Sunday, November 30, 2008

Vacations Over

So I took a few days off, as I'm sure you noted.

I was thinking back, and I realized something: this is the first time I've actually had five days off work in a row (that didnt involve at least two days of travel time in the middle and while I was employed) since... ever.

Ok, not really ever, but since I got out of the Air Force anyway.

Consider me relaxed. Actually, up until this evening it was very restful. Mels dad had the kids this weekend, and we slept in, cuddled, read, watched TV, and managed to get out to see "Quantum of Solace".

A damn near perfect weekend really... at least until, as I said, this evening.

Why this evening? My mother called me up Friday and said "I have to move out of my house by Monday at 5 pm, but I can't get into the new apartment until Monday. Can you rent me a truck and come over on Sunday to help us move".

I told her I wouldn't rent her the truck, but I would help her pick it up on Sunday. She said she would call me Saturday night with the details, and when to come over. Turns out she didn't call 'til 2pm Sunday.

Oooh boy...

Oh well... she's my mom. I'll be helping her out tomorrow after work too.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quote from "Shadowforce"

I loved this line from the new hitler channel show on PMCs, "Shadowforce".

"No, it's not the way I'd do it at all... but hey we're just attached to them. They're in the front, mainly, so, they'll run into whatever first."

... Ayup.

Friday, November 28, 2008

532 nanometers

I just picked up a relatively cheap (on clearance for $20 each, from $49), 5mw green laser pointer (powered by two AAAs)... and man these things are way more fun than red lasers.

Superbright, and MUCH longer visible range. I took it out in the street and was able to easily see a dot 1/2 mile away.

I've only had it for a few hours, and I've already gone through a set of batteries.

Man... I REALLY want one of the 150mw versions now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lawyers and Money

No guns, and no hitting of fans with excrement, though my jaw and the floor got uncomfortably familiar.

The hopefully final legal bill of the year just came in... MY GOD.

The donations from our readers took us up through the summer, but were exhausted in August.

Since August, we've accrued another $24,000 in legal bills, of which we've paid $7000. We didn't know what that final number was until today though.


We had expected about $10,000 but they dragged the pretrial stuff out a bit, and then had to file post hearing paperwork and responses and all this other crap...

Christ, that's a lot of money all at once.

Oh and of course when they finally lose, they're going to file another pointless appeal, which we're going to have to respond to, probably another $10,000.

Before anyone does anything, no we are NOT asking for donations at this time. This is a very different situation than we were in at the beginning of the year. As of right now, there is no danger we'll lose the kids without additional legal services; and our lawyer will be understanding in allowing us some time to pay him. I don't know if he'll be understanding enough to stretch it out to a year though, which is what I'm going to need; but we'll get by.

Now if the judge would just issue the damn ruling. Apparently he has 60 days from October 24th to do so, but we're still checking with the court every day.

It's not QUITE like that...

... but it's close

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another year gone...

and hopefully a better year ahead.

Tomorrow is my 28th birthday, and it could not have come soon enough.

I don't count my years from New Year's to New Year's; to me, a year is from birthday to birthday.

By no means has this been my worst year ever; my worst year was 2003/2004, especially if the first week of December is included. 2004/2005 comes in second.

However this year yielded some difficulties I did not expect, and some joys as well. This will forever be the year of silver linings for me, as the catastrophes that did come along could have been much worse.

Yes, I did end up filing a very expensive response in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but in the meantime I find out how many people out there give a damn, as many people aided us with both donations and words of encouragement. Also, the case would have been much more expensive if the 9th Circuit had gone forward with the scheduled oral arguments instead of sending the case back to state.

Yes, I did end up in state court (once again an expensive endeavor) but it was court on my turf and I'll be receiving the judge's ruling any day now.

Yes, my mother did pass away after a brief, grueling, and horrific illness, and I doubt I'll recover fully from what I've seen, learned, and had to do. I was there to give my father counsel, there to give my opinion on whether or not to take her off life support, there when she died, and there to watch my entire family apart. However I experienced much kindness along the road, and should my mother have lived she would have endured many years of chemotherapy and debilitating pain. Letting her go was the best decision we could have made given the circumstances.

The same is true of Springer; it was hard for me to deal Saturday, making the choice to put our poor cat out of her misery so soon after advising the same thing for my own mother. But she was suffering more by the minute, with no hope of recovery, and so we let her go as well.

It's been a hard year, and I've had to grow up a lot, but it could have been much worse.

I'd like to say this year will be better, and I honestly hope it will. We're finally getting legally married after all, and the light at the end of the legal tunnel is fast approaching. However, both my grandparents are ailing (they're both in their 90's), Chris's mother and brother are terminally ill, the health of my favorite uncle is declining rapidly, and we have two pets who may need to be put down in the very near future. This year is likely to feature even more death than the last.

However, in a few more we'll start growing the family even more and there will be life again. Even this year featured the addition of life; I gained a nephew, and we added Jayne to the family. There will be more children and more pets in the years to come.

At some point in the near future, winter will become spring and we'll be all right.

In the meantime I'll try to enjoy the holidays, but it will be hard. This will be the first Thanksgiving without my mom and I don't think it will be easy for me at all. Thankfully I have enough to do and enough people around me to keep me busy, so I'll be okay.

Hopefully this year will be better than the last.


Monday, November 24, 2008


One of our cats died Saturday.

I wrote a few weeks ago that we would have to put Kimber down soon, and that's still true, though she's doing well enough at the moment that it may not be for another couple months, or at least a few more weeks.

Unfortunately, this was our other cat Springer. She had sudden onset kidney failure. Thursday she was fine, Friday she was hiding from us all day, and Saturday she was gravely ill.

We took her to the emergency animal hospital where they made it clear there was no chance of recovery; and likely there would not have been even if we had got her in there the day before; because there was no clear cause of the kidney failure. The vet said it was likely poisoning, but could have been an unnoticed congenital condition. So, we put her down.

The kids haven't really absorbed it yet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Causality Awareness

Methinks Dilbert is having a causality awareness failure.

It's not that the internet is more interesting... the fact that 90% of the internet is fanboys, spam, and porn (and no, the porn isn't good enough to be more interesting than actual people) means that it has to be the remaining 10% worth looking at he's talking about.

That 10% doesn't happen without interesting people to write it.

So the problem isn't that the internet is more interesting than people; the problem is that Dilbert knows the wrong people.

This supposition has been confirmed observationally...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sorry for being content free

... But one of my best friends on the planet is staying with us for a couple days. Normal ranting and raving to resume Monday

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seven Score and 5...

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln,
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

November 19th, 1863

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Obama Got Elected

Zogby Poll from

512 Obama Voters 11/13/08-11/15/08 MOE +/- 4.4 points

97.1% High School Graduate or higher, 55% College Graduates

Results to 12 simple Multiple Choice Questions

57.4% could NOT correctly say which party controls congress (50/50 shot just by guessing)

81.8% could NOT correctly say Joe Biden quit a previous campaign because of plagiarism (25% chance by guessing)

82.6% could NOT correctly say that Barack Obama won his first election by getting opponents kicked off the ballot (25% chance by guessing)

88.4% could NOT correctly say that Obama said his policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry and make energy rates skyrocket (25% chance by guessing)

56.1% could NOT correctly say Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground (25% chance by guessing).

And yet.....

Only 13.7% failed to identify Sarah Palin as the person on which their party spent $150,000 in clothes

Only 6.2% failed to identify Palin as the one with a pregnant teenage daughter

And 86.9 % thought that Palin said that she could see Russia from her "house," even though that was Tina Fey who said that!!

Only 2.4% got at least 11 correct.

Only .5% got all of them correct. (And we "gave" one answer that was technically not Palin, but actually Tina Fey)

I've been saying it for years...

But now Jules Crittenden, the Boston Herald (that's the relatively good Boston paper, vs the other one which is wholly owned and operated by the New York Times)and the members of have all affirmed my opinion that:

Boston City Hall is the UGLIEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD (or at least the ugliest public building anyway. There are some industrial sites uglier).

I came to this opinion the very first time I saw the monstrosity; but that opinion was solidified in the early 90's, when I actually worked at Government Center (what they call the "square" surrounding the damn thing).

I worked at a book shop in the little concrete trough at the southwest corner (basically just to the bottom right corner of the second photograph); and had to look at the hideous concrete wedding cake every day.

Worse of course is that it is situated in the heart of Bostons most beautiful buildings (especially the work of Charles Bullfinch). This is the view from the southeast facing windows, out into Fanueil Hall, and Quincy Market:

And here's Fanueil hall itself:

And here is the old state house, which is not quite directly across the street (it's across the street, but there are a couple of smaller buildings in the way):

Of course it's only made worse by comparing it to other public buildings around Boston, like the NEW state house (new being a relative term; it having been built around 1798, vs. 1713), which is a few hundred yards to the west (on the edge of Boston Common):

Or say, the Boston Custom house tower, a few hundred yards to the east (you can see the old north church steeple in that picture to the right):

And it's not just Bostons Colonial, Georgian, and Federal architecture that works. We generally get it right when it comes to new construction as well.

This is Rowes Wharf, and the new Boston Harbor Hotel; a development from the 80s, about 1000 yards from government center:

I don't know... perhaps how much of a blot Government Center, and City Hall, are on Boston can best be appreciated from above.

In Boston, the architecture follows the city; unlike in most other cities where the city follows the architecture. Boston isn't a grid; the streets were laid out as natural pathways in the late 1600s; and then again in the early 1800s, as land was reclaimed from the harbor. There are no straight lines in Boston.

Boston is full of organic shapes, and the buildings were made to fit into those shapes naturally. Boston is green, and red, and brown. A city for walking. A city of small public squares, none of which are square; and many parks, and public spaces, and little almost villages.

Boston may be a metro area of 5 million people; but the core of the city is only about 600,000; and it is scaled to fit.

Look at Government center in these photographs:

It's just one gigantic concrete and brick paved geometric space, right in the heart of Boston. Not only is it ugly, it is completely at odds with the entire city. It is surrounded by green, and round, and natural; and there it is, gray and concrete and the worst parts of artificial.

It is, simply, the worst public building in the world.

Don't just take my word for it though, here's the Herald:
"It’s official now. Boston City Hall is the ugliest building . . . in the world!

Bostonians didn’t need and City Hall’s top billing on the World’s Top 10 Ugliest Buildings and Monuments list to figure that out. Residents have known it pretty much since the hard-on-the-eyes pile of concrete and bricks went up.

And like a good hard-nosed pol, Mayor Thomas M. Menino isn’t sulking. He plans to use the slur as ammo in his long-running battle to abandon the architectural eyesore for a City Hall on South Boston’s waterfront.

“Coming out and saying it solidifies it in my opinion,” Menino said. “People all around the world agree with me.”

City Hall was singled out for its dreary facade, cold interior, its big, empty, windswept plaza, as well as the way its monstrous, angular frame dominates its surroundings, said general manager Giampiero Ambrosi.

The Web site, which claims 1 million members, placed the Hub horror ahead of such architectural atrocities as the Port Authority bus station in New York City, Montparnasse Tower in Paris and the LuckyShoe monument in Tuuri, Finland, a golden horseshoe overshadowing the Baltic country’s second-largest shopping mall.

Menino noted a bright side. The world’s ugliest building could be a tourism boon. “We really do have it all, the most historic places in the world and the ugliest building in the word,” he joked.

But whether a tourism campaign can be built around that blockhouse remains to be seen. Yesterday, out-of-towners passed it by without giving it a second thought.

“That’s gotta go,” said Ivette Arenas of San Francisco, when it was pointed out to her on her way to the Common. “You have some of the best (buildings), and right here you have the worst.”

“It is a pretty ugly building,” agreed Carol Sue Graves of Orange, Va., as she walked to Faneuil Hall.

An example of the “New Brutalism” school of design, City Hall was seen as a clean break from Boston’s past, said Jeff Stein, dean of the Boston Architectural College.

“They were looking for something new and startling,” Stein said. “And boy did it succeed.”

But Councilor Michael Flaherty, a skeptic of moving City Hall, said that even with the world’s ugliest edifice, it’s what on the inside that counts.

“You can have the best-looking building in the world, but what matters most is accessibility, transparency and accountability,” Flaherty said."
Oh and here's the rest of the list of the 10 worst:
"2. The Montparnasse Tower in Paris, France. Ugh la la!

3. The LuckyShoe Monument in Tuuri, Finland. Step away!

4. The Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool, England. Spaced out.

5. The NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal. Get outta town!

6. Torres de Colon, Madrid. They call it “The Plug.” Pull it!

7. The Liechtenstein Museum of Fine Arts. No masterpiece.

8. The Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh. Nae, laddie!

9. The Birmingham Central Library in Birmingham, U.K. Shhhh!

10. The Peter the Great Statue in Moscow. Like Ivan, it’s terrible!"
HT to Coyote Blog

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fallout Boy

Well, I meant to have the optics uberpost done today, but Fallout 3 has eaten my brain; so instead I'm going to give you some tips.

First thing, I'm not even going to bother reviewing it; because if you've been paying any attention at all, other than the stability problems, this is probably the best game since portal came out. It's almost certainly the best action RPG to come out since the original DeusEx.

So, if you're a fan of the genre, you're going to love the game. In fact I'm presuming the only reason you don't have it already is because you haven't bothered upgrading your system since the LAST good game of the genre came out (Oblivion probably; and that was almost three years ago).

For this game, you really do need a recent processor; either a dual core of 1.8ghz or above; or a single core in the 3ghz range. You also need at the least a Geforce 8600, or something similar, to run at a reasonable resolution at high quality.

It runs just fine on my $80 GeForce 8600gt 512 (DDR3); even with everything turned all the way up at 1680X1040 windowed. I'd say that's about the minimum I'd want to run it on though. I do have to turn the details down from ultra to high when I go fullscreen 1920x1200.

Oh and it runs just fine on my laptop, which has an 8600GS 512mb discrete card, running at 1440x980. Again, if I shrink the window a bit it runs on ultra high in windowed mode, but wont run well at full rez on ultrahigh. I get jitter and slowdowns (unfortunately it also crashes like mad either way - less in full screen than in windowed - ; but that has nothing to do with performance, because it happens no matter the settings).

So it doesn't take THAT much horsepower. Crysis is far worse.

Alright first things first, character creation is CRITICAL. You don't get to increase your basic attributes (called S.P.E.C.I.A.L. in this game) very often, if at all, during the game; and they effect everything that comes after them very strongly, so you have to get it right.

No matter what type of character you want to play, intelligence is the most important stat by far; and should be prioritized above all others. You should start the game with a minimum of 8 in intelligence, and give serious thought to 9 or 10. Remember, intelligence determines your base score for all your technical skills, as well as the number of skill points you receive per level; so max it out.

Also critically important are agility and perception; again no matter what type of character you want to make; because they control your gun skills, your sneaking skills, and your manual dexterity skills like lockpicking (a CRITICAL skill in this game).

The wildcard is endurance; because it controls basic toughness, but is also the relevant stat for assault weapons like rocket launchers, miniguns, and cannons. Dont reduce it below 4, and consider taking a 6 just to have it for later.

Physical strength it relatively unimportant in this game. It accounts for inventory capacity (which is important certainly), and melee damage; but that's about it. Since you can't really play an all melee character successfully I'd deprecate strength. Don't go below 4 though or bad things happen (you lose access to certain perks etc...)

Just after chosing your SPECIALs, you'll be asked to "tag" three skills. You will then get an initial bonus to those skills. I recommend you chose your tagged skills out of the pool below.

I don't see how you can build a socially oriented character in this game and win; or even have fun. Although there is a lot of social interaction, the game doesn't give you many social ways to avoid combat; and most of the quests are... not quite combat oriented, but would be very difficult to accomplish without combat.

You MIGHT be able to get by with a sneaker though, by putting everything into sneaking, stealth oriented stuff, and science(for terminal hacking). Also, at some point you can pick up a sidekick (actually, you can apparently pick up several simultaneously; though I haven't got there yet)and it may be possible to survive with stealth alone until you do; then have them handle combat for you.

...Maybe... I kinda doubt it though. Sidekick characters in video games tend to do dumb things, like wander randomly into the line of fire, fall into things, and set off traps. Stealth is not their friend.

Now, onto game play.

In general, conserve and collect like mad. Everything is saleable, so if you see something that has a value more than 4 times its weight; it's worth picking up to sell later. This is a HIGHLY resource constrained game, so you're going to want to explore everywhere you can, grab and conserve all the ammo, stimpaks, and money you can.

Dont ignore Karma; it does make a difference.

Also, don't ignore luck. It determines how much ammo and money you find.

Once you get past the first storyline quests (past Moriarty in "following in his footsteps") stop following the main storyline.

Go and talk to everyone in megaton, and get their quests. Then talk to all the people you meet on those quests and get their quests. Do the little side quests etc...

Unlike most open world games, Fallout 3 ends when you complete the last mission of the main storyline; so do all the side quests as they come, don't save them for later.

Get up to level 5 or more (I'd say take it all the way to at least 8), and build up your stats.

Get your repair, and lockpick skill up into the 75 or more range. These are by far the two most important skills in the game. You will be using them constantly; and I recommend putting them up to 90 fairly quickly (it's easy to have items bring them to 100)

Medicine and light guns, are also important; especially in the beginning of the game; and again I'd say bring at least light guns up to 90 eventually.

Science, Explosives, Heavy guns, and energy weapons get more important as you go; but are little help in the beginning. You'll want to get science up to around 50 at least by the time you hit level 7 or 8.

Honestly, although the other skills do provide some value, and some interest; You really need to concentrate on the core skills I've mentioned. You need to get good to survive the higher level enemies; and "barter" doesn't help you much there (though it's certainly useful in the shops).

When you do your side quests, build up inventory and caps. If you haven't already got your intelligence at at least 8 (10 would be better... actually I'd say start the game over if you didn't initially set it to 8 or more), and your perception to at least 6 (8 would be better) take the "intense training" perk every level until you do.

Grab the Thief, Gun Nut, Educated, Toughness, and Swift learner perks as soon as possible (prioritized based on your play style), and consider taking multiple levels in each. Oh and hunt those bobbleheads for the skill and ability bonuses.

Then, when you're well sorted, get back on the storyline. You'll be much more likely to survive, use less stimpacks, deal with the big baddies a lot better in general etc...

Did I mention conserve ammo? Use your VATS; and use the cheap ammo weapons, like the 10mm pistol and 10mm submachine gun. Wait until they get close, and then go for multiple headshots at high percentage.

Get good at light guns, and use the hunting rifle A LOT. It is by far my most used weapon. Once you're good, you can do some serious long range sniping with it using VATS. No, it's nowhere near as accurate as the sniper rifle; but the ammo is far easier to find, and far cheaper.

The combat shotgun is the best close quarters weapon of the first half of the game. The hunting rifle, the best for medium to long ranges, until you can get the lincoln repeater (and the .44 ammo for the lincoln is a pain to find in comparison). The assault rifle and SMG are useful for the midrange as well, but are wasteful of ammo, and inaccurate. I much prefer using my hunting rifle and VATS to make precision kills.

You're going to be in the washington DC metro tunnels a lot. Take every opportunity you can to pop up out of the stations, so you can set a map marker, and fast travel back there when you need to.

Repair, repair, repair, repair. Gather a half doezn duplicates of items you want to use and keep, and repair constantly. Keep your armor and wepaons as close to 100% as possible.

Lots more to come as I continue playing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Longest War

In my veterans day post, I wrote a couple paragraphs about how I believe that Europe has never really recovered from World War I:

"Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Russia... and on the other side Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary (and the remains of the holy roman empire), Turkey (and the other ottomans)... an entire generation of young men in Europe were lost to the most futile, worst run war, in modern history.

In four years, 18 million men died (or went missing, which is mostly the same thing), and 22 million men were wounded.

In fact, Europe has never recovered from this greatest of historical mistakes. It was the direct aftermath of world war one that lead to world war two; which created the postmodern European culture that is slowly being destroyed from without and within by self hatred, depression, defeatism, socialism, and Islamic fascism..."
A reader commented that I was perhaps being harsh, and that europeans were probably just as happy as Americans are... which I also disagree with; but more importantly he missed my larger point. Though honestly it's not his fault since I wasn't being very clear about it.

I have a political theory, that I've been working on for quite some time, and have spoken about at great length in other formats (usually long conversations with other military and political history geeks).

The theory is, roughly, this:

Western civilization has been engaged in what is essentially a single long and continuous war; with periodic truces, breaks, and returns to conflict; since at least 1618, with the 30 years war.

This single long war has been generational, and transformational, in its nature and impact. It has shaped every aspect of western civilization since it began. All the major political developments in our civilization since that time have either been initiated by this war, greatly strengthened by it, destroyed by it, were in reaction to it, or were otherwise significantly effected by it.

The 17th through 19th century wars of European dominance and succession were clearly related to the 30 years war. These wars led to the early liberty oriented revolutions (which were essentially reactionary to the excesses of the jockeying for european position). They also led directly up to napoleonic wars (which are properly taken separeately from the small "local" wars of the time), the crimean war, the boer war, and the various austro-hungarian-prussian wars of the middle to late 19th century (and indirectly the U.S. civil war, which was almost inevitable given the compromise that went into the formation of the United States).

These of course clearly led into world war 1, which further led into world war 2, the cold war, the korean and vietnam wars, both gulf wars, and even the "war on terror"... which is actually in itself a direct aftermath of world war 1, and the crimean war before it.

Essentially, I consider the 30 years war to be the first "world war" of the modern era (meaning the post renaissance period); and that all major conflicts since are strongly related to it.

Now the problem with a blog format in discussing this theory, is that I would need to write something on the order of 100,000 words to completely cover it... and perhaps 40,000 just to set out the bare outlines and minimum necessary filling in.

That said, I bet there are a bunch of my fellow military and history geeks reading this and thinking "he's crazy, and here's why" or "he's onto something, and here's why". With them, I can use shorthand; because they know what I'm referring to, and the context behind it.

That would be a very fun conversation for us geeks to have (and it has been, many times over) but it would most likely bore the pants off of most of my readers.

Also, I'd love to write it, and I may; but if I do it is going to have to be written as an honest to god book.

No-one may want to publish it; it is after all a somewhat obscure branch of military history and political science; but it deserves to have a book written about it anyway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Second Annual Pistol Challenge for Charity

Last year, In order to add a little extra incentive to the Project Valour-IT fundraising challenge; and I had a reverse auction for a pistol.

Last year we auctioned an FEG PA-63, which is a perfectly decent little pistol; but not exactly a world beater.

We managed to raise about $5,000 through our little part of the challenge; and this year we need even more money, in less time, so I decided to up the ante a bit.

This year, we're auctioning off a SIG P6.

So, this is how it works. Anyone who donates to ANY of the teams during the fundraiser, send me a copy of your PayPal donation receipt for at least $150 (which I will verify with the folks at Soldiers Angels); and the person who donates the most, will win one of these, along with 2 magazines, a holster, and a set of custom wood grips:

I was going to refinish it, and put a set of night sights on it, but there was such vehement disagreement as to what finish to use, and what sights to put on it, that I decided to just leave it up to the winner.

The pistol the winner receives will be a former west german police issue pistol. It is in arsenal rebuilt condition, and was purchase from J&G sales, with a two magazines, a box, original paperwork, and a West German Motor Officers holster.

Obviously, due to the wonderful ATF, unless you are in Arizona, this pistol will need to be transferred from my FFL to yours; but I will cover the shipping. If you happen to live in Arizona I will handle this as a private transfer. Unfortunately for you crufflers out there, these pistols are not C&R eligible.

I hate to limit the pool of potential winners, but I'm not sure if this would be legal to transfer to someone in California and Massachusetts (because they have "approved" lists), or any of the states that require a special permit for every pistol you purchase (New Jersey and Hawaii for example); but it doesn't have any of the nasty "assault weapon" features that would get it banned in some states . If it is legal, hey great; ask your FFL to make sure.

Also note, this pistol would not be received from, transferred from, or won from Valour IT or soldiers angels; it would be coming from me, Chris Byrne.

This is my PERSONAL incentive to anyone who supports a charity I also support.

No-one at Valour IT or Soldiers Angels is in any way involved in this little giveaway. So, if some anti-gun lunatic wants to get all pissy, they can come talk to me about it, not Valour IT.

Personally, I know what my readers like, and that's guns; so I'm tailoring my challenge to the preferences of my readers. It's called "effective marketing".

I will accept receipts for donations occuring up until midnight November 30th/December first 2008; and announce the winner Monday December first at 5pm local time; so get me your reciepts before midnight.

I will accept multiple donations and count them together so long as they occurred during the fundraiser (including if they were dated before this post) . In the event of a tie (which I think is likely), the winner will be determined by whose donation (or whose latest donation to bring them up to total) is dated first (not necessarily who I receive them from first). Oh and I'm only counting down to the nearest $10 increment rounded down. I don't expect people to be parsing pennies for charity.

So, donate to a great cause. It's completely tax deductible, and maybe you'll get a gun out of the deal at the same time. Can't lose there folks. Please, donate if you can:

Active Minds means Saved Lives

"Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends" -- John 15:13

In June of 2005, then Captain (now Major) Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss, led an armored patrol in force into an Iraqi town where intelligence had indicated an ambush of U.S. forces was planned.

On arriving in the town, Cpt. Ziegenfuss was approached by a local resident, and informed of a large IED that was placed near his house overnight. Because his tank could not cross a bridge over a small irrigation canal to enter the town, Cpt. Ziegenfuss dismounted, and was proceeding on foot to investigate; when a second IED that had been previously buried under the roadway was detonated.

Cpt. Ziegenfuss was blown several meters into the canal; suffering severe shrapnel wounds over almost the entirety of his body excepting where he was protected by armor. He also lost half of one hand, part of the other, and much of the skin and muscle on his arms and legs to the blast.

I'm proud to say I know Chuck, and I've shot with him (he's a damn fine shot even still). He's a funny guy, with a hell of a lot of guts. A lot of other folks would've said "Well, I've had enough now"... but that just isn't the kind of guy he is. He's back on active duty, instructing ROTC cadets in his home state of Pennsylvania, and he plans on staying on active duty until they kick him out.

When Chuck was in the hospital recovering from his wounds (I should note, it's been three years and he is still in recovery; though he has been back on active duty since 2006); he figured something out: What he really wanted most, to help him get through the pain, and the boredom, and the mind numbing misery that is an extended hospital stay... was a laptop.

Thing is though, Chuck had two half hands, both wrapped in bandages. How was he going to use a laptop?

Well, he's not a quitter (there's an understatement). He had an idea, and he asked Soldiers Angels to help him out. Could they get him a laptop, with voice command software installed on it, so he could run the thing without using his hands much?

The Soldiers Angels motto is "Let no soldier go unloved", and these people move mountains, at great personal cost in time, energy, and money; to make sure that every soldier gets what they need to help them get through their times of hardship.

Turns out, the Angels more than lived up to their reputation, and they could indeed get Chuck a laptop, and they did, and it worked. He was able to keep his mind active, and keep communicating with the world at large even while he was laid up.

In fact, it was such an improvement to his morale, that he was able to (in fact he damn near forced them to) reduce his pain medication. So long as he could keep his mind occupied with other things, his pain didn't seem to matter as much.

Now, at this point, you might have got the notion that Chuck isn't one to lay down, even when he's lost 30lbs of muscle and bone, and is on enough morphine to kill a horse.

See, he figured, that if a voice activated laptop did so much for him, why couldn't they do this for other wounded soldiers. So he pitched the idea to Soldiers Angels; and Project Valour IT was born.

Voice Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops - Valour IT

Valour IT buys laptop computers, and accessibility accessories for wounded soldiers. Be they wounded in combat or training, if they need a laptop, and Valor IT has the money, they're getting a laptop and everything they need to make it work.

...If they have the money.

So far, Valour IT has raised enough to give over 1500 laptops to our wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines; but there are more wounded men and women that could use our help.

So, just to keep this in the military spirit (and to use our rivalry to best effect), they have an annual interservice fundraising drive; with teams from and supporting each of the services competing to raise the most cash for the cause.

One should note, all the money ends up being used for ALL service members; the money raised by the Air Force team doesn't go only to Airmen. It's just a way of having a little fun while raising money for a good cause.

This is a standard, tax deductible charitable donation, and I can't imagine a better cause. All my charitable giving for the last two years, and for the foreseeable future (excepting that going to my parish), is going to Valour IT; and I ask you to please help in any way you can.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields
--Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D. (1872-1918)
Royal Canadian Army

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
It is now the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, at Compiegne...

First, today is Veterans Day

In America, Memorial Day is for the dead, and Veterans Day is for the living. As such, first I wish to give thanks.

I thank all of you, still serving to defend out country; and those of our friends and allies; and those who are fighting to preserve freedom, liberty, justice, and humanity.

Thank you cousin Jesse (USN, '97 - present, UDT, BM1) - Only one thing he ever wanted in life, to be a SEAL. He got his wish, and he's off god knows where doing god knows what; and couldn't be happier.

Thank you cousin Johnathan (USN 2001 - present, AC1C) - dropped out of college after 9/11 to join the Navy, because in his own words, it was the right thing to do for his country.

Thank you cousin Robert (USAF 2004 - present, A1C, CCT) - Followed his brother down to Jax, and at 25, decided to follow me into the Air Force instead.

May god bless you and keep you.

I thank all of you who have served in the past; for the risks you have taken, and the sacrifices you have made.

Thank you Dad (USA '66-'74 SFC) - a 15 year old Irish immigrant with a forged birth certificate; grew up on the streets, but became both a citizen, and a man in the Army. Almost 9 years in, almost all of it in SF, and almost all of that in SEA. By the end he was broken, and he only recently put himself together again. I love you dad.

Thank you uncle Patrick (USN '68-72 GM3) - My fathers brother, who spent most of those years sending steel over the coast of VN.

Thank you uncle Brian (USMC, '79-87 SSgt. USANG '88-92 SFC) - My mothers brother, who fought the war we pretended didn't happen in the phillipines, and then again in the gulf.

Thank you Ben (USA '97 - 2001, Cpl, Inf, Rgr, 3rdBt. 75th rgt.) - Lead the way, then lead his family.

Thank you John, Troy, Tony and Z; Soldier, Sailor, Marine, and Airman respectively.

It was almost fifteen years ago that I first put on my countries uniform, and seven years ago I last took it off. Every day I miss it.

Second, today is Remembrance Day (sometimes known as Armistice day):

This day, we celebrate the moment that the first great war of the last century was ended; in the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, of the year of our lord nineteen hundred and eighteen.

On this day I also give thanks; for those who laid down their lives, and for those who lived; to keep Europe free.

90 years gone, and still every year we mark this day (though in America we reserve Memorial day for our dead, from all wars).

Remembrance day though; it still means something here as Armistice day; and it most certainly still means something around the world.. for now; for as long as the people remember... which I hope shall be always, but I fear shall be for not much longer.

Why is it called poppy day?

Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Russia... and on the other side Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary (and the remains of the holy roman empire), Turkey (and the other ottomans)... an entire generation of young men in Europe were lost to the most futile, worst run war, in modern history.

In four years, 18 million men died (or went missing, which is mostly the same thing), and 22 million men were wounded.

In fact, Europe has never recovered from this greatest of historical mistakes. It was the direct aftermath of world war one that lead to world war two; which created the postmodern European culture that is slowly being destroyed from without and within by self hatred, depression, defeatism, socialism, and Islamic fascism...

But I digress; I was talking about why it is called poppy day.

Flanders is a region of Belgium; where the fighting in the great war was at it's worst, along with Wallonia, and northern France. The worst battles of the war were at Ypres, the Marne, the Somme, and Verdun.

At the Somme alone, the British lost 20,000 dead in one single day; and the allied forces (mostly British) lost 120,000 dead, and over 375,000 wounded total; with 100,000 dead and 350,000 wounded on the German side. The battle lasted from July 1st , til November 18th, 1916. Almost five solid months of the most brutal trench warfare ever seen; and nothing to show for it but blood, and mud.

Perhaps 200,000 total dead at the Marne (1st and 2nd), perhaps 50,000 at Ypres, Perhaps 300,000 total dead at Verdun... (10 months, and the bloodiest battle of the war, though The Somme had the bloodiest day); and nothing to show for it but blood and mud.

There was an amazing thing though; that blood, and that mud... it became magnificently fertile soil; and soon after the fighting ended, all over these horrific battlefields, poppies began to bloom.

In the first great war, as had been tradition for most of western history; those killed in battle were buried in the fields where they fell. Their memorials were raised there; a tribute to those who fought and died, and a reminder to those who did not.

And there, in Flanders and Wallonia, and in France, and in Luxembourg; there lay an entire generation of men. Millions upon millions of white crosses, millions upon millions of unmarked graves in farmers fields; surrounded by millions upon millions of poppies.

A symbol of life, of blood, of the fight for liberty and freedom. The poppies among those men who died were taken up; first by the French and the Belgians, then the Canadians and British and Americans.

Today, the poppy is a symbol of remembrance.

Finally, today is my anniversary.

I said above that I miss serving. I miss the people I served with, and the sense of mission, and of accomplishment; but... today is my anniversary, and it would not be if I had not changed my course. I don't regret what has brought me here. I love my wife, and my children more than I can possibly imagine; or possibly express to you.

Mel, I love you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Something to think about...

Courtesy of Oleg Volk, who has much more here.

A Conversation

LSE (larval stage engineer): Exactly what kind of job can you get with a degree in feminism?

Chris: Socialist Indoctrinator

LSE: You'd think the market demand for socialist indoctrinator would be rather small...

Chris: Sadly, no

A bit of advice for the Republican party

Fred Thompson for
RNC chair!

He may not have been able to win a primary, but he's the only Republican worth listening to, who might be willing to take the job.

Oh and if you think the problem is you're "too conservative" you haven't been paying attenti.... oh... wait... that's right.

Just Call Me Simplistic

This is what Congressman Jim Moran (formerly of Boston, currently of Virginia) thinks of us productive folks:

Next time someone tells you the democrats aren't redistributionists, smack them upside the head please.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ok now that's funny right there

Is it just me...

Or does anyone else think the prospect of Al Franken as a senator is just embarrassing and ridiculous?

Demographics, Statistics, and Signs of Hope

Obviously, I disagree with the choice that 51% of Americans made last night, but in that choice, there are many aspects that I think are good things... perhaps great things.

The first point, is that although the democrats are already trying to spin this as a huge numeric victory, it is not. Though the electoral college totals are approximately 2 to 1 Obama, that is because of the math of the swing states in the electoral college. There are 8 states where Obamas margin of victory is 3% or under. A 1.5% swing one way or the other, and the results would be quite different.

I reported earlier this week that I believed the 10% support advantage polls showed for Obama was drastically inflated, and that any state within six percent would break for McCain.

It turns out I was half right. The real number was 3% not 10%. I thought that those six point states would swing all six points when it came down to actual voting. Instead they swung 3 or 4 points.

The polls however were very clearly wrong. The exit polls over indicated Obamas support by as much as 10% in some states. This is I think a long term problem that we need to address.

Now as to demographics, they interest me (of course they are also based on the flawed polling data, but the numbers are so large as to be at least indicitive).

McCain won about 60% of whites overall. This is a larger margin than expected. He won both white men, and white women, by a significant margin. It was expected that he would lose white women (and when race is taken out of the equation, McCain lost all women 45-55).

I don't want to speculate as to why here; I'll leave that to others. I'm sure they will do so, with great vitriol.

Obama won 95% of blacks, and this election featured the largest turnout of blacks in history. I think that's a great thing. I hope that a non-black candidate would have the same result.

Obama won 60% of hispanics, a suprising achievement; and more hispanics voted in this election than any other election in american history. Again I think this is great.

Obama won 70% of people under 30 and 70% of first time voters. More people under 30 voted in this election than ever before in American history. First time voters made up a larger percentage of the electorate than any other election in American history.

Collectively the four groups I mentioned, usually make up less than 10% of actual voters. This election they made up about 30% of voters, and that is absolutely INCREDIBLE.

Although all the votes have not yet been counted, if the polls are even close to right, more Americans voted in our election than have ever voted before.

That is even more incredible. We have recently been a country where 40% participation has been considered "good"; and yesterday, we had perhaps 60% of the eligible voting populace do so. I won't be happy until we get to over 80%, but I'm heartened.

In fact, I am heartened by all of this. I am given hope.

143 years ago, a black man in this country could not vote. 43 years ago, a black man in Mississippi may have even been killed for trying to. Next January, a black man is going to be president.

The cynic in me says that a fair portion of the reason his is president is because he IS black... but the idealist in me hopes this truly says that race is no longer relevant... or that at least we are walking down that road.

I hope these amazing changes continue, and grow. I hope that those people become fully engaged, and educate themselves, and perhaps commit themselves to liberty as they do.

I fear they will not, but I hope.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Credulous Fools

The financial crisis, caused by democrats, deepened by democrats, spun by democrats as the fault of republicans; and the credulous fools across our nation who believed them; lost this election for John McCain.

The momentum had shifted. Obamas support had peaked; and it was even looking like the democrats lead in the house and senate could be curtailed.

But the credulous fools have won.

The immature, petulant cretins; who neither knew nor understood the causes of their own outrage; directed that outrage improperly against the minority party, and their unpopular president; at the prompting of the outrageously biased media.

The media who were not only complicit in this fraud; but in fact initiated it, perpetuated it, accentuated it, and highlighted it at every opportunity.

They defrauded the people as to the cause of their problems. They defrauded the people on the polls (I was right on the polls, Obamas support levels were dramatically inflated; just not as much as I surmised). They defrauded the people as to who and what they were voting for.

Perhaps this is the inevitable consequence, when the party of the president abandons all principles; and abuses the public trust, as the republicans have done.

Now, we the people, will suffer. We will suffer under the one party rule of fanatics, zealots, and economic idiots; who believe that freedom and liberty are granted at the pleasure of government.

I fear for us all.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Think National, Vote Local

So, tomorrow, citizens of the 50 states will vote, not just for president; but also for their representatives at the federal, state, and local level.

Many will also be voting for judges, sheriffs, corporate commissioners, school board members, and the other elected offices of state. Let's not forget that they have as much ore more of a direct impact on your life, as the president does. These are choices that should not be ignored.

Not only that, but remember, the school board member today, could be the VP candidate 12 years from now.

Obviously, I can't vote in your races, only mine; and I've decided to talk about who I'm voting for (or sadly, more often, who I'm voting against), and why:

President: As I've made clear, I'm voting against Obama, with the only realistic choice, McCain. If I need to explain that any further here, you haven't been paying attention

Congress: I'm a resident of the Arizona 5th congressional district, and I'm voting against Harry Mitchell, for the only realistic choice, David Schweikert. My preferred candidate (Anderson) was not chosen in the primary; but I don't object to Schweikert. On the other hand I object to more democrats in congress in general, and Harry Mitchell specifically. The man is a liar and a lickspittly for Nancy Pelosi.

State Senate
: I'm a resident of Arizona State District 17, and I'll be voting against Democrat Meg Burton-Cahill, for the only other choice (there are no third party candidates) Jesse Hernandez. In this case, I am voting this way because Burton-Cahill is an educational and healthcare socialist, and mildly negative on gun rights. She doesn't really do much, which I approve of, but what she does do is generally lefty in nature.

State Representative: I'm a resident of Arizona State District 17, and I'll be voting against Democrat Ed Ableser, because he is about two steps further to the left than Burton-Cahill, and is strongly anti-gun rights. He is a very strong eductaion and healthcare socialist, and supports illegal immigration.

I will also be voting against Democrat David Schapira; though I have far less of an issue with him politically than Ableser. He is more to the center on most issues, and I even agree with him (and disagree with the republicans) on many issues. Unfortunately, Schapira is against gun rights as well.

On our ballots we can make two choices, and there are two republicans and no third party choices. I will be casting my ballot for Republicans Mark Thompson, and Wes Waddle.

Sheriff: I especially want to note the race for Sherrif.

Joe Arpaio is wrong about almost everything, excepting that he believes in strongly enforcing criminal penalties, and opposes illegal immigration... Now. He didn't used to, because he wanted the feds to take care of it (a position I think is technically correct, but unrealistic for a Sherriff in Arizona). He is a self serving media hound, and places his own well being above that of his deputies; and of service to law and justice.

Unfortunately, his primary opponent the last three elections has been Dan Saban; who I once respected, but who has been shown to be just as opportunistic and dishonest as Arpaio.

I will be voting for the Libertarian candidate, Chris Will; in a futile gesture. I know that Arpaio will be re-elected until he decides to stop running, or until he is convicted of a crime and/or forced to resign in disgrace... both of which have a better than even chance of happening.

Other Notable Offices: I'm voting to give control of the Arizona Coporate Comission to the republicans, because I prefer the AZ Republican parties official positions on business regulation. I would vote for Libertarians here, but none are running.

I'll be voting for Libertatarian Rachel Kielsky for county assessor, and her husband Libertarian Michael Kielsky for county attorney; because I believe in their governmental and legal philosophies.

I'll also be voing of Libertarian Ernest Hancock for County Recorder, and David Hodges for Superintendant; simply becayse I want to see more libertarians in local elected office.

You'll note that whenever I didn't rank defeating the democrat a priority, I've chosen a Libertarian. In general, I beleieve the Libertarian party in Arizona best represents what we should do with government. Unfortunately, they have rarely produced viable candidates, in fact often running conspiracy theorist types.

Also they in general support open borders and a weak national defense. This makes them ideal for local offices in my mind, but unsuited to national offices.

I do have one problem with the AZ Libertarian party in general, and that is they support altering Arizona elections to a "reanked preference" votign system, which I believe is a bad idea (it's too long to go into why now). It WOULD result in more Libertarians being elected, at the expense of creating weak coalitions, and various negative incentives common to such systems (I've lived under one in Ireland, and it's a disaster).

Ballot Initiatives:

Also tomorrow most of us will be voting on a number of ballot propositions, which will generally have a greater impact on your life than the choice of president.

I'm going to go through the Arizona list here, and talk about how I've chosen to vote and why:

Proposition 100: "Protect Our Homes" - Constitutional amendment

Postion: Yes


Although in general, I do not support amendment of the constitution for what should be legislative matters; the state legislature has proven several times that they are willing to go around rules and prior legislation to increase revenue collection.

This amendment would make it impossible for the state to add any new taxes to the sale or transfer of homes.

In general I support restricting the authority of government to tax; and specifically in this instance, I believe that transfer taxes are regressive, and detrimental to the market.

Proposition 101: "Medical Choice for Arizona" - Constitutional amendment

Postion: Yes


This amendment would permanently prevent any form of socialized medicine from being made mandatory in Arizona, by preventing the legislature from passing any law denying someone the right to chose their own healthcare or health insurance provider.

In case you needed any more incentive; the only major group opposing this legislation, is the group that is pushing to establish nationalized or state sponsored socialized medicine in Arizona.

Proposition 102: "Marriage Protection Amendment" - Constitutional amendment

Postion: No


I believe the government should not legislate marriage at all.

I specifically believe that even if the government does have a legitimate interest in legslating on marriage, that it is a legislative matter not a constitutional one, and should not be addressed as an amendment.

Proposition 105: "Majority Rules" - Constitutional amendment

Postion: Yes


This amendment would require any ballot initiative which would require raising taxes, or which would raise taxes, to pass with a majority of registered voters, instead of just a majority of those who chose to vote on the initiative.

Importantly, it helps protect against the tyranny of the vocal minority in passing initiatives. As many voters are uneducated and unmotivated to vote for or against any particular initiative, this amendment would require that supporters of an initiative educate and motivate enough voters to actively support that initiative, rather than simply passively not vote.

This would make raising taxes and passing frivolous, wasteful, or confiscatory measures MUCH more difficult. A principle I always support.

Proposition 200: "Payday Loan Reform Act"

Postion: No


Well, first, I don't think the payday loan industry needs to be reformed. I think market forces will do a fine job as it is; or would if they were allowed to do so.

However, even if that were not the case, this initiative is a fraud. Although written and described to seem as if the law would improve the terms of payday loans, and those that take them; in fact this legislation would result in WORSE conditions and standards. It was written by the industry themselves as a trojan horse.

Proposition 201: "Homeowners Bill of Rights"

Postion: No


Again, the title of this initiative is misleading. They want to sell it as a "homeowners bill of rights", but what it really should be called is the "Trial lawyers association and construction unions wishlist against home builders and developers".

This initiative would for all intents and purposes put every independent home builder or general contractor in Arizona out of business.

The only way a builder or contractor could conduct business is with far more expensive and far higher limit liability insurance, and the backing of either a national union, or a large development corporation.

The immediate effect will also be to increase the cost of every new home in Arizona by $25,000 to $50,000.

This is one of the worst cases of rentseeking by attorneys that I have ever seen.
  • Prop. 201 will prohibit two parties from agreeing to resolve their disputes without going to court and hiring attorneys.
  • Prop 201 will forbid the defendants from recovering any attorney's fees, even if the case was frivolous or if they win.
  • Prop. 201 will allow prospective buyers to file lawsuits. They will not even have to own the home to file a lawsuit.
  • Prop 201 assures that all disputes, either large or small, go to court raising, costs for everyone.
This measure is supported by Arizona trail lawyers, and construction unions.

The bill is opposed by the national taxpayers union, the Arizona Citizens against Lawsuit Abuse, and the Arizona Builders Association.

That should be enough for anyone really.

Proposition 202: "Stop Illegal Hiring"

Postion: No


While other ballot initiative names might be misleading; this name could best be described as outright fraud.

Although the supporters of this initiative are trying to sell it as strengthening penalties for illegal hiring, this is in fact entirely false.

The only element that would be strengthened would be the penalties for deliberate fraud, and identity theft.

Meanwhile, this legislation would exempt 2/3 of Arizona businesses, including almost all Arizona farms, and small businesses; from the existing (and very tough) employer sanctions laws.

Additionally, for those few businesses not exempted by this initiative, it would raise the burden of proof to apply those sanctions; requiring the state to prove deliberate fraud on the part of business owners to apply sanctions.

This is one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever seen; and I believe that the people proposing it, and advertising it, should be prosecuted for conspiracy to defraud voters.

Proposition 300: "State Legislator Salaries"

Postion: Yes


Although we have a part time legislature, and we want to keep it that way, I have no problem with our legislators being compensated better for their time. It will merely encourage those who do not want to be professional politicians, to consider running for our legislature, because they would not have to give up as much of their other potential income to do so.

Pulls the win, but doesn't cover the spread

So, it's time for some more electoral predictorization. Let's talk about the point spread on the election.

I think the worst case scenario looks like this:

and the best case looks like this:

That's a pretty wide point spread there, at 68 points; though not as wide as some of the liberal nutbars out there are thinking. They actually believe that half the south and midwest are going Obama... because they are deluded, and believe their own BS.

Significantly though, we're only talking about a 5 state spread here: Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Also significantly, all are within six points on polling; and if you believe DJ Drummond over at Wizbang (and I do. His analysis is spot on), all are actually within the margin of error on the most trustworthy polling data available... which is clearly not very trustworthy.

The polling companies have been making some arbitrary, and very unusual and ahistoric decisions on weighting factors; weighting democrats likely proportion of voters as 12% to 16% higher than republicans.

Historically speaking this is completely incorrect. Typically the actual spread is 3-4% and in the last 50 years has never been more than 7%.

So what it comes down to is, I think that anything in the 6 point range is currently a tossup, and anything 3 points or less for Obama is likely to break for McCain.

I made this prediction six weeks ago, and I'm sticking to it:

He's not. Google it

My god, I actually like Ben Afflecks acting in something...

Of course it's a parody sketch for SNL, so I don't know if it counts; but he's got a PERFECT skewer of Keith Olberman going on here:

After the first few minutes, just shut it off though. Like every remotely funny SNL sketch for the past five years, they beat it to death long past the point where funny turns to irritating.

If it weren't for Mike Huckabee...

Fred Thompson has a message about the real deal the democrats are offering this election:

UPDATE: For some reason the embeddable player is screwing up. Here's the link: