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A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.
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Monday 3 February 2003
From time to time, The Git receives an irate email from someone in the Green movement taking him to task for being an Anthropogenic Global Warming sceptic. Invariably, the email will contain the words "CO2" and "pollution" and usually in a phrase like: "Don't you care what happens to the planet?" As it happens, The Git cares very much what happens to the planet, but he cares equally for being at least a little bit rational about it.
Let's face it, CO2 is NOT pollution: it's the source of (almost) all food energy on the planet. Plants use sunlight to turn CO2 and water into carbohydrates. Animals and plants turn carbohydrates back into CO2 and water, utilising the stored energy from the sun in the process.
"Well, what about The Greenhouse Effect?" There are several points to make here:
- The Greenhouse Effect raises the planet's average temperature by around 16°C. Without The Greenhouse Effect, likely there would only be bacteria living here!
- CO2 is not a major Greenhouse Gas; it's massively overshadowed by water vapour and even methane contributes more warming.
- CO2 levels are in historical terms very low. Previous interglacial episodes have had higher, often much higher levels of CO2.
"But CO2 levels and temperatures are rising at an alarming rate". It depends on what you mean by alarming. The CO2 levels as measured at Mauna Loa since 1959 indicate that the additional CO2 in the atmosphere is around 55ppm. That's 0.0055%, equivalent to 1mm in 18m (nearly 60 feet). The temperature rise over the last century is considerably less than 1°C. Despite statistical manipulations by the alarmists at CRU and GISS, it's likely that the 1930s were warmer than today. Evidence for this is that of 68 record high temperatures The Git looked at, 40% occurred in the 1930s. The longest hot spell ever recorded was 160 consecutive days over 100°F (about 37.8°C) at Marble Bar in Western Australia in 1923-24.
The Git notices with some amusement that the CRU/GISS globally averaged temperatures for the 1930s have recently decreased.
"But surely if CO2 levels are rising and CO2 increases the Greenhouse Effect, we are in danger of runaway heating and the end of all life on earth!" This is the nub of the Anthropogenic Global Warmers' argument. The problem is, if this were true, then we would have had Runaway Greenhouse in the last interglacial when CO2 levels were higher than today. And the one before. And the one before that. We are still here, so we can only assume the concept of Runaway Greenhouse is pure fiction.
"Well even without Runaway Greenhouse, sea levels are rising because of increasing temperatures and all the world's major cities will be swamped and civilisation as we know it will come crashing down!" The problem with that argument is that when the climate is warmer, it's also wetter. This leads to more precipitation and precipitation at the poles is in the form of ice. Places like Antarctica and Greenland may then remove water from the oceans. Understanding this process, the net change of seas level as climate changes, is one of the aspects of climate change that is not currently understood.
The Git referred recently to yet another attempt to interpret Ross and Lempriere's Mean Level of the Sea as being erroneously placed at the high tide mark. John Daly's response:
Recent publicity arising from a study by the Universities of Southampton and Tasmania  of an old sea level benchmark at Port Arthur, Tasmania, claims 'dramatic' sea level rise of about 13cm since the mark was first struck back in 1841.
These claims are based primarily on statistical probability models and are unsupportable when viewed in the context of other physical and documentary evidence available surrounding the benchmark. The study claims the benchmark was originally set 44.5cm above the mean level of the sea (as it then existed in 1841). Since it now sits at 31.5 cm above (see fig.1), the difference -- 13cm -- is claimed to be evidence of sea level rise. However, the man responsible for putting the mark there, explorer Sir James Clark Ross stated explicitly and several times in his 1846 book  that the mark was placed at MSL (as he estimated it to be), not at a point 44.5cm above, near the high tide point, as claimed by the study. Other evidence surrounding the original placing of the benchmark is less clear, but we do have one positive measurement of where the benchmark stood relative to sea level taken in 1888 by the then Government meteorologist, Commander J. Shortt R.N. He found the mark to be 34cm above sea level -- only 2.5 cm different to its current position  .
This suggests a sea level rise since 1888 of only 2.5cm, not 13cm as claimed by the study. This small rise of 2.5 cm is fully consistent with a survey of long-term tide gauges  around the Australian coast carried out recently by the National Tidal Facility in Adelaide, which found a sea level rise rate of only 0.3 mm/yr, equivalent to a sea level rise of 3cm over a century. Even the current sea level in the inner cove (Mason Cove) of Port Arthur itself is lower than that indicated by a tide gauge  which the study claims existed there in the early 1840s.
Visual evidence of the coast in and around Port Arthur also suggests no sea level rise since the 19th century. For example, Commandant James Boyd, an officer of the colony in 1854 stated that Eaglehawk Neck, the narrow isthmus of land which allowed the British to control access to the peninsula, was only 78 yards across . That's about 71 metres. Today, Eaglehawk Neck is 106 metres wide between the high tide points . Had there been sea level rise as claimed by Pugh et al., we would expect the neck to be somewhat narrower today, certainly not wider.
Lempriere's own tide data from 1841 and 1842 shows that the lowest tides of all were about 2 ft in his tide gauge, meaning, that the minimum depth of water was 2 ft if the tide gauge stilling well was sitting on the sea bottom. If, as is more likely, he had left a clearance of water below the well to avoid interior silting, that minimum depth would be 3 ft or more. Pugh et al. believe Lempriere kept his tide gauge at the Basin next to the stores (see map fig.4). But on a visit there during low tide, I found the depth of water in the now derelict basin to be only ankle deep (see photo). Of course it could be silt accumulation even though much of the sea bottom was stony, with not much water movement around the cove, but it hardly inspires confidence in the 'sea level rising' claims, and we could find ourselves making endless excuses for each and every example where sea level rise fails to manifest itself visually.
Old paintings and sketches present the same problem. Water, water, everywhere during the 19th century, but less water today. With sea level rise, the opposite should be true.
Ross seized the opportunity and went to Port Arthur, with the Governor, in May 1841 to meet Thomas Lempriere - 
"My principal object in visiting Port Arthur was to afford a comparison of our standard barometer with that which had been employed for several years by Mr. Lempriere, the Deputy Assistant Commissary General, in accordance with my instructions, and also to establish a permanent mark at the zero point, or general mean level of the sea as determined by the tidal observations which Mr. Lempriere had conducted with perseverance and exactness for some time: by which means any secular variation in the relative level of the land and sea, which is known to occur on some coasts, might at any future period be detected, and its amount determined. The point chosen for this purpose was the perpendicular cliff of the small islet off Point Puer, which, being near to the tide register, rendered the operation more simple and exact; the Governor, whom I had accompanied on an official visit to the settlement, gave directions to afford Mr. Lempriere every assistance of labourers he required, to have the mark cut deeply in the rock in the exact spot which his tidal observations indicated as the mean level of the ocean."
With such an explicit explanation of what the benchmark was for, and where it was placed, it becomes perplexing that Pugh et al. did not take this testimony seriously enough to exhaust every possible avenue by which their study could avoid contradicting this very clear account. But contradict it they did - they took the view that the benchmark did not end up at 'zero point' at all, but at a height closer to high tide.
Pugh et al. deny the accuracy of the Ross testimony. Are they saying Ross was mistaken? A liar? Did Lempriere do something contrary to what Ross and the Governor ordered? It should take compelling evidence to contradict such a clear and precise testimony by someone with the stature of James Clark Ross..
But, let us assume Pugh et al. were right and that the benchmark was not struck where Ross said it was. That would mean that (a) Ross was a liar, or (b) Lempriere did the job alone and struck the mark in a different place, or in a different way, to what Ross instructed, or (c) Ross had a lapse of memory about it all and misreported the whole episode in his book.
Taking each in turn,
Scenario (a) is a non-starter. Ross was a respected officer of the Royal Navy, and a scientist and explorer. The Ross Sea in Antarctica is named after him. He knew only too well the importance of exactness when it came to scientific endeavours. He was also a mariner, and seafarers have their own set of ethics, one of which is to report navigation information accurately - lives may depend on it.
Scenario (b) is possible, but only if Ross was not present at the time the benchmark was struck. Had Ross been supervising the operation personally, or just overseeing it, he would not have reported the mark as being at mean sea level. In addition, Thomas Lempriere had a wife and 11 children in cramped quarters at Port Arthur. He was desperately seeking both promotion and better accommodations for his large family, and it is therefore unthinkable that he would perform his task in any way other than to follow the instructions of Ross - and indeed the Governor - to the letter.
Scenario (c) is not credible either. Ross was only 41 years old when he met Lempriere, and his book was published only 6 years later, making age-related memory loss very unlikely for such an important project by a man in his prime. His sense of seafarer's ethics would also have persuaded him to report the positioning benchmark with proper attention to accuracy as other seafarers might come across the benchmark sometime in the future..
Of the three scenarios, only (b) (i.e. Lempriere acting in defiance of instructions) could possibly explain the benchmark being struck at a height different to that reported by Ross.
Lempriere kept a meticulous tide log. He never missed a single tide come rain or hail or storm over the 2-year period covered by his tide log from January 1841 to December 1842. (This fact alone suggests he was a meticulous man who would not capriciously put the benchmark somewhere other than where the Governor and Ross told him to put it.)
There's a word for for people who believe that character assassination is an adequate substitute for science. On this occasion though, The Git will leave it to your imagination.
Of course the emphasis by the Anthropogenic Global Warmers' on "evil" CO2 gives their real game away. The one thing they could not care less about is climate change -- that's just a useful scare tactic. While the effect of CO2 on climate is poorly understood, as Pielke et al pointed out in the Royal Society paper referred to last week, we do know that albedo change caused by vegetation will warm local climate and increase precipitation. So if a warming climate is the problem, then logically we should be encouraging the deforestation of regions where the increase in winter albedo from the snow would reflect more of the sun's radiation back into space. We know that will work -- we don't yet know if decreasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere will.
What we do know about increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is that plants grow quicker and require somewhat less water to achieve the same yields. Recent research seems to indicate that plants we consider useful from the human point of view also compete more effectively with weeds.
Thought for the day:
In the choice between changing one's mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.
John Kenneth Galbraith
Brian Eno -- Another Green World
Tuesday 4 February 2003
From the Inbox:
Dear Pompous Git
On reading your ramblings I was upset to read your claim that Paul Wyld committed suicide. As I was with him when he died let me assure you he died of a rare lung desease that he had had for many years. I was his sister so I know about these things. yours sincerely, Meghan Wyld
My sincerest apologies for having this so wrong. Jimmy Doyle (not Tim Piper as I erroneously wrote on an earlier occasion) mentioned it several years ago when he, Mark Punch and John Vallins were visiting my friend and neighbour Gary (Matchfist) Paige. It was a great blow to me as I was looking forward to tracking Paul down, or as seems to happen so often, for old friends to turn up out of the blue. None of the few people from the music industry I mentioned it to even knew that Paul had died.
I wrote about what Jimmy had said three times over the last two years or so and have inserted your correction. I hope that Paul's passing was without severe pain. He was a rare and wonderful person.
Meghan wrote in a follow-up email: "Paul had been ill for about five years before he died but he was not in pain just very short of breath. He was writing music and playing until the last few weeks of his life. He died on March 1st 1999. In true Paul style despite being in hospital for the last few months of his life he kept sneeking out and doing gigs on Saturday nights.
I am sorry that the Melbourne people didn't know. Gulliver Smith was a great support in the last few months and Adrian Rawlings wrote a moving eulogy for the funeral."
And that's all for today...
Thought for the day:
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
Brahms -- Ein Deutsche Requiem
Thursday 6 February 2003
Some days it's probably better not to get out of bed! Where do we start?
First, my bank declined the debit for my ISP for two days after SWMBO put sufficient funds in the account. Why were there insufficient funds? Usually, I like to keep that particular card almost all used up to prevent large amounts being debited from it. It's used only for Internet purchases. Also, EYO still haven't refunded the excess charge they made against it in early November! And my ex-web hosting service is still billing me even though cancelled the account in November. Bollocks!
My Win2k machine was always very slow to open My Computer, due The Git suspects the DVD drive being very slow. First, it checks if the disk inserted is a CD, or not, then if it's a DVD, before finally giving up if there's no disk in the drive. A friend suggested installing TweakUI, but that didn't help at all. In fact, that caused me some minor problems, so I went to uninstall it. Only problem is, it refused to uninstall!
Another occasionally irritating issue occurs when printing to the LaserJet 5MP (Postscript). It decides to start printing the page condensed in one direction and only a restart of my workstation fixes it. The problem isn't confined to any particular application. Being disconnected from the Internet seemed like as good an excuse as any for reinstalling Win2k. It was raining anyway. Thomas The Boy Wonder suggested his father might like to check out WinXP...
After backing up the critical data to CD-R and internally to a FAT32 partition, the game began. The WinXP install was the smoothest and easiest Microsoft OS install so far. Almost as good as recent Linux distros. There were drivers for everything in my machine except the ASPI driver for my Adaptec SCSI card! After installing WinXP though, things rapidly went downhill! None of my three NTFS data partitions are available! Attempting to open them results in an "Access Denied" message. The properties for the partition shows them as RAW, whatever that means. Attempting to search WinXP's Help system for RAW hangs the Help system! A CHKDSK confirms that the file system of the partitions is indeed NTFS and that there are "no problems detected". What kind of an idiot would create an OS that can't read its own file system? Oh yeah... Microsoft... Piffle!
The delay opening My Computer is much worse! The little flashlight just rolls interminably from side to side. Inserting the NT4WS, or Win2k Pro CD has a salutary effect and after clearing the message telling me that since this is an older operating system, Install has been disabled, the contents of My Computer display. My suspicion is that the DVD drive is dying :-(
It took a while to become used to the new interface, especially since I cannot quite reproduce the display settings in Win2k. The Boy Wonder suggested that I try using the Classical interface, but since The Git is sure to be asked questions about how to do things using the XP default interface, he is persisting for a while.
Yesterday, when testing the Epson Stylus Pro XL printer driver that comes with WinXP, it refused to print cyan. This morning it's refusing to print magenta. Maybe it's a time of day thing! <sigh>
Late in the day, The Git went to put his long distance spectacles on and the left side frame fell off! The screw had fallen out. He turned on the light in the office so he could search for it and the light globe blew. Yes, one of those "Long Life" light globes! When he turned on the desk lamp, that didn't turn on either and that was caused by the fact that someone had purloined the globe out of it. A quick search for a main light replacement turned up only a 60 watt globe, but that's better than nothing. Unfortunately, when attempting to unscrew the blown globe, the glass portion parted company with the brass bit!
The Git promptly gave up for the day, poured a glass of chateau cardboard and flopped down in front of the idiot box and used a scrap of wire to repair the broken spectacles. Of course the inane Nigella Lawson was on the TV! My UK acquaintances assure me there are pictures of her in the Underground eating her own melons! Figures! The front deck was cooler and I watched the spirals of smoke drifting across the Valley. The morning rain didn't amount to much, though we harvested some 500 Imperial gallons of the precious stuff.
Fortunately, this afternoon sees some relative sanity prevailing. The printer has decided to behave, though unlike the Win2k driver, the driver colour adjustments are greyed out and inaccessible. Having just waded through nearly 500 emails, it's time to go outside and barrow the last two wheel-barrow-loads of sand into the garden! The Movable Type install I was going to do yesterday can wait until tomorrow.
From Neil Baird:
Spiting their pretty faces
Vox Day February 3, 2003 (c) 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
A recent story floating around the variety section of a newspaper I still read occasionally reminded me of a conversation I had with a college girlfriend about six months ago. She's a pretty woman -- slender, petite, well-educated and intelligent. She has an excellent, high-paying job and even owns her own house.
She is, in short, the epitome of feminist success. And yet, she is profoundly disappointed with her life. She has, in her own words, continued to stumble upwards while somehow missing out on the only thing she truly wanted -- a husband and a family.
Nor is she alone, in anecdotal or statistical terms. Not only do the majority of women who were in our college social circle remain unmarried, but according Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of "Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman," a 30-something woman is three times more likely to be unmarried than her 1970's counterpart. While some might argue that this is a good thing, most demographics experts would disagree, as would, it appears, an awful lot of those 30-something single women.
While Whitehead correctly identifies the general problem, she is as clueless as the next feminist as to how to go about solving it. Instead of recommending that individuals change the one thing within their power -- namely, their behavior -- she advocates altering the entire system of courtship. Given this typically fascistic feminist approach, I am, of course, shocked that her six 30-something daughters and nieces all remain available.
But, as I told my friend, the root of the problem is that the kind of man she wants is precisely the man who is smart enough to stay away from her. Smart, educated women aren't willing to date down on the social scale, so the higher they rise, the more they cut down on their available pool of men. Furthermore, the smarter a man is, the more he is likely to realize that being romantically involved with an intelligent, educated, upper-middle-class American woman steeped in 20 years of feminist indoctrination is about as desirable as being flayed alive and rolled in salt.
Consider the premarital professions of the women in my social circle, all of whom are now stay-at-home moms happily married to intelligent, successful men: Farmgirl. Nanny. Teacher. Office manager. Nanny. Pipeline worker. Professional student. Church volunteer. That's eight quality men who won't be marrying a high-powered career girl right there.
The advice I gave my friend was succinct: In any given dating situation, think about what your instincts are telling you -- then do the opposite. It's like football … if the run is getting stuffed, then throw the darn ball.
So, in the unlikely event there happens to be a 30-something single woman reading this, here are a few pointers which might be helpful while you wait for Ms. Dafoe Whitehead and company to change the dating culture:-
- Your rights are delineated in the Constitution. Everything else is a privilege.
- Your family has to put up with you. For everyone else, it's optional.
- Southern belles always get what they want. Watch and learn, grasshopper.
- Sex as an incentive is fair enough. Using its deprivation as a punishment will backfire hideously.
- Mocking your man in public creates a no-win situation. He can either slice and dice you verbally, which is no fun for you, or keep his mouth shut and look like an idiot. In the case of the latter, it doesn't mean that you've won, or that he's forgotten.
- Men love happy women. Act happy and you may discover how to be happy.
- If there's a doubt, choose the most optimistic interpretation. That's what he meant.
- Honey, honey, honey -- a thousand times honey. Never vinegar.
- Conflict is not passion. It isn't any fun, either. Limit yourself to five complaints and demands a day. If you're not counting, you're over the limit.
- If no one ever taught you the traditional arts, find an older woman to be your mentor.
- Your feelings and objectively verifiable facts may be different. Learn to distinguish between them.
Now, I'm not saying that applying these principles to your dating scene will turn frogs into princes or anything, but they will get you in the game. And if all else fails, just tell your next first date that you're thinking of quitting your job and returning to your former career as an aerobics instructor. He'll be intrigued, trust me.
Vox Day is a novelist and Christian libertarian. He is a member of the SFWA, Mensa and the Southern Baptist Convention. He has been down with Madden since 1992. (c) 2003 WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.
And just when I thought the worst was over, I cannot log into my web host's ftp server... I wonder if this would have happened if I'd implemented Movable Type earlier...
Thought for the day:
If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.
Bob Dylan -- Blood on the Tracks
Friday 7 February 2003
Yesterday's débacle with WinXP refusing to mount NTFS partitions created with Win2k was easily fixed. Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell wrote a superb little utility called NTFS for Windows 98 (it works with Win95 as well). The previous version of the utility, NTFSDOS, got The Git out of trouble a couple of times, but as you can guess from its name, that was a considerable time ago. NTFS for Windows 98 uses the file drivers from Microsoft to do the filesystem work, so it's not a reverse-engineering trick. The free download mounts NTFS partitions as Read-only. If you want to write to them as well, you'll have to pay, which is only fair really. Like all of us, they have to eat.
That still leaves the question why WinXP refused to mount those partitions in the first place.
The Git's experience with WinXP so far is decidedly mixed. The solution to My Computer dragging its feet is to load the Win2k install CD -- the original since the backup copy won't work -- and after clearing the checkbox warning me that the installer is disabled, choosing Browse this CD. Clicking the button to go up a level works instantaneously. Browsing My Computer in Win98 is almost instantaneous, it's just Win2k that's slow and WinXP that makes watching compost rot seem recklessly exciting!
My computer seems somewhat slower than when it was running Win2k, when switching between tasks at least. This is particularly noticeable in Outlook when changing folders and clicking the Next button to read the following email. The delay is approximately two seconds and is at least four times longer than Win2k. We'll see if deleting 8,000 messages dating back to November in one folder makes a difference <grin>. Maybe half a gigabyte of CAS 2 RAM is insufficient for XP...
Setting screen resolution to 120 DPI makes the icons bigger than they were in Win2k and The Git would rather they were at the previous size. Changing the resolution to 96 DPI reduces the size of text displayed in applications such as Word and FrontPage. While Word can compensate by zooming, this is not a feature available in FrontPage. Scrolling is considerably slower than Win2k, especially in FrontPage.
Another frustration was not being able to create a user account that's the same name as the computer. The Git prefers to keep things simple!
What The Git likes about WinXP:
Yesterday's problems logging into my web host's server have been fixed and just as soon as Factory55 get back to me with some information I need, the Movable Type trial will begin.
Thought for the day:
Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan -- The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie
Saturday 8 February 2003
From the Inbox:
You know what gets me about this whole Iraq business -- beyond the right and wrong of it -- though that's certainly important. It's the charade of it, and the jaw-dropping hypocrisy of it, and the way that politicians are willing to say and do these jaw-droppingly hypocritical and transparently disingenuous things which, by and large, they would have taken some effort to avoid saying or doing even a few years ago. For instance, yesterday George Bush told the world that the USA had evidence that Iraq would authorise the use of chemical weapons if it was attacked, and this is presumably supposed to be shocking. This coming from an administration who, a week previously, refused to rule out nuclear strikes as a pre-emptive measure against someone who, as yet, hadn't done anything. And what is this bullshit with Colin Powell in the UN, waving a little vial of white stuff around, and saying "This is what Iraq might make if they had chemical weapons, except it would have anthrax in it." Can you imagine cops getting up in court and producing some bag of generic off-white powder, and saying "This is what the defendants might produce if they had a crack lab in their basement, except it would have drugs in it"?
I'm not saying Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction, or even that the USA's evidence isn't real evidence, but as far as it being real evidence that wouldn't be laughed out of court in any legal setting - forget it; and if you're trying to convince the world to declare war on someone, I think you can forgive people for wanting your evidence to be at least as convincing as if you're trying to send someone to jail. You don't wave bottles around in the UN and say "This looks something like what Iraq might have if they actually have something like this", and you don't copy people's postgraduate articles and call them original intelligence reports.
The other statement which had me shaking my head this week, was Michael Hodgeman's response to the Wayne Hyland business (Hyland was convicted of a rape/manslaughter which he committed in the early 80's, and was released on parole recently.)
The local newspaper, The Mercury*, for whom I think the phrase "don't get me started" might actually have been invented, have a long tradition of 're-trial by media'. i.e., regardless of how long you've spent in prison as a result of the legal process, if your crime fits into one of various categories, the Mercury will find it an outrage that you've been released, and in at least one case I believe this was indirectly responsible for a prisoner eventually committing suicide, after endless psychiatric reports recommending his release had been ignored by a succession of governments too ready to do the popular thing rather than the right thing, or even the legally correct thing.
But never mind that. What amazed me this week is that Hyland broke parole and pissed off to the mainland, and Michael Hodgeman confidently proclaimed that this would never have happened if The Liberals had been elected, because he would have made sure that anybody convicted of a crime served at least 75% of their sentence. Forgive me if I'm dense, but doesn't this just mean that he would have broken parole in 2006 instead of 2003?
Please don't think I am soft on criminals -- though perhaps I am. I don't really know. I certainly believe there are some people who are criminalised, who shouldn't be. On the other hand I believe that if someone breaks into your house and comes at you with a baseball bat, you should be able to shoot them. In Australia you can't do this. If I understand the laws correctly, or unless they've changed recently, you have to make some absurd calculation based on the relative lethalness of the respective weapons. I.e., if he came at you with a rocket launcher, you could do anything short of nuking him, but if he comes at you with a knife, you can't shoot him. You have to use something of an equal or lesser lethalness than the weapon he has. So presumably you're going to say "Hang on, I just want to get a knife roughly the same size and quality as that one." Even this is fraught with problems of course, because you might happen to have thrown knives in a circus sideshow, so your skill level with the weapon obviously would modify its lethalness, as would your actually willingness to use it, etc, etc. This clearly ought to be factored into the equation. Obviously it's much easier to just say: "Fuck it, take what you want. It's better than going to jail if I get this wrong."
I also don't happen to believe that jail sentences are too short, or for that matter, too long, as a general principle. There are some specific sentences which strike me as inadequate or excessive. The thing that upsets me in this context is that if someone, the media included, believes that a sentence is inappropriate, the time to make a fuss about it is at the time it is handed down. There is a contingency for this. You don't do it when person is released. A person who is released from prison ought reasonably to expect that he or she had paid their dues.
I am aware of a certain logical inconsistency about this, because I can think of cases in which I certainly believed that people ought to have been let out of prison a long time earlier than they were. A certain president of South Africa being the most salient example.
*As for The Mercury -- rather than try to write a couple of 'pages' attempting to characterise it, perhaps I could just give you a single recent example. When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated, they ran a photo of the Challenger disaster, with the caption "Blast from the Past". Get the general idea?
Not much I can add to that...
Thought for the day:
Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr
Spectrum -- Testimonial
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