Book Review: Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

“Last Call” by Daniel OkrentThe ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” marked the transition of the U.S. Federal government into a nanny state, which occupied itself with the individual behaviour of its citizens. Now, certainly, attempts to legislate morality and regulate individual behaviour were commonplace in North America long before the United States came into being, but these were enacted at the state, county, or municipality level. When the U.S. Constitution was ratified, it exclusively constrained the actions of government, not of individual citizens, and with the sole exception of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abridged the “freedom” to hold people in slavery and involuntary servitude, this remained the case into the twentieth century. While bans on liquor were adopted in various jurisdictions as early as 1840, it simply never occurred to many champions of prohibition that a nationwide ban, written into the federal constitution, was either appropriate or feasible, especially since taxes on alcoholic beverages accounted for as much as forty percent of federal tax revenue in the years prior to the introduction of the income tax, and imposition of total prohibition would zero out the second largest source of federal income after the tariff.

As the Progressive movement gained power, with its ambitions of continental scale government and imposition of uniform standards by a strong, centralised regime, it found itself allied with an improbable coalition including the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union; the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches; advocates of women’s suffrage; the Anti-Saloon League; Henry Ford; and the Ku Klux Klan. Encouraged by the apparent success of “war socialism” during World War I and empowered by enactment of the Income Tax via the Sixteenth Amendment, providing another source of revenue to replace that of excise taxes on liquor, these players were motivated in the latter years of the 1910s to impose their agenda upon the entire country in as permanent a way as possible: by a constitutional amendment. Although the supermajorities required were daunting (two thirds in the House and Senate to submit, three quarters of state legislatures to ratify), if a prohibition amendment could be pushed over the bar (if you’ll excuse the term), opponents would face what was considered an insuperable task to reverse it, as it would only take 13 dry states to block repeal.... [Read More]

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What you used to be able to bring aboard a commercial flight

As some of you know, my Dad designed the Vanguard TV-3 satellite (and its sister, the oldest satellite still in orbit the Vanguard 1).  When TV-3 blew up on national TV. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK6a6Hkp94o After it cooled down, Dad put in its wooden box and carried it on board a commercial flight back to DC.  It sat in our house and is now in the National Air and Space Museum (see above).... [Read More]

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TOTD 12/18: Forging Our Future

Progressives around the world are bound and determined to destroy the family as the core of society.  What they haven’t factored into their plans is that the future belongs to those who show up, and that means families.

The Next Generation

This photo from July includes my daughter-in-law, who was carrying my grandson at the time.  And recently arrived:... [Read More]

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Politico on Obama, the Iran Deal, and Hezbollah

It’s a long read, but worth the time. Hezbollah funneling cocaine into the US for cash, US attempts to end it, and how they got away with it because ending it interfered with Obama’s desire for the Iran nuclear deal. https://www.politico.com/interactives/2017/obama-hezbollah-drug-trafficking-investigation/

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Radical Transparency

Here is where I plan to take the Ratburger site in the near future.

Too many Web sites are based upon proprietary code or, even if they’re founded on 99% open source code, their developers foolishly keep the implementation of their sites secret.  Why?  Some believe in security through obscurity.  Others fear third parties critiquing their work.... [Read More]

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Saving $$$ with Concierge Medicine

Some of you may know that after being forced into Obamacare four years ago as an independent contractor, we were hit by huge premium and deductibles increases.  By my calculations, the two years of Obamacare cost my family of seven (me, my bride, and five kids) $42,000 MORE than I would have paid out on our old plan.  We’ve since moved to a member-driven co-op for our insurance and concierge medicine for our primary care treatment.

Our concierge medicine costs are similar to a gym membership, and our family of seven pays $200/month, which gives us access as-needed to our primary care doc, and many, many free services such as basic bloodwork.... [Read More]

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New poll finds Trump is divisive

PRRI stands for Public Religion Research Institute.  They promote liberal religion, which means they also promote Universalism and Leftist politics.  I have no reason to think that their polling is bad, but since they are Leftists they phrase questions in ways that I think are sometimes close to push-polling.

PRRI has released a new poll report.  Check it out.  There are no surprises here, but you might find something useful.... [Read More]

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Saturday Night Science: Fun with Cosmic Rays

I took an international flight today, and did something I’ve intended to do for some time: monitor the background radiation flux as the plane changed altitudes.  I brought along a QuartaRAD RADEX RD1706 Geiger-Müller counter which detects beta particles (high energy electrons) and photons in the x-ray and gamma ray spectra and displays a smoothed moving average of the radiation dose in microsieverts (μSv) per hour.  The background radiation depends upon your local environment: areas with rocks such as granite which are rich in mildly radioactive thorium will have more background radiation than those with rocks such as limestone.

One important component of background radiation is cosmic rays caused by high energy particles striking the Earth’s atmosphere.  The atmosphere is an effective radiation shield and absorbs many of these particles before they reach sea level, but as you go to higher altitudes, fewer particles are absorbed and you experience a higher background radiation dose from cosmic rays.  Background radiation at sea level is usually around 0.10 to 0.13 μSv/h.  At Fourmilab, at an altitude of 806 metres above mean sea level, it usually runs around 0.16 μSv/h.... [Read More]

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