Monthly Archives: May 2015

Fun with photos

An amusing little toy…you give it a picture, and it tells you how old it thinks the people in it are:

How Old Do I Look?

P1_scaledI gave it this photo, taken by a professional portrait photographer about three years ago. At the time, I was 40 and Tabitha was 32.  The results it gave me were kinda funny (though she wouldn’t have been amused :-) ). You can download the picture and see for yourself, or just upload one of your own pictures and see what it makes of it.

Missing the point of “debate”

Gotta maintain that epistemic closure, I guess:

Everytown: We’ll Only Debate If Our Sparring Partners Agree With Us

Here’s transcript of the relevant part of his answer:

Everytown is committed to an evidence-based approach. We speak with criminologists, legislators across the country and we welcome debate. In fact, we’re thrilled that there is an increased amount of research in this area, and an increased amount of conversation about what laws are effective to keeping guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers. So, when there’s a credible scientist — somebody who wants to have a real constructive conversation about this — we’re going to be there. But folks who seek to minimize the grave issue of gun violence in this country – or to draw attention away from the real issues to themselves – that’s not a conversation I think it’s productive to be a part of.

Obviously, the speaker is doing little more than begging the question. “Sure we’ll talk to people who disagree” he appears to be saying, “but only if they agree. Because to disagree with the claims that we are making is to take attention away from the claims that we are making, which are true by virtue of their having been made.”

Backing up your ownCloud contacts & calendars

I’ve had most of my stuff either backed up to Tarsnap or archived to BD-R for a while now, with two exceptions: the contacts and calendars I have stored in ownCloud.  It’s not much information sizewise, but losing everyone’s phone numbers would be a royal pain in the ass.

Backing up contacts is relatively simple; ownCloud provides a URL that grabs them in one shot. Calendars are a bit more problematic, as you probably have more than one. HTTrack is used to grab all of the calendars, which are then concatenated and compressed (except for the contact birthdays calendar, which is auto-generated from your contacts). In my case, the backup is stored in a directory that gets sent to Tarsnap by another script; you could do whatever you want with your backup files.

Set this up as a cronjob; set it to run maybe a half-hour before your backup job. (12345 isn’t really my ownCloud password; I only use that on my luggage. :-) )


source /etc/profile
cd $HOME

# script settings: ownCloud server address, username, password, 
# backup destination


PREFIX=`echo $OWNCLOUD | sed "s/\/\//\/\/$USERNAME:$PASSWORD@/"`

# retrieve all contacts from ownCloud and concatenate them into one
# compressed file, which then gets sent to Tarsnap with the rest of
# our documents

rm /mnt/files/documents/contacts.vcf* 
wget $PREFIX/remote.php/carddav/addressbooks/$USERNAME/contacts\?export -O "$DEST"/contacts.vcf && \
xz -z9 "$DEST"/contacts.vcf

# do the same with calendars...use httrack instead of wget as there's no
# way AFAICT to enumerate calendars so we can export them

httrack $PREFIX/remote.php/caldav/calendars/$USERNAME -O calendars && \
for i in `find calendars -mindepth 7 -type d | grep -v contact_birthdays`
  cat `find $i -name \*.ics` | xz -9 >"$DEST"/calendar-`basename $i`.ics.xz
rm -r calendars

How Five Republicans Let Congress Keep Its Fraudulent Obamacare Subsidies

That tears it. I needed to change the address on my voter registration anyway…might as well go independent (or third-party) as well if crap like this is what the Republican majority in Congress is going to continue to deliver. They were sent to Washington to put the brakes on the Democrats’ disastrous agenda, but this is what they’re delivering instead:

How Five Republicans Let Congress Keep Its Fraudulent Obamacare Subsidies

The rumors began trickling in about a week before the scheduled vote on April 23: Republican leadership was quietly pushing senators to pull support for subpoenaing Congress’s fraudulent application to the District of Columbia’s health exchange — the document that facilitated Congress’s “exemption” from Obamacare by allowing lawmakers and staffers to keep their employer subsidies.

The application said Congress employed just 45 people. Names were faked; one employee was listed as “First Last,” another simply as “Congress.” To Small Business Committee chairman David Vitter, who has fought for years against the Obamacare exemption, it was clear that someone in Congress had falsified the document in order to make lawmakers and their staff eligible for taxpayer subsidies provided under the exchange for small-business employees.

But until Vitter got a green light from the Small Business Committee to subpoena the unredacted application from the District of Columbia health exchange, it would be impossible to determine who in Congress gave it a stamp of approval. When Vitter asked Republicans on his committee to approve the subpoena, however, he was unexpectedly stonewalled.

The elections office isn’t far from the office, so it’s no big deal to swing by there on the way home from work, or maybe even around lunchtime.

It’s as if regressives never heard of Bastiat

broken_window‘Mass Destruction of Capital’ as a Liberal Economic Panacea

The United States was a manufacturing powerhouse during that era [1945-1973], the other great making nations — Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan — having been bombed to smithereens and their work forces literally (literally, Mr. Vice President!) decimated in some cases. The numbers are horrifying: 9 million dead Germans, 3 million dead Japanese, more than 20 million dead Soviets. There were only — “only” — a half million dead Britons, but the country’s industrial infrastructure was ruined. Without failing to appreciate the sacrifice of those who gave their lives, the position of the United States — its cities unscathed, its dead amounting to less than three-tenths of 1 percent of the population — was enviable.

One can look back at the immediate postwar era and cherry-pick whatever policy one likes, crediting it with the generally satisfactory state of affairs in those years: the relatively high tax rates and strong unions of the Eisenhower years if you’re a progressive, the relatively small public-sector footprint and stable families if you’re a conservative. The desire to return to that state of affairs is alluring for some. Writing in Salon this week, Conor Lynch is positively wistful: “The mass destruction of capital around the world created a much more even playing field than before, while also placing the United States at the forefront of the world economy.”

“Destruction of capital” is a cute way of describing the slaughter of some 80 million people and the burning of their cities. There were good policy decisions and bad policy decisions in the postwar era, but the fundamental fact of economic life on this planet during that time was that humanity was rebuilding after the single worst event in its history, a conflagration that killed more people than the Mongol conquests and the Chinese civil war combined.

When our old friend Frédéric Bastiat described the broken-window fallacy — the nonsensical belief that we can make ourselves richer by destroying wealth and thereby providing ourselves with the opportunity to replace it — he could not have imagined how many windows would be broken less than a century later. American involvement in that war was necessary, but it did not make us any better off in real terms, despite the persistent myth that the war led us out of the Depression.

“First Amendment? Never heard of it.”

The week that cable news failed free expression

There’s no justification for violence. But…”

“I’m a First Amendment absolutist. But…”

“You have every right to do what you did. But…”

Though perhaps not verbatim, those are the sentiments that have spilled from cable airwaves — and, for that matter, non-cable airwaves — in the days since Sunday’s violent incident in Garland, Texas. Two gunmen were shot dead by a police officer as they attempted to mount a terrorist attack on a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest — an event whose by-product is offensive to many Muslims. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for targeting the contest, which was organized by Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI).

Authorities are investigating ISIS’s claim of responsibility; they’re checking the electronic communication histories of the attackers, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi; the White House has called the episode an “attempted terrorist attack.

And who’s being treated as the public enemy on cable? The woman who organized a cartoon contest.

Getting what they voted for, good and hard

Picture0003Obama Administration: Times Square Must Remove Iconic Billboards

You can call it a bureaucratic blunder … or a Washington blooper.

But any way you slice it a move by the federal government to make the city remove Times Square’s iconic billboards falls in the category of “whose bright idea is this?”

It is known as the “Crossroads of the World,” the “Center of the Universe” and “the Great White Way,” but Times Square could become like the “Black Hole of Calcutta” if the federal government has its way, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

The feds say many of Times Square’s huge and neon-lit billboards must come down or the city will lose about $90 million in federal highway money.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Want to get away with cheating on your taxes?  Just go to work for the IRS:

IRS gave promotions to tax cheaters

The IRS refused to fire most of its own employees found to be cheating on their taxes — and in some cases even quickly turned around and promoted them within the year, according to an audit released Wednesday.

In about 60 percent of cases of “willful violations,” IRS managers found mitigating circumstances and refused to fire the employees, even though the law calls for that penalty. In some of those cases, the managers didn’t even document why they had overridden the penalty, said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George.