Friday, May 31, 2013

The Supreme Court As Architects of a Police State

It all started when the Supremes elevated "reasonable" over "warrant" in their interpretation of the 4th Amendment. Anyway, from this article at

In the police state being erected around us, the police can probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts. Making matters worse, however, police dogs – cute, furry, tail-wagging mascots with a badge – have now been elevated to the ranks of inerrant, infallible sanctimonious accusers with the power of the state behind them. This is largely due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Florida v. Harris, in which a unanimous Court declared roadside stops to be Constitution-free zones where police may search our vehicles based upon a hunch and the presence of a frisky canine.
This is what one would call a slow death by a thousand cuts, only it’s the Fourth Amendment being inexorably bled to death. This latest wound, in which a unanimous Supreme Court determined that police officers may use drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops, comes on the heels of recent decisions by the Court that give police the green light to taser defenseless motorists, strip search non-violent suspects arrested for minor incidents, and break down people’s front doors without evidence that they have done anything wrong.
These are the hallmarks of the emerging American police state, where police officers, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens. Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching innocent motorists on the side of the road, in a police state such as ours, these instances of abuse are not condemned by the government. Rather, they are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

The justices of the United States Supreme Court through their deference to police power, preference for security over freedom, and evisceration of our most basic rights for the sake of order and expediency have become the architects of the American police state.
The author then examines several cases showing what has now become a rather rapid erosion of our 4th Amendment rights. Read the whole thing.

Photograph of the Kennecott Mine Landslide

The Daily Mail has a story and photos of last month's landslide at the Kennecott copper mine in Utah.

Some Families Leaving Scouting

NBC News reports on why a couple families are leaving the Scouts over the lifting of the ban on admitting gay scouts. The story notes:
Gay rights activists pledged to continue their campaign to include adults even as they applauded the vote. They acknowledged there could be some attrition, but said the decision was the first step in the right direction for the organization.    
“Even though I think that there will probably still be a few folks who choose to walk away … I think this is the beginning of the rebound of Scouting in America,” Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, said after the vote.
This is a common problem on the right--they try to appease some particular group by offering a significant concession, but it is never enough for that group, while it drives away (or reduces) the enthusiasm of the base.

This isn't going to usher the Scouts into a new era of booming membership because they will lose more kids than they will gain. The problem won't even necessarily be those that expressly walk away from Scouting, but the people who simply cease to care.

Slain Drug Cartel Lawyer was Gov't Informant

So he breached attorney-client confidentiality? How many cases are now in jeopardy of being overturned because they were based on confidential and inadmissible evidence?

Full story here.

Why the Secrecy?

The Washington Post attended Holder's secret meeting on trying to work better with journalists so as to not restrict their ability to conduct investigative reports. The Post's take on the meeting is here, and it seems rather innocuous. Which begs the question, why the need for the meeting to be off the record? What secret deals or explanations are we not hearing?

Mass Kidnapping from Mexico City Bar

It's a good thing Mexico has such strict gun control laws to keep their criminals in check.

From the Telegraph:
The apparent mass abduction purportedly happened sometime between 10am and noon on Sunday morning just off the Paseo de la Reforma, the city's main boulevard, near the Angel of Independence monument and in the same district as the U.S. Embassy.

The incident was the second recent high-publicity blemish for the city's largely unregulated entertainment scene, coming 20 days after the grandson of American civil rights activist Malcolm X was beaten to death at another bar in the downtown area.
* * *

Relatives believe the youths were at the club, which they said is called "Heaven," around midmorning on Sunday, when waiters and bar employees herded them out to the street and armed men bundled them into waiting vehicles and spirited them away.

Rios said police had not located any employees of the bar and no other witnesses had presented themselves.

"We aren't sure what exactly occurred," he said. "No witness has come forward to say anything about any armed gang."

The bar is down a side street from two high-rise office buildings that look out on Reforma and sits across the narrow road from beauty salons and a sushi restaurant.

Guillermo Bustamante, owner of one the beauty parlours, said the street bustles every Saturday morning with people coming and going from the bar.

"Every time we arrived on Saturdays, we would see weird people coming out of that bar," Bustamante said. "There would be many Hummers parked outside and men walking out with a woman on each arm."
 We will begin to see incidents in this country as "immigration reform" lets the cartels more freely expand into the U.S.

School Bullying

The Washington Post has a story of an egregious bullying incident involving a kindergarten student.
A kindergartner who brought a cowboy-style cap gun onto his Calvert County school bus was suspended for 10 days after showing a friend the orange-tipped toy, which he had tucked inside his backpack on his way to school, according to his family and a lawyer.

The child was questioned for more than two hours before his mother was called, she said, adding that he uncharacteristically wet his pants during the episode. The boy is 5 — “all bugs and frogs and cowboys,” his mother said.
 The family's attorney is trying to get the kid reinstated into school and his record expunged. I think that Child Protective Services should be investigating the teachers and/or administration officials that traumatized this kid, and a suit should be filed for violating the kid's civil rights to be protected from harm while in the custody of the state.

The school officials must feel real proud of themselves with terrorizing a little kid into wetting himself. Sickos.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Iraq Foils Al Qaeda Attack on Oil Facility

Reuters reports that Iraq foiled an attempt by Al Qaeda to use explosive laden trucks to attack a key oil facility in Baghdad. The plan was to sneak explosives onto oil tankers and blow up the tankers.  This attempt followed on attacks on a key oil pipeline in norther Iraq over the past month. Two points of interest at the very end of the article:

Violence has spiked since the start of the year as al Qaeda's local wing, the Islamic State of Iraq, and other Sunni Islamist insurgents stepped up attacks to try to stoke a widescale sectarian conflict.
Iraq expects to boost its oil output to rival the level of top producer Saudi Arabia after awarding some of its most attractive oilfields to global oil companies, including BP , Shell and Exxon Mobil.
 If we can go another year without a larger Sunni-Shiite conflict breaking out, I would be greatly surprised. Also, watch Saudi Arabia--they can't tolerate any significant drop in oil prices.

Why the Fall of the Nikkei Hasn't Impacted U.S. Markets

Japan's blue-chip stock index has in May suffered its two sharpest sell-offs for the year and its high volatility is fueling concern about a spill over into other major markets.
The Nikkei stock index tumbled over 5 percent on Thursday to its lowest level in a month, knocked down by a strong yen and a fresh bout of profit taking on this year's double-digit gains.
Equity markets in Europe and the U.S. shrugged off the Nikkei's slide to close higher, but strategists say they're not so sure how long they will stand up.
"I don't know how much longer the U.S. markets can hold off [Japan volatility] and I was surprised we didn't open lower [Thursday]," said Mike Crofton, CEO at the Philadelphia Trust Company. "The market is obsessed with the Fed [Federal Reserve] and whether or not it will take its foot off the pedal and so we opened higher on the U.S. economic data," he said, offering a reason why markets had been able to withstand the Nikkei tumble.
Just another way of saying that the U.S. stock market is artificially inflated due to quantitative easing.

Collapsing Bridges and Feminism

Some people have been all a flutter since the collapse of a bridge in Washington state. Like all problems, the solution apparently is to throw more money at it. Buy wait! Wasn't that what the stimulus supposed to do? Glenn Reynolds has pointed out this inconvenient truth, as well as the explanation, directing our attention to this 2009 article from the Weekly Standard:

Last November, President-elect Obama addressed the devastation in the construction and manufacturing industries by proposing an ambitious New Deal-like program to rebuild the nation's infrastructure. He called for a two-year "shovel ready" stimulus program to modernize roads, bridges, schools, electrical grids, public transportation, and dams and made reinvigorating the hardest-hit sectors of the economy the goal of the legislation that would become the recovery act.
Women's groups were appalled. Grids? Dams? Opinion pieces immediately appeared in major newspapers with titles like "Where are the New Jobs for Women?" and "The Macho Stimulus Plan." ....

The National Organization for Women (NOW), the Feminist Majority, the Institute for Women's Policy Research, and the National Women's Law Center soon joined the battle against the supposedly sexist bailout of men's jobs. ...
No matter that those burly men were the ones who had lost most of the jobs. The president-elect's original plan was designed to stop the hemorrhaging in construction and manufacturing while investing in physical infrastructure that is indispensable for long-term economic growth. It was not a grab bag of gender-correct programs, nor was it a macho plan--the whole idea of economic stimulus is to use government spending to put idle factors of production back to work.
The result was a stimulus package slanted in favor of health, education, and welfare--i.e., women. 
That an emergency economic recovery program should be designed with gender in mind is itself remarkable. That, in current circumstances, it should be designed to "skew" employment further towards women is disturbing and ominous.
* * * 
A Washington feminist establishment that celebrates the "happily-ever-after" story of its victory over burly men cannot represent the views and interests of many women. Those men are fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and friends; if they are in serious trouble, so are the women who care about them and in many cases depend on them. But NOW and its sister organizations see the world differently. They see the workplace as a battlefront in a zero-sum struggle between men and women, where it is their job to side with women. Unless the Obama administration and Congress find the temerity to distance themselves from the new feminist lobby, the "man-cession" will deepen and further mischief will ensue.

Mark of the Beast....

The Daily Mail reports:
Motorola has announced it is looking at alternatives to traditional passwords in a bid to make logging into online sites, or accessing mobile phones, more secure.

Among the ideas discussed at the D11 conference in California on Wednesday were electronic tattoos and authentication pills that people swallow.

The tattoos, developed by Massachusetts-based engineering firm MC10, contain flexible electronic circuits that are attached to the wearer's skin using a rubber stamp.
MC10 originally designed the tattoos, called Biostamps, to help medical teams measure the health of their patients either remotely, or without the need for large expensive machinery.

Motorola claims that the circuits, which also contain antennae and built-in sensors, could be adapted to work with mobile phones and tablets.
The mobile devices could then be used to confirm the owner's identity and log them in to accounts automatically.

This would prevent thieves and other people from being able to access a phone, or individual apps on the device, if it is stolen or lost.
I'm not sure that a security "tattoo" will go over well with consumers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Soviet Storm: WWII in the East

I've been watching the documentary series Soviet Storm: WWII in the East on Hulu. It is a Russian documentary that has had the narration and some titles translated to English (the maps are still in Russian, so you need to pay extra attention to the narration). Overall, I would rate it as being one of the better WWII documentaries I've seen in a long while and would recommend it for anyone interested in WWII.

As some background, I don't consider myself a "WWII buff." Although I believe that I am fairly well read on WWII--enough to talk somewhat intelligently--I lack the extensive library and study that a true WWII "buff" has put into the subject. Most of my reading and viewing has, naturally, focused on the standard American point-of-view: the invasion of France, Battle of Britain, North Africa, the Italian campaign, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, the Holocaust, and the significant battles of the South Pacific. However, as my interest in WWII has grown over the last several years, I found myself wanting to learn more about other aspects of the war that are often overlooked in standard histories, including the war in South East Asia and China against the Japanese, the North Pacific conflict, the Soviet front, etc. While most WWII histories cover the Battle of Stalingrad, the Soviet front is largely overlooked. Thus, it was with interest and delight that I found Soviet Storm which provides a basic overview of the major battles of the Eastern Front. It is doubly interesting because, produced by a Russian television channel, it provides a Russian/Soviet point-of-view of the conflict.

Like a lot of newer documentaries, it relies heavily on computer animation of tanks and aircraft over using footage from the war. I would have preferred more actual footage, but the animation is pretty good compared to most documentaries. I'm only about half-way through the series, but I've noticed that as I get further, the producers use more footage, so perhaps there was a shortage of Soviet film from the early battles of the war.

The re-enactments seem pretty good as well, with attention paid to have what appear to be correct uniforms and individual weapons for the different periods. Also, the producers give brief overviews of different weapon systems, such as the tanks and aircraft, that figure prominently in the series.

One of the interesting aspects of WWII is that it was the last major war where the combatants enjoyed equal  levels of technology. Although one side or another gained temporary advantages at different stages of the war, it cannot be said that any of the major combatants had a distinct technological edge over any other--the aircraft, tanks, artillery, ships, and so on, were roughly equivalent for most of the war. If Germany had been able to hold out another year, things may have been different--of course, they would have also suffered a nuclear attack, so maybe things wouldn't have been too different after all.

It is also interesting because you can see the birth of many modern concepts of war, but there were still holdovers from the static fighting of WWI. In the early stages of the war, both the Soviets and the Germans seemed obsessed with frontal attacks on prepared positions. Although the Soviets seemed to learn from their mistakes, the Germans repeated this basic tactical mistake again and again--most significantly, with their offensive at Kursk. I kept wondering how the outcome might have been different if Rommel had been in Russia rather than North Africa.

In watching this series, it is clear that, other than the initial invasion of Russia, the Germans never enjoyed clear air superiority, and lacked any significant strategic bombing capabilities.

Neither side seemed to have devoted much attention to engineering battalions. There was no mention of constructing airfields, bridges or roads, as you would read about in campaigns involving the Western allies. There are many references to Soviet soldiers having to improvise rafts for river crossings.

I was also left with the impression that the Germans really didn't have any specific goals in the invading the Soviet Union. The initial invasion flitted back and forth between taking the oilfields to the south, or Moscow to the north, and wound up accomplishing neither.


This Won't End Well

Yesterday, I had noted that the Russians plan on supplying Syria's Assad with some of its most capable anti-aircraft missiles. Today, the Washington Examiner reports that Obama is considering imposing a no fly zone over Syria to assist the rebels. From the story:

With Europe pushing to arm the anti-government rebels in Syria and President Obama reportedly seeking plans for a no-fly zone over the war-torn country, the United States is inching closer to intervening directly in a conflict in which more than 70,000 people have already died.

White House officials insist that Obama has made no decision on providing arms to the Syrian rebels or establishing a no-fly zone there, saying all options remain on the table. But recent developments are ratcheting up the pressure on the president to use American force to help end the two-year-civil war.

The European Union voted to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, hoping the sign of unity would bring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to the negotiating table. At the same time, however, Russia vowed to provide Assad's regime with advanced missiles, stoking fears of more violence in an already hostile region. And Israel said it would strike down such air defense missile systems if they were delivered to Syria.
The Nobel Peace Prize winning Obama seems to be focused on creating a legacy of war and destabilization in the Middle-East. 

Why Only Cops Should Have Guns--Police Shoot Neighbor

A grandfather checking on his neighbor is shot and killed by Fort Worth police. The shots rang out early Tuesday morning near Woodhaven Country Club, in east Fort Worth.  
Those close to the family say the victim lived nearby and heard his neighbor’s burglar alarm. Neighbor Jerry Wayne Waller then apparently went outside to see what was going on.  
The 72-year-old man didn’t even make it to the house across the street before he was shot. He died on his own property.
I imagine that if a private citizen had done the same thing, he would be facing murder charges.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time to Ban Soda Bottles and Dry Ice

From CBS News:
Officials say what appears to be dry ice in a plastic bottle caused a small explosion at Disneyland, bringing evacuations but no reports of injuries.
Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Bob Dunn says the blast was reported at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Disneyland's Toontown area, which was evacuated as a precaution.
Police are investigating and an Orange County sheriff's bomb squad was headed to the scene.

China Steals More Military Secrets

The Daily Mail reports that Chinese hackers (the Chinese government is hiding behind plausible deniability) have stolen numerous plans for advanced military weapons and systems. The article states:
Chinese hackers have accessed designs for more than two dozen U.S. weapons systems and stolen the blueprints for Australia's new spy headquarters which hasn't even been opened yet.  
These latest strikes come after months of numerous computer security breaches involving Chinese hackers as the ongoing cyber war between China and the West intensifies.  
Hackers have now 'compromised' U.S. designs for combat aircraft and ships, as well as missile defenses vital for Europe, Asia and the Gulf, it has emerged. 
The Washington Post learned of the breach from a Pentagon report prepared for the Defense Department by the Defense Science Board. 
Among the weapons listed in the report were the advanced Patriot missile system, the Navy's Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Expanding War In Syria

Russia has refused to scrap plans to provide Syrian President Bashar Assad with high-powered missiles - claiming it will help deter 'hotheads' intent on intervention in the two-year-old conflict.

The announcement comes as Russia accused the European Union allowed of 'throwing fuel on the fire' by letting its own arms embargo on Syria expire.

Israel and France had urged Moscow to refrain from sending high-precision S-300 missile systems to President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is battling a Western and Gulf Arab-backed insurgency.
Then there is the growing participation of Hezbollah:
The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah warned Saturday that the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime would give rise to extremists and plunge the Middle East into a "dark period," and vowed his Shiite militant group will not stand idly by while its chief ally in Damascus is under attack. 
In a televised address, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah members are fighting in Syria against Islamic extremists who pose a danger to Lebanon, and pledged that his group will not allow Syrian militants to control areas that border Lebanon. 
Nasrallah's comments marked the first time he has publically confirmed his men were fighting in Syria, and were his first remarks since Hezbollah fighters have become deeply involved in the battle for the strategic Syrian town of Qusair near the Lebanese frontier. 
Hezbollah has come under harsh criticism at home and abroad for sending fighters to Syria to fight along Assad's forces. In his speech, Nasrallah sought to defend the group's deepening involvement, and frame its fight next door as part of a broader battle against Israel. 
He also portrayed the fight in Syria as an "existential war" for anti-Israel groups including Hezbollah. 
"Syria is the back of the resistance, and the resistance cannot stand, arms folded while its back is broken," Nasrallah told thousands of supporters from a secret location though a video link. 
"If Syria falls into the hand of America, Israel and takfiris, the resistance (Hezbollah) will be besieged and Israel will enter Lebanon and impose its will," Nasrallah said. Takfiri Islamists refers to an ideology that urges Sunni Muslims to kill anyone they consider an infidel.
The involvement of Hezbollah risks the spread of the war to Lebanon--perhaps it is already there:

Two rockets hit Shiyah District (pictured) last night. Four people were wounded in this Hizbollah stronghold in southern of Beirut. Two more rockets were also fired in the Bekaa Valley, another stronghold of the Shia movement, but caused no casualties. The Lebanese army is also looking for an unexploded rocket fired from a location between Baabda and Aitat.

The attacks are said to be related to the statement made just 12 hours earlier by Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, that his movement would continue to support militarily Syrian President Assad.

This, according to Syrian opposition sources, has cost the Party of God dozens of deaths. However, Syrian sources say that Hizbullah military support has helped President Bashar Assad's forces gain the upper hand in the battle for Qusayr, which the Syrian army and Hizbollah are said to control 80 per cent.

The Free Syrian Army, which includes most of Syria's armed opposition, has denied involvement in the rockets against Hizbollah.

What is happening gives further arguments to those who fear for the future of Lebanon. "What is certain is that the [rocket attacks] were an attempt to create splits among the Lebanese ranks and drag the [Syrian] strife to Lebanon," Lebanon's Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn said.

There are plenty of signs that it is working. Clashes in Tripoli are set to continue today for an eighth day between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, this despite the Army's intervention.

Yesterday there was another victim, bringing to 24 the number of those who lost their lives in the clashes, along with 167 injured.

A clash between an official in the Hizbollah-linked Resistance Brigades and Salafists left one man wounded in the southern city of Sidon over the weekend.

Finally, there is the concern that an attempt is underway to involve Israel, after state-run National News Agency reported a rocket launched against the Jewish state. The attack has not been confirmed either by the Lebanese army, nor the Israeli one, perhaps to avoid increasing tensions.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Immigration Reform and the Disenfranchisement of Republicans

Whatever your position on immigration reform, the reason that it has support among the Democrats is because of the votes it will garner them. Although the Democrats, by dint of offering lots of free stuff and an election win based on corruption, squeaked by on the last presidential election. They potentially could win the next two or three election cycles. However, demographics suggests that Democrats will lose in the long run simply because they reproduce at a lower rate than conservatives.

They hope to reverse this trend, and solidify their political control, by bringing in millions of new voters that are almost assuredly going to vote Democratic. And the prize is Texas, and its 38 electoral votes. As this New York Times blog notes:

Regardless of who gets hurt in the process, Texas is ripe for realignment. Insofar as demographics count, Texas is on a path to first turn purple and then blue. The question is when. Whites are already a minority of the state’s population, 44.8 percent, down from 52.4 percent in 2000; blacks are at 12.2 percent, slightly up from 12.0 percent; Hispanics are at 38.1 percent, up from 32.0 percent; with Asian-Americans, Native Americans, and others making up the remaining 4.9 percent. Whites are teetering at just over 50 percent of Texans eligible to vote; according to demographic projections, they will become a minority of voting age citizens in 2016.
What makes Texas such an inviting target for Democratic organizers is that Hispanic turnout in the state is strikingly low, 38.8 percent of those eligible to vote, compared to the national average of 48 percent.
 Of course, why bother increasing their voter turn-out if you can simply increase the number of voters?

You may ask why someone like McCain, who is ostensibly Republican, would be in favor of immigration reform? I suspect the simple reason is that McCain's authority in the Senate rests on his alleged ability to work across the aisle. So, if he can get into a permanent minority, it increases his political capital.

A Round-Up on Obama's Scandals ... from a British Point-of-View

... The most serious of them was almost too shocking to be credible, but it had to be believed because the officials in charge made a point (indeed, contrived an opportunity) to apologise for it publicly.
It seemed that the Internal Revenue Service – the US equivalent of the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs – had been deliberately discriminating against organisations with the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their titles. In other words, they had been singling out for high pressure audits and super-scrutiny, groups that were thought to be critical of the Obama administration. Those who had spoken out against the President’s expansion of government power, or in favour of tax-cutting, or even those who sought to educate public opinion in what they believed to be the meaning of the Constitution, were interrogated and intimidated in a way that Lois Lerner, the head of the tax division responsible, admitted was “absolutely inappropriate”. 
Inappropriate? The only word that would suffice here would be “outrageous”, or maybe “illegal”. The IRS is one of the mightiest federal government agencies. It has terrifying powers over ordinary citizens that our own dear HMRC would die for. And, by its own admission, it had been carrying out a politically targeted vendetta against organisations that were simply exercising the right, guaranteed to them by the First Amendment to the Constitution, to free speech and assembly. (This would be roughly the equivalent to HMRC engaging in a concerted campaign of harassment designed to put Ukip out of business.) 
Scarcely anything could be more antithetical to the principles on which America was founded than this abuse of federal government power to suppress dissident opinion. With apparently unconscious irony, Ms Lerner has now invoked her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify about these matters before a congressional committee. “Pleading the Fifth”, as it is known, permits a witness to refuse to give evidence under oath that may incriminate him. (Back in the day, it was regarded by McCarthyites as the traditional recourse of the Commie scoundrel unwilling to answer questions about his political affiliations.)
Read the whole thing.

Sunken Continent?

Working with scientists from Japan, experts believe they have found evidence of a continent that disappeared after Africa and South America separated, 900 miles from the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
The discovery of granite, a rock formed on dry land, was announced by the Geology Service of Brazil (CPRM) as a sign of a lost continent. 
“This could be Brazil’s Atlantis,” said CPRM geology director Roberto Ventura Santos. “We are almost certain, but we need to strengthen this hypothesis.”

The material was reportedly found more than 8,000 feet beneath the sea in a region known as the Rio Grande Elevation.
It was discovered last year when geologists dredged the seabed. Underwater observations from Japan’s £84 million manned mini-sub Shinkai 6500 yielded more reports of granite formations last month. 
“It is unusual because it is granite rock,” Mr Santos told Brazilian newspaper Estadao. “And you don’t find granite on the seabed. It is more usual to find it on the mainland.” 
... The current thinking on the findings is that the land is continental crust but further confirmation is needed. Scientists are now expected to drill for more samples later this year.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dr. Who Racist?

Further proof that certain branches of academia have become too stupid to live. From the Daily Mail:
Through all his incarnations, Doctor Who has fought selflessly to ensure the survival of all manner of life forms across the Universe.

But now an international group of academics has branded the heroic Time Lord ‘thunderingly racist’.
The Doctor’s new foes claim that his dismissive attitude towards black companions, his contempt for ‘primitive’ people, and even his passion for cricket are all proof of a reactionary ‘whiteness’ pervading his adventures. 
Their concerns are published in a new book, Doctor Who And Race, which says the BBC programme is based in attitudes ‘that continue to subjugate people of colour’.
But fans dismiss such criticisms as ‘groundless’ and ‘ridiculous’.
One of the more bizarre theories is offered by Amit Gupta, an American professor, who argues that Peter Davison’s cricket-loving incarnation of the character in the Eighties was thinly disguised nostalgia for the British Empire. He wrote: ‘[He] portrayed the amateur English cricketer of the late 19th Century when the game was characterised by both racial and class distinctions. 
‘Cricket also had a role in maintaining the status of British imperialism through the exercise of soft power as it was successfully inculcated by the colonial elites. Davison’s cricketing Doctor once again saw the BBC using Who to promote a racial and class nostalgia that had already outlived its validity.’

Several of the 23 contributors to the book lament the failure to cast a black or Asian actor as the Doctor. And in earlier series, white actors were cast as other ethnicities. Singled out for criticism is a 1977 storyline, The Talons Of Weng- Chiang, set in Victorian times and featuring the white actor John Bennett as a Chinese villain.

Hulu has a lot of Korean and Mexican programming and I often wonder why these programs are so racist to never use a white anglo in their lead roles..., then I remember that they are produced in countries that are predominantly Korean and Mexican for Korean and Mexican audiences, respectively.

Somewhat ironically, there is an Amit Gupta (different person, I presume) that is an Indian cricketer.

Thoughts on the Woolwich Attack (Updated)

Mark Steyn offers some comments on the Woolwich attack, where two Muslim converts stabbed and hacked a British soldier to death in London. He writes:

As grotesque as this act of savagery was, the aftermath was even more unsettling. The perpetrators did not, as the Tsarnaev brothers did in Boston, attempt to escape. Instead, they held court in the street gloating over their trophy, and flagged down a London bus to demand the passengers record their triumph on film. As the crowd of bystanders swelled, the remarkably urbane savages posed for photographs with the remains of their victim while discoursing on the iniquities of Britain toward the Muslim world. Having killed Drummer Rigby, they were killing time: It took 20 minutes for the somnolent British constabulary to show up. And so television viewers were treated to the spectacle of a young man, speaking in the vowels of south London, chatting calmly with his “fellow Britons” about his geopolitical grievances and apologizing to the ladies present for any discomfort his beheading of Drummer Rigby might have caused them, all while drenched in blood and still wielding his cleaver.

* * *

Once, long ago, I was in an altercation where someone pulled a switchblade, and ever since have been mindful of Jimmy Hoffa’s observation that he’d rather jump a gun than a knife. Nevertheless, there is a disturbing passivity to this scene: a street full of able-bodied citizens being lectured to by blood-soaked murderers who have no fear that anyone will be minded to interrupt their diatribes. In fairness to the people of Boston, they were ordered to “shelter in place” by the governor of Massachusetts. In Woolwich, a large crowd of Londoners apparently volunteered to “shelter in place,” instinctively. Consider how that will play when these guys’ jihadist snuff video is being hawked around the bazaars of the Muslim world. Behold the infidels, content to be bystanders in their own fate.
Styen, and others, have blamed the overwhelming, stifling political correctness of Britain the lack of response from bystanders. Many of the comments I've read suggest that such passivity would not have occurred in the U.S. Given the same circumstances--no weapons and facing two young men that were obviously capable of violence, with police officers on the scene but not acting--I'm not sure a large crowd of bystanders would necessarily reacted differently in an American city.

The reason is the bystander effect, widely researched after the infamous 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York (although the apathy of possible bystanders has been exaggerated). (See also here). The issue is discussed in this article of a 2008 murder in California:

The town of Turlock and much of the rest of the nation was shocked when a 27-year-old man beat and stomped his 2-year-old son to death on a rural road. But what was nearly as stunning for many people was that none of the motorists and their passengers who stopped and saw the attack tried to tackle the man. 
Police officers and psychologists familiar with violent emergencies, however, said they weren't surprised at all. 
A volunteer firefighter and at least five others saw Sergio Casian Aguiar assaulting his son Saturday night on the road west of Turlock (Stanislaus County), but it wasn't until a police officer arrived in a helicopter that the attack finally ended. Aguiar refused to halt the attack and raised his middle finger at the officer, who shot him to death, authorities said. 
Bystanders are justifiably scared and confused in such situations, the experts said Wednesday, and they lack the experience needed to respond with force. They can also be mesmerized by shock. 
John Conaty, a veteran homicide detective and former patrol officer in Pittsburg, said that in interviews of witnesses to violence, "the common thing you hear is, 'I was frozen in fear. I just couldn't take action.' " 
Conaty questioned whether the witnesses had even been capable of stopping Aguiar. "If they were physically able, you have to take a look at whether they were psychologically prepared to intervene," he said. 
"I would not condemn these people," said John Darley, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University who has studied how bystanders react in emergency situations. "Ordinary people aren't going to tackle a psychotic. 
"What we have here," Darley said, "is a group of family and friends who are not pre-organized to deal with this stuff. They don't know who should do what. ... If you had five volunteer firefighters pull up, you would expect them to have planned responses and a division of labor. But that's not what we had here." 
Darley said he was also not surprised that people who weren't at the scene of the killing believe they would have been heroic Good Samaritans. 
"It's an aspiration," he said. "They hope they would have done differently."
However, the Turlock, CA, and Kitty Genovese cases raise a different issue, which was the police response. In the situation of Genovese, the killer initially left from fear of encountering police, and only returned after he realized that the police were not going arrive. In the Turlock incident, the police officer promptly shot the murderer. In the Woolwich incident, the killers evidenced no fear of the police, but strutted around apparently waiting for armed police officers to arrive. (Unarmed police arrived earlier, but did nothing). The Powerline Blog notes:
The idea of policemen in one of the world’s major cities “wait[ing] helplessly for armed officers to arrive,” while murderers parade up and down the street soaked in blood and the body of a half-beheaded soldier lies in the street, is almost unbelievable. And yet that is the state of law enforcement in Great Britain. The average American household is better armed than a London policeman, and as a result, it was left to a few women from the crowd of bystanders to try to deal with cleaver-wielding murderers.
To add insult to injury, British law enforcement has promptly charged anyone that dared criticize Islam for the murder.

The British police have become worse than useless. It is bad enough that the murderers did not fear or respect law enforcement, but that law enforcement responds in such a contemptible manner in squelching free speech. A hundred years ago, anyone in the world would have rightly feared the consequences of murdering a British soldier. No so much now.

Update: French soldier stabbed in apparent copy-cat incident. The difference is that the perp ran away.

Anything New on the French Alps Shooting?

I haven't heard much over the last several months about the murder of  Saad al-Hilli and his family, and Sylvain Mollier, in the French Alps.  Police are still hunting down clues, but have made no arrests. However, British Channel 4 is apparently going to produce a documentary about the murders and various theories as to motive.

Global Warming Alert: Snow Expected in New England for Memorial Day

Sorry, I almost forgot the rules. If it is hotter, it is global warming. If it is colder, it is just weather.

Culture Shock Over American Homes

A brief guide for Brits on living in an American home. To add to the confusion, different terms are used in different parts of the country: e.g., "couch," "sofa," and "davenport."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Trains Shut Down in NJ Over Umbrella

A New Jersey light rail shutdown was due to an umbrella that was mistaken for an assault rifle.

Someone had reported to police that a man wearing black pants, white dress shirt, with a cast on his arm was "armed with a long barrel assault weapon" had gotten on the train.

... Police started scouring surveillance videos and was able to track down the man at the Exchange Place station.

Apparently, they were able to determine that the only "weapon" the man had was the umbrella he planned to use later in the day to fight off rain from hitting him.
Because, you know, this:

(Source: Wikimedia)

... looks so much like this:
File:AK-47 assault rifle.jpg
(Source: Wikimedia)

Assad Not Going Away Soon

Der Speigel reports that Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), is now predicting that Syria's Assad will maintain power, and even make gains against rebels. From the story:
... the situation has changed dramatically, the BND believes. Schindler used graphics and maps to demonstrate that Assad's troops once again possess effective supply lines to ensure sufficient quantities of weapons and other materiel. Fuel supplies for tanks and military aircraft, which had proved troublesome, are once again available, Schindler reported. The new situation allows Assad's troops to combat spontaneous rebel attacks and even retake positions that were previously lost. The BND does not believe that Assad's military is strong enough to defeat the rebels, but it can do enough to improve its position in the current stalemate.

Severing Rebel Supply Lines

The assessment appears to be consistent with recent reports from Syria, where government troops have been able to regain the upper hand in the region stretching from Damascus to Homs, including coastal areas near Homs. Furthermore, fighters loyal to Assad have expelled rebel fighters from several districts on the edge of Damascus and cut off their supply lines to the south. Currently, the regime is in the process of severing rebel supply lines to the west.

Meanwhile, the BND believes that rebel forces, which include several groups of Islamist fighters with ties to al-Qaida, are facing extreme difficulties. Schindler reported that different rebel groups are fighting with each other to attain supremacy in individual regions. Furthermore, regime troops have managed to cut supply lines for weapons and evacuation routes for wounded fighters. Each new battle weakens the militias further, the BND chief said.

Should the conflict continue as it has in recent weeks, says Schindler, government troops could retake the entire southern half of the country by the end of 2013. That would leave only the north for insurgent fighters, where Kurdish rebels have tighten control over their areas.
 So, absent an assassination, Assad may be able to stay in power for the near future.

Milton R. Wolf: Tyranny in our time.

Milton R. Wolf observes at the Washington Times:

King George’s assault on the Americans’ natural freedoms was oppressive, intolerable and deserving of a revolution. The truth is, the intrusion, restriction and outright harassment that our government subjects us to today is far beyond what the colonists faced from their tyrannical king. If it was tyranny in 1776, then, by God, it is tyranny today.

Consider the enormous coercive power of the Internal Revenue Service and its lust to wield it. The IRS admits to systematically identifying and harassing political dissidents who dare to disagree with the political bosses. The IRS created what could be considered an enemies list starting with conservative Tea Party groups. It targeted any group calling itself “patriot” or daring to teach the Constitution or Bill of Rights.

... This abuse is not limited to the IRS. Mr. Obama’s appointee to the Environmental Protection Agency likened himself to a Roman conqueror ready to wield his government power to arbitrarily “crucify” — his word — energy companies just to keep them obedient and fearful. His forced resignation fails to hide what we’re learning today, that even in his absence, the EPA routinely waives burdensome fees for politically acceptable groups but imposes them to their fullest on adversaries.

This is not simply picking winners and losers — it is something so much more. This is a government declaring friends and enemies among fellow Americans, and it goes all the way up to the Oval Office. In 2010, it was Mr. Obama himself, who declared to a roaring crowd, “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends.” Chilling.

...“After we win this election, it’s our turn. Payback time,” warned Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Obama’s longtime senior adviser. “Everyone not with us is against us, and they better be ready because we don’t forget. The ones who helped us will be rewarded, the ones who opposed us will get what they deserve. There is going to be hell to pay.”

This is not simply a scandal, as some call it. A scandal implies a failure of the system. This is the system. This is a political class wielding the goliath power of the most intrusive and most feared government agencies at their disposal in order to intimidate, silence and control the citizenry. It is an unmasked assault on the First Amendment, on the Constitution and on America itself, and it must not stand.

... Make no mistake, however. Both parties have luxuriated in the drunken power of government, at our expense. Mr. Obama did not build the IRS, nor did Richard Nixon, but both wielded it as a weapon. Now the IRS is poised to become the hammer of even our health care. Democrats are furiously converting the welfare state into an authoritarian state right before our eyes, and most in the GOP establishment are too seduced or intimidated to stop them.

America’s Founders had a dream of freedom, and this is not it. It is “we the people” who must save America now, just as it has always been. Let us once again pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor, and let us stand undivided and undeterred against tyranny in our time.

Pedaphilia Supporters Find Their Poster Girl?

In January, Rush Limbaugh warned that there was “an effort under way to normalize pedophilia,” and was ridiculed by liberals (including CNN’s Soledad O’Brien) for saying so. But now liberals have joined a crusade that, if successful, would effectively legalize sex with 14-year-olds in Florida.

The case involves Kaitlyn Ashley Hunt, an 18-year-old in Sebastian, Florida, who was arrested in February after admitting that she had a lesbian affair with a 14-year high-school freshman. (Click here to read the affidavit in Hunt’s arrest.) It is a felony in Florida to have sex with 14-year-olds. Hunt was expelled from Sebastian High School — where she and the younger girl had sex in a restroom stall — and charged with two counts of “felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child.” The charges could put Hunt in prison for up to 15 years. Prosecutors have offered Hunt a plea bargain that would spare her jail time, but her supporters have organized an online crusade to have her let off scot-free — in effect, nullifying Florida’s law, which sets the age of consent at 16.

Using the slogan “Stop the Hate, Free Kate” (the Twitter hashtag is #FreeKate) this social-media campaign has attracted the support of liberals including Chris Hayes of MSNBC, Daily Kos, Think Progress and the gay-rights group Equality Florida. Undoubtedly, part of the appeal of the case is that Hunt is a petite attractive green-eyed blonde. One critic wondered on Twitter how long activists have “been waiting for a properly photogenic poster child of the correct gender to come along?”

Portraying Hunt as the victim of prejudice, her supporters claim she was only prosecuted because she is homosexual and because the parents of the unnamed 14-year-old are “bigoted religious zealots,” as Hunt’s mother said in a poorly written Facebook post. The apparent public-relations strategy was described by Matthew Philbin of Newsbusters: “If you can play the gay card, you immediately trigger knee-jerk support from the liberal media and homosexual activists anxious to topple any and all rules regarding sex.”
Read the whole thing.

Peggy Noonan on the IRS Scandal

Peggy Noonan writes at the Wall Street Journal about the IRS scandal and how it undermined the 2012 election. (Can conservatives now say that the election was stolen?). She writes:
With all the talk and the hearings and the news reports, it is important to keep the essentials of this story in mind.

First, only conservative groups were targeted in this scandal by the IRS. Liberal or progressive groups were not targeted. The IRS leaked conservative groups' confidential applications and donor lists to liberal groups, never the other way around.

This was a political operation. If it had not been, then the statistics tell us left-wing groups would have been harassed and abused, and seen their applications leaked to the press. There would be a left-wing equivalent to Catherine Engelbrecht.

And all of this apparently took place in the years leading up to the 2012 election. Meaning that before that election, groups that were anti-Obamacare, or pro-life, or pro-Second Amendment or constitutionalist, or had words like 'tea party' or 'patriot' in their name—groups that is that would support Republicans, not Democrats—were suppressed, thwarted, kept from raising money and therefore kept from fully operating.

That is some kind of coincidence. That is some kind of strangely political, strangely partisan, and strangely ideological "poor customer service."

IRS officials have complained that the law is murky, it's difficult to define what the tax exemption law really means. But they don't have any problem defining it. They defined it with a vengeance.

Second, it is important to remember that there has never been an investigation of what happened in the IRS. There was an internal IRS audit, not an investigation, carried out by an inspector general, who was careful this week to note to the House what he'd done was not an investigation. He was tasked to come to conclusions on whether there had been wrongdoing at the agency. It was not his job to find out exactly why it happened, how and when the scandal began, who was involved, and how they operated.

A dead serious investigation is needed. The IRS has colorfully demonstrated that it cannot investigate itself. The Obama administration wants the FBI—which answers to Eric Holder's Justice Department—to investigate, but that would not be credible. The investigators of the IRS must be independent of the administration, or their conclusions will not be trustworthy.

An independent counsel, with all the powers of that office, is what we need.

Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government. And that, actually, would be tragic.
Bob Krumm notes that Noonan is not quite correct in her conclusion. He thinks it is better that the American people not put their full faith and trust in the government because, quoting from the Federalist #25, that is when people "are most in danger."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reporter Learns That Guns Can Be Manufactured

The difference between "journalism" (originally, "yellow journalism") and reporting is that reporting involves informing the public of news, while "journalism" is focused around creating "news" or a narrative. This story from Mother Earth News falls into the latter category. 

The "journalist," Bryan Schatz, breathlessly announces:
The wooden and steel parts I need to build my untraceable AK-47 fit within a slender, 15-by-12-inch cardboard box. I first lay eyes on them one Saturday morning in the garage of an eggshell-white industrial complex near Los Angeles. Foldout tables ring the edges of the room, surrounding two orange shop presses. The walls, dusty and stained, are lined with shelves of tools. I'm with a dozen other guys, some sipping coffee, others making introductions over the buzz of an air compressor. Most of us are strangers, but we share a common bond: We are just eight hours away from having our very own AK-47—one the government will never know about.The AK-47, perhaps the world's best-known gun, is so easy to make and so hard to break that the Soviet-designed original has spawned countless variants, updated and modified versions churned out by factories all over the globe. Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun's key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we're assembling the guns for our own "personal use," whatever that may entail, we're not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California's stringent assault weapons ban, that's perfectly within the law.
My first instinct is to yawn and say "so what." You could get just as excited to learn that hackers could build their own computers, or thieves build their own lock picks or buy crow bars and cutting tools without any identification. Next thing, Schatz will be telling us that milk can be had from a cow without any FDA oversight.The horror!

However, since I've actually built an AK, I want to emphasize that Schatz has actually exaggerated the ease of building an AK. In fact, if he had not been to a "build party" with experienced people, he probably would not have been able to do it.

Schatz spins his story to make it sound like most everything you need is in the "parts kit." Well, no. You have to buy a barrel (another $100 - $200 dollars) and buy or make a receiver. If you buy the receiver, you have to go through a licensed dealer. Schatz decided to build his receiver from a "flat." And, although hardly mentioned in the article, to build the gun legally, you also have to buy a bunch of other parts to comply with Federal regulations (generally the stock and pistol grips, the trigger group parts, together with the barrel and receiver--going to be at least another $200 even if you go with cheap stuff).

Also, building the receiver is not the easy, "one bend in a vise later and, voilà, it's a receiver, ready for trigger guards to be riveted on," that he describes. I wound up buying a receiver after looking at what was involved with making one from a flat. First, it isn't bent in a vise. It is bent into shape using a hydraulic shop press--if you don't have one, you have to buy one--$120 for a small one. Then it needs to be pressed into a form--a jig. He didn't mention that in his article. But the jig is another couple hundred dollars. Then, he sort of skipped over this part quickly, you have to weld bolt rails on the inside of the receiver. Yeah, that needs a welder and some experience and training at welding. Then, he only mentioned in passing, you have to heat treat the metal of the receiver around the rivet holes. That takes a torch and some more experience to do it correctly.

Schatz also skipped over the whole riveting process. You have to rivet the front trunnion, rear trunnion, and trigger guard into place. That means buying or building tools to crimp the rivets. Although you can build the tools from a pair of bolt cutters, some square steel stock, and bolts, you would still need to have the tools and metal working experience to do so. More time and money. And then you have to buy a set of rivets.

Once everything is riveted, you get to install the barrel. Some issues here that are skipped over by Schatz. First, not all barrels have the gas ports drilled or other cuts made. So, more machining possibly needed. Second, even if all that is already done, you have to press the barrel into place--hey, you get to use that hydraulic press again! However, you need another jig to hold the receiver in place and support the trunnion because otherwise you will just bend the trunnion. More money and/or something to machine.

Of course, you can't just push the barrel in and call it good. You have to correctly head-space the barrel or you might end up blowing up your gun or risk some other mechanical malfunction rendering it unusable and/or dangerous to the user. So, that requires a set of headspacing gauges (at least a "go" and "no go"). Another $60 or so for both gauges.

Then you have to press the gas assembly and front sight assembly onto the barrel, cut the notches in the barrel for said gas and front sight assemblies, and make sure your sights are correctly aligned.

Schatz did mention the sand-blasting and finish they had to put on the gun. Of course, everyone has a sandblaster in their garage. No? Neither do I. More money and time. And the finish he described takes more time, money, training, and equipment.

Then you have to install the trigger assembly, which actually isn't that easy if you are not familiar with what to do, the order to do it in, and have some additional tools.

Did I mention that it takes a lot of tools?

Finally, you have to test it and sight it in. Schatz apparently didn't bother sighting his rifle.

So, I call B.S. on his story. He wants his readers to get all excited that criminals will somehow learn the "secret" that you can build a gun at home (ever hear about zip guns?) and we will suddenly see whole gangs armed with these home-built AKs. Problem is, it takes a lot of time, money, tools and experience to do so. Things that Schatz borrowed from the experienced builders that he worked with. No gang-banger is going to do all that. Far easier to just buy a stolen gun for a couple hundred dollars.

Boy Scouts Vote To Accept Gay Scouts But Not Gay Leaders

The Boy Scouts of America threw open its ranks Thursday to gay Scouts but not gay Scout leaders - a fiercely contested compromise that some warned could fracture the organization and lead to mass defections of members and donors. 
Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1. 
'While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting,' the BSA said after announcing the results at the council's annual meeting near Dallas.
However, the outcome will not end the bitter debate over the Scouts' membership policy.
Liberal Scout leaders - while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth - have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.
In contrast, conservatives with the Scouts - including some churches that sponsor Scout units - wanted to continue excluding gay youths, in some cases threatening to defect if the ban were lifted.

'We are deeply saddened,' said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee after learning of the result. 'Homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout oath and Scout law.'
The Assemblies of God, another conservative denomination, said the policy change 'will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program.'
The problem with a compromise is that neither side is happy.

What We Can Learn From Europe About Immigration (Updated)

Europeans decided some years ago that it would be a good idea to import lots of North African and Asian Muslim immigrants. They didn’t think it made much difference whether these immigrants were compatible with them culturally, or even whether they were interested in assimilating. Nor were they overly concerned about the employment prospects of the immigrants and their descendants, especially in the long term. Every European who voiced reservations about this policy was labeled “far right.” So any potential opposition was easily squelched.

This afternoon, two Muslim terrorists lay in wait for a British soldier in broad daylight in southeast London, armed with knives and a machete.
[The soldier was killed by them.]

The blood-soaked terrorists hung around for quite a while afterward. ... apparently waiting for policemen to arrive on the scene so they could attack them, too. Along the way they yelled “Allahu Akbar”–naturally–and made various threats against Great Britain on behalf of Islam. But they did not attempt to harm anyone else.
When the police arrived, the two terrorists charged them. One of them apparently had a gun, as well as the knives, so the police shot them. ... It seems remarkable that with hundreds if not thousands of ordinary citizens passing by, the terrorists were able to strut around unmolested, boasting of their murder. Here in the U.S., it would likely be different. But in the U.K., private ownership of guns is illegal, which means that only terrorists and other criminals are armed, and normal people are helpless.

Driving home from the airport tonight, I listened to a radio account of the attack which said that radical Islam is suspected as a possible motive. Well, of course, reserve judgment: don’t take their word for it!

What has been going on in Sweden is less spectacular but cut from the same cloth. “Youths” have been rioting in Stockholm and its suburbs for the last two nights. Their excuse is the fact that Stockholm police shot a Muslim who was attacking them with a knife. ....

* * *

At one time, it was believed that the U.S. was better at assimilating immigrants than European countries. It was true, actually, for most of our history. But it isn’t true any longer. Immigrant children who attend public schools are taught multiculturalism, which is shorthand for the evils of America. We no longer make any serious attempt at assimilation; the very concept is foreign. Just imagine any public school teacher talking about “Americanism.” So today we have this equivalence:
[Photos of one of the London attackers next to one of the Boston bombers].
 Update: Read this story speculating as to causes about the riots in Sweden. Reading behind the lines, it is exactly as written above in the Powerline Blog--non-assimulation and lack of employment prospects, even for the second generation.

Book Review of "Men on Strike"

Helen Smith's book called "Men on Strike" discusses the fruits of mysandry and feminism (but I repeat myself). It is reviewed at the Alpha Game website. From the review:

With the publication of Men on Strike, Dr. Helen Smith fires an important shot in the ongoing cultural war for the soul, and indeed, the survival, of Western Civilization. It is a shot she fires in defense of the defenders, in defense of the barricades, in defense of the gates, against the lawless barbarians marching under the banner of the Female Imperative.

If the horror stories and red pill realities she chronicles will not be unfamiliar to those who are regular readers of the androsphere, they are nevertheless particularly effective when presented, largely dispassionately, one after another in succession. Dr. Helen does an competent job of drawing clear links between a legal regime biased towards women and the fearful behavior of men who no longer see sufficient incentive to perform the roles that society has long expected and required of them.

Men on Strike is particularly effective when pointing out the shameless hypocrisy of feminist activism, and how the voices that are quick to appeal to equality when it benefits women are completely silent when it is the male sex that is getting the short side of the stick. And it raises what is arguably the most important question of all: how can a society which actively disincentivizes men to marry, father children, and produce the economic surplus required to support women and children expect to survive, let alone thrive?
 Read the whole thing and check out the comments.

We Have Seen The Enemy, And It Is Us...

... or rather, our government. Yes, I'm talking about the recent scandals, namely the improper political targeting of conservative groups by the IRS and the attempt by the Administration to eviscerate reporting hostile or potentially hostile to the Administration.

It is no mystery why CBS reporter Sheryl Attkisson had her computer hacked by the FBI--she was a key reporter in the investigation of the Fast and Furious program designed to arm Mexican drug cartels. The Administration has made not secret of disliking Fox News, so it is no surprise that the Administration would target Fox News reporters for investigation--what is surprising is that they are trying to argue that an investigative reporter, doing their job of reporting on what our government is doing, is a "co-conspirator" to violate anti-espionage laws. Fortunately, for the public, this targeting of journalists has largely backfired--making the impossible, possible. The major news media is now taking a serious look at, and reporting on, other scandals.

Probably the most serious one is the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS prior to the last election. It is obvious to even the left that it influenced the election. Beyond fiscally conservative groups, the IRS apparently decided to try and influence the "cultural war" by picking on pro-life groups.

What to make of this? I've described how it is breakdown of the rule of law. But it further demonstrates (as if we shouldn't have already known) that the government has ceased to be politically neutral. Just as the "bailouts" and "stimulus" were attempts by the government to supersede the market in selecting "winners and losers" by favoring certain companies and industries over others, these scandals demonstrate a government that has decided to play a hand in selecting the "winners and losers" in socio-political issues. And if you are part of the 50% chosen to be "losers," the government's stance toward you has been made crystal clear.

The only reasonable way to do this is to reign the beast in. Painful as it may be, we need to take the financial incentive out of a group or person having the federal government in their pocket. Government needs to learn that it is the servant, not the master. A few proposals in this direction would be to repeal the 16th Amendment, which allowed the government to collect the income tax. By taking away the government's money, there would be less of an incentive to subvert government. Also, repeal the 17th Amendment, which provided for the direct election of senators. This would help restore the balance of power between the states and the federal government. The Commerce Clause also needs to be narrowly construed or amended to give it a limited application. The federal government was never meant to be the public's sugar daddy or big brother, and the Progressive's modifications and reinterpretations of the Constitution to make it so need to be reversed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Mystery of the Falkland's Island Wolf

IT IS not often that we can pinpoint the exact spot where a species went extinct, but Shallow Bay on the remote north coast of West Falkland is such a place. There, in 1876, a very peculiar animal – the last of its kind – was mercilessly slain. Chances are it was quick. The creatures were known to be unafraid and easy to kill. And so, as Charles Darwin himself had predicted, the Falkland Islands wolf went the way of the dodo.
It hadn't taken long. Half a century earlier, the islands were largely uninhabited and the wolf was abundant. Then people began to arrive – shepherds from Scotland and gauchos from Argentina. They did not take kindly to having a voracious predator in their midst. When fur trappers arrived from America, it was only a matter of time.
In 1914, taxonomist Oldfield Thomas of the Natural History Museum in London dealt the wolf a final, posthumous insult by naming it Dusicyon australis: foolish dog of the south.
And that might have been that, except for the fact that the wolf presented a biological mystery par excellence. The Falklands are 500 kilometres off the coast of Patagonia and the wolf was their only native land mammal. How did it get there? Even Darwin was baffled. ...

* * *
Until a few thousand years ago, South America was home to a much more diverse group of canids than it is today. Among the now-extinct species was a fox-like animal called Dusicyon avus, which died out just 1600 years ago. Perhaps, Cooper thought, this was the missing link between the Falklands wolf and its closest living relative. He went in search of specimens, eventually tracking down six in museums in Argentina and Chile.
"We got DNA and found that it was incredibly closely related to the Falkland Islands wolf," he says. That explains the wolf's origins, Cooper suggests: it split away from Dusicyon avus about 16,000 years ago (Nature Communications,
It was no coincidence, says Cooper, that the wolf diverged from its mainland cousin then. This was when the last ice age was at its peak and sea levels were very low; the South American coastline extended much farther out than it does today.
"There's a series of terraces off the coast of Argentina that mark where the shoreline sat for some time," Cooper says. The one indicating the coastline at the glacial maximum is 150 metres underwater and stretches almost to the Falklands (see map).
When at its narrowest, the strait between the mainland and the islands was roughly 20 kilometres wide and 10 to 30 metres deep, says Cooper – so shallow that it almost certainly froze over from time to time. It seems the wolves' ancestors could simply have walked across the ice.
This could also explain why no other land mammals made it. The ice bridge was a kind of ecological filter that large terrestrial carnivores were able to cross, but excluded omnivores and herbivores. "Twenty kilometres of ice is not a great place to be for a rodent," says Cooper.

Pruitt-Igoe -- A Cautionary Tale

The Daily Mail has an article about the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis, and its failure.

Pruitt-Igoe was devised as part of the massive urban renewal projects of the 1950s and 1960s.
Previously, the working class residents of St. Louis had been living in dangerous squalor with communal bathrooms and unreliable electricity.
The city commissioned what they thought was the solution: a 33-building modern complex designed by the future architect of the World Trade Center Minoru Yamasaki.
Originally envisioned as segregated housing—the name Pruitt came from a Tuskegee airman, while Igoe was a white man—the complex became all-black once segregation was outlawed and the whites began fleeing the inner city.
Pruitt-Igoe opened in 1956 to the wide-eyed awe of residents accustomed to far less from their housing. Green spaces invited their children to play and clean contemporary décor made residents feel, according to a woman quoted in the documentary, like they were in ‘a big hotel resort.’
Marketing footage from the time of the complex’s opening called it a reprieve from the ‘crowded, collapsing tenements’ that many of the new residents had grown up with.
And for the first few years, things were good at Pruitt-Igoe and the community there thrived as 24-hour patrols kept watch and maintenance crews kept everything gleaming.

But by the 1960, things had taken a turn.
Occupancy started to drop as crime rose. Lower occupancy meant less rent going to the city to cover the building’s expenses.

Which, in turn, meant crime went up as fewer patrols were around to keep order.
It also meant nothing got fixed. The once revered project started to decay.
The city responded by raising rents and the tenants who remained weren’t able to afford it.
They striked in 1969, refusing to pay rent until conditions improved and the city eventually gave in.
But a water main would soon break and flood many of the buildings and surrounding area with raw sewage. The whole thing was declared a disaster area.

Buildings were quickly abandoned by tenants and began to fill up with drug users, criminals, and the homeless.
By 1972, three of the buildings would be demolished. Two years later, the rest would go down, too.
When I lived in Japan, there were apartment complexes similar to Pruitt-Igoe--some much larger, in fact. They went by the nickname of rabbit hutches, because they were simply an attempt to cram the largest number of people into the smallest spaces.

The Wikipedia entry for the project notes the following theories about Pruitt-Igoe's decline:

Explanations for the failure of Pruitt–Igoe are complex. It is often presented as an architectural failure;other critics cite social factors including economic decline of St. Louis, white flight into suburbs, lack of tenants who were employed, and politicized local opposition to government housing projects as factors playing a role in the project's decline. Pruitt–Igoe has become a frequently used textbook case in architecture, sociology and politics, "a truism of the environment and behavior literature",.
The Pruitt–Igoe housing project was one of the first demolitions of modernist architecture; postmodern architectural historian Charles Jencks called its destruction "the day Modern architecture died." Because it was designed by a leading architect and won a "building of the year" award (though no professional awards), its failure is often seen as a direct indictment of the society-changing aspirations of the International School. Jencks used Pruitt–Igoe as an example of modernists' intentions running contrary to real-world social development, though others argue that location, population density, cost constraints, and even specific number of floors were imposed by the federal and state authorities and therefore cannot be attributed entirely to architectural factors.
 However, it also notes:

The buildings remained largely vacant for years, although sources on exact depopulation rate differ: according to Newman, occupancy never rose above 60%; according to Ramroth, vacancy rose to one-third capacity by 1965. All authors agree that by the end of the 1960s, Pruitt–Igoe was nearly abandoned and had deteriorated into a decaying, dangerous, crime-infested neighborhood.... In 1971, Pruitt–Igoe housed only six hundred people in seventeen buildings; the other sixteen were boarded up. Meanwhile, adjacent Carr Village, a low-rise area with a similar demographic makeup, remained fully occupied and trouble-free throughout the construction, occupancy and decline of Pruitt–Igoe.

* * *

Today, the site of the former projects is partially used as the site for Gateway Middle School and Gateway Elementary School, combined magnet schools based in science and technology, as well as Pruitt Military Academy, a military-themed magnet middle school. All schools are within the St. Louis Public School district. The rest is planted with trees. The former DeSoto-Carr slums around the Pruitt–Igoe have also been torn down and replaced with low-density, single-family housing.
 The buildings were dehumanizing in a Metropolis sort of way. The question that should be asked is why anyone would want to voluntarily live there.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Woolly Mammoths Killed By Meteor, Rapid Global Cooling

They believe a huge meteor smashing through the Earth's atmosphere broke up into ten million tonnes of fiery fragments, scattering over four continents.

These fragments are thought to have released toxic gas which poisoned the air and blacked out the sun, causing temperatures to plummet, plants to die and landscapes to alter forever.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that this caused the extinction, countering previous theories that the spread of human settlements and aggressive hunting was to blame.

After the impact, some animal species, like humans, adapted by either moving away, downsizing to adapt to the resources around them, or simply changed their way of life to cope.

But other species, including the woolly mammoth which roamed throughout Europe, parts of Asia and North America in vast numbers, did not adapt and were wiped out in a generation.

An Example of Rule By Law Instead Of Rule Of Law

Richard Epstein writes about the real lesson of the IRS scandal: the regulatory power of the government, and explains:
The dismal performance of the IRS is but a symptom of a much larger disease which has taken root in the charters of many of the major administrative agencies in the United States today: the permit power. Private individuals are not allowed to engage in certain activities or to claim certain benefits without the approval of some major government agency. The standards for approval are nebulous at best, which makes it hard for any outside reviewer to overturn the agency’s decision on a particular application.

That power also gives the agency discretion to drag out its review, since few individuals or groups are foolhardy enough to jump the gun and set up shop without obtaining the necessary approvals first. It takes literally a few minutes for a skilled government administrator to demand information that costs millions of dollars to collect and that can tie up a project for years. That delay becomes even longer for projects that need approval from multiple agencies at the federal or state level, or both.

The beauty of all of this (for the government) is that there is no effective legal remedy. Any lawsuit that protests the improper government delay only delays the matter more. Worse still, it also invites that agency (and other agencies with which it has good relations) to slow down the clock on any other applications that the same party brings to the table. Faced with this unappetizing scenario, most sophisticated applicants prefer quiet diplomacy to frontal assault, especially if their solid connections or campaign contributions might expedite the application process. Every eager applicant may also be stymied by astute competitors intent on slowing the approval process down, in order to protect their own financial profits. So more quiet diplomacy leads to further social waste.
This happens on the local level as well, e.g., building permits and variances.

Why Bailouts Are Bad

Todd Zywicki reviews Financing Failure: A Century of Bailouts by Vern McKinley and makes the following observation:
What is a “bailout” and why are bailouts bad? McKinley argues that a “bailout” of an insolvent institution is the corruption of an arguably sound idea, going back to the Nineteenth-century British economist Walter Bagehot, that a central bank may be a useful institution to preserve the soundness of the financial system in a time of panic. But Bagehot’s core distinction was between what today would be called illiquid versus insolvent institutions. It is crucially important that the distinction be preserved—saving an improvident and mismanaged failed institution from its day of reckoning undermines incentives for prudent operation, weakens public confidence in the financial system by propping up failed institutions, provides unfair economic advantages to the disadvantage of responsible banks, risks taxpayer dollars, and typically produces larger losses in the end than would have otherwise been the case (as evidenced most strongly by the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s).

The real concern is to protect the operations of solvent institutions confronting a bank run because of loss of public confidence in the banking system and the uncertainty whether a particular bank is also insolvent. Similarly, the purpose of deposit insurance is to provide confidence that depositors will be made whole in the event of a failure, thereby relieving the ordinary depositor of the risk of leaving their deposits in a particular institution.

The role of a central bank, therefore, is not to provide capital to insolvent banks during a time of crisis, but to provide capital to solvent but illiquid banks. So—to state the glaringly obvious point widely ignored throughout the financial crisis—if Citibank is insolvent, the Federal Reserve should not lend to Citibank to prop it up. Instead, it should lend to banks other than Citibank that are solvent, but which could suffer a confidence-induced bank run if Citibank were to fail. A bailout occurs, therefore, when the Federal Reserve or Treasury provides funds to insolvent institutions, thereby propping them up, with all the negative consequences that entails.
As McKinley demonstrates, this failure to remain focused on the central justification for government intervention in crisis periods has led to increasing numbers and cost of bailouts in each succeeding financial crisis.