggests further research might be a good idea:

To ascertain links between mental disorders and infections with T. gondii and another common pathogen, the herpes virus cytomegalovirus (CMV), the researchers identified 2,591 individuals in the blood study who were registered with psychiatric conditions, and analysed their samples to look for traces of immunoglobulin antibodies indicative of the two infections.

In terms of T. gondii, compared to a control group, the blood work revealed individuals with the infection were almost 50 percent more likely (odds ratio 1.47) to be diagnosed with schizophrenia disorders compared to those without an infection.

As the researchers explain, the link became even more evident when they filtered the data to account for ‘temporality’ – which meant only looking at participants who hadn’t yet been diagnosed with schizophrenia when T. gondii was found in their blood.

According to the researchers, this “corroborates that Toxoplasma has a positive effect on the rate of schizophrenia and that T. gondii infection might be a contributing causal factor for schizophrenia.”

I know the voices aren’t real, but they have some really good ideas.

(HT: /.)

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