Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bird number 648: crag martin

We saw ten or so crag martins flying near, and perching on the walls of, Castelnaud in the Dordogne valley. They are slightly out of the normal book-range, but apparently are regular returners.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Double jeopardy, hate crimes, and George Zimmerman

The continued persecution of acquitted Zimmerman by the federal government has turned Orwellian.

While it is possible for the Federal government to charge and convict someone for an act of which they've been acquitted of a crime in state court (the Rodney King case is the most notorious example) this seems to be a stretch in the Zimmerman case. The vehicle the racial grievance industry is proposing is the Shepard-Byrd Act. One problem is, both the crime alleged (willfully causing body injury resulting in death) and the motivation (because of color) seem to be already covered by the original second-degree murder charge, which required the defendant have acted out of enmity to the victim.

Most worrying, though, has been the fishing expedition by the Department of Justice to try to show that Zimmerman was racially prejudiced. Even though evidence presented at trial strongly indicated that Zimmerman was unprejudiced, the DoJ have gone so far as to set up a snitch line using which 'concerned citizens' can email evidence of Zimmerman's race hatred. Bill of attainder, anyone? If this works, Zimmerman is in jeopardy if he can be proven guilty of past thoughtcrime indicating racism.

This is perhaps the most insidious effect of hate crime laws. Racist speech, however much one might deplore it, is protected speech. If however it can be collected post facto and used to provide the basis for a crime carrying a life-sentence, how protected is it?

Meanwhile 'Justice for Trayvon' supporters are out committing overt hate crimes, completely ignored by the US Department of Justice.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Zimmerman aftermath 1: the New York Times continues to lie...

...and I say lie advisedly, because it is inconceivable, after so much attention was paid to the trial, that the Editorial Board of a major newspaper could still be getting this wrong.
The jury reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman’s actions in light of Florida’s now-notorious Stand Your Ground statute. Under that law, versions of which are on the books in two dozen states, a person may use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes” it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm — a low bar that the prosecutors in this case fought in vain to overcome.
First, the jury was never asked to consider Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Stand Your Ground was never an element in the trial, and the defense conspicuously waived a Stand Your Ground hearing before the trial. Stand Your Ground modifies or removes the duty to retreat, and it is not relevant when, like George Zimmerman, you are lying on the concrete with a 17 year old thug-in-training* pounding your head into it. Unless, that is, an ability to melt into the concrete is one of your super-powers.

The New York Times hates Florida's Stand Your Ground law. That is not an excuse for lying about it.

Second, what they cite is not Stand Your Ground, but the ordinary standard of self-defense -- a reasonable belief you are in danger of death or grievous body harm (and how can one believe oneself in danger of GBH and not of death?) -- used, with some variation, in all 50 states, including New York.


* more fun with this later on.
(7/16/2013) Jacob Sullum has made the same point in far greater detail here. People have made the argument 'stand your ground' was covered in the jury instructions. This is because the Florida Supreme Court has a standard boilerplate set of jury instructions for justifiable use of deadly force.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Taxes and Nebraska

For various reasons, we've been looking for a condo in downtown Lincoln. We found one place we like quite a bit. The price for which we can get it is about 75% of what we could get for our condo in Florida. The Florida place is impeccable, in a great area, 40 minutes from a major international airport, 1500 sq. ft. and overlooking the Atlantic. The back gate of the condo complex is a walk through flower-decked sand dunes to a beautiful beach. Its property taxes are half what we'd pay in Lincoln.

I'm currently in a dispute with the Department of Revenue in Nebraska. After 3 letters they claim the sent me, one of which I never received, they seem to have settled on a tax liability for 2012 in excess of $17,000. If I were resident in Florida, we'd pay zero. Florida doesn't have a state income tax.

I pay more in fees and taxes for my wireless bill in Nebraska than I would in any other state. The sales taxes I pay in Nebraska and Florida are the same, but if I go out to eat or have a beer in Lincoln I pay 2% extra to build an arena I will probably never attend. The drain goes on and on. When I retire, Nebraska is one of the few states that will tax my social security

I've lived in Lincoln 21 years. I can retire in less than four years. I like Nebraska, but not enough to keep me here through another winter or another tax year that I don't have to be a resident. Hawaii might be able to get me to pay through the nose of the privilege of domiciling there. Nebraska isn't Hawaii. When I leave the state, it can kiss off a total of perhaps $40 K in tax revenue for its schools, its colleges, its cities and its poor.

More and more people are like me; more and more of us have a choice where we reside. Nebraska needs to realize that it has a tax system designed to drive us elsewhere. Not smart, if you don't have beaches and tropical flowers and year-round warmth.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Smarter Government

About 3 months ago, a visiting scientist coming to work in my lab applied for a visa. We issued a necessary DS-2019, on which we mistyped a birthdate (1967 instead of 1964). The State Department a couple of days ago denied the visa because of this single small typo. Now we have to do it again. I'm not sure we can do it in time.

Meanwhile today I got a notice from the Nebraska Department of Revenue. They announced they had, unfortunately, miscalculated an underpayment of taxes they claim I made. Three weeks ago they had sent a downright hostile letter, threatening liens, and claiming I owed them about $300. I couldn't see how they came up with that number, but decided I wasn't going to hire a tax lawyer for $300. So I sent them a cheque. They cashed the check, but never credited to my account. So now they claim I owe them another $80, even though it is they who owe me $220. I have no idea how long it's going to take to get this all sorted out.

Smarter government is less government. Don't let anyone tell you different.

All the news that's sick to print

People call the New York Times a cat box liner. Their cats are a lot less picky than ours. But today, the Newspaper of Record excels itself. The piece that has everyone outraged is of course My Mother’s Abortion. But they overlook Eyeball of Providence (not Rhode Island, one presumes)which is about being stuck in the eye with a needle. And there's Why I Donated my Stool (unfortunately not about furniture), which is about...oh, just read it.

My theory is, it's all there to make Eliot Spitzer seem a little less gross.

People ask me if I miss New York, and then look surprised when I say "No, not in the least"