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Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Ship With a Shadow

A ghost story for your Halloween at the Telegraph.

Britney Spears Songs Used to Drive Away Pirates

The Daily Mail reports:
Navy ships are using Britney Spears to scare off Somali pirates.

Captains are playing the popstar's hits at full volume to deter 'western culture-hating' pirates and stop them boarding the ships, merchant navy officer Rachel Owens revealed to the Metro.

Classic hits Baby One More Time and Oops! I Did It Again are being used and have proved effective at stopping kidnap attempts from bandits.

Second Officer Owens, who works on supertankers off the east coast of Africa, said: ‘Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most.
 
‘These guys can’t stand Western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect.’
I don't think it is just the fact the pirates hate Western culture. I don't hate Western culture, but these songs would drive me away too.

Obama Care's Racial Preferences

Preferences in favor of minority owned businesses and providers, but also weaker oversight of health standards.

Missing Dark Matter Evidence


[The] [f]irst results from the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector in South Dakota, announced today, failed to confirm previous potential sightings reported by other detectors. That may spell trouble for elegant recent theories of a shadow universe where myriad particles interact via their own dark forces. 
Dark matter is the invisible stuff thought to make up about 80 per cent of the universe's matter, and that gives away its presence only by exerting a gravitational tug on ordinary matter. The most popular dark matter candidates are weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). So far unseen, these would also interact with normal matter via the weak force, so should smack into it every so often in a way that can be detected. 
WIMP detectors are usually placed underground to shield them from background particles. Earlier this year, two such instruments in a Minnesota mine reported hints of WIMPs with a mass of between 1 and 10 gigaelectronvolts. The results back up intriguing models which say dark matter could be akin to normal matter in that it could be made of many kinds of particles, including low-mass WIMPs.

Why Police Shouldn't Have Guns--They Terrorize People


Mark Witaschek, a successful financial adviser with no criminal record, is facing two years in prison for possession of unregistered ammunition after D.C. police raided his house looking for guns. Mr. Witaschek has never had a firearm in the city, but he is being prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The trial starts on Nov. 4.
 
The police banged on the front door of Mr. Witaschek’s Georgetown home at 8:20 p.m. on July 7, 2012, to execute a search warrant for “firearms and ammunition … gun cleaning equipment, holsters, bullet holders and ammunition receipts.”
... After entering the house, the police immediately went upstairs, pointed guns at the heads of Mr. Witaschek and his girlfriend, Bonnie Harris, and demanded they surrender, facedown and be handcuffed. 

In recalling what followed, Mr. Witaschek became visibly emotional in describing how the police treated him, Ms. Harris and the four children in the house.
 
His 16-year-old son was in the shower when the police arrived. "They used a battering ram to bash down the bathroom door and pull him out of the shower, naked," said his father. "The police put all the children together in a room, while we were handcuffed upstairs. I could hear them crying, not knowing what was happening."

... The police shut down the streets for blocks and spent more than two hours going over every inch of his house. “They tossed the place,” said Mr. Witaschek. He provided photos that he took of his home after the raid to document the damage, which he estimated at $10,000. 

The police found no guns in the house, but did write on the warrant that four items were discovered: “One live round of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition,” which was an inoperable shell that misfired during a hunt years earlier. Mr. Witaschek had kept it as a souvenir.
 
“One handgun holster” was found, which is perfectly legal. 
“One expended round of .270 caliber ammunition,” which was a spent brass casing. The police uncovered “one box of Knight bullets for reloading.” These are actually not for reloading, but are used in antique-replica, single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles. 
This was the second police search of his home. ...

Pentagon Training Manual Preaches Identity Politics

Fox News reports:

A controversial 600-plus page manual used by the military to train its Equal Opportunity officers teaches that "healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian" men hold an unfair advantage over other races, and warns in great detail about a so-called "White Male Club."
... The manual, which was obtained by Fox News, also instructs troops to “support the leadership of people of color. Do this consistently, but not uncritically,” the manual states.
The 637-page manual covers a wide range of issues from racism and religious diversity to cultural awareness, extremism and white privilege.

I obtained a copy of the manual from an Equal Opportunity officer who was disturbed by the course content and furious over the DEOMI’s reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center for information on “extremist” groups.

... DEOMI instructors were also responsible for briefings at bases around the country that falsely labeled evangelical Christians, Catholics and a number of high-profile Christian ministries as domestic hate groups.
If you want to see the unfair advantage, you should review the college scholarships and grants available to black males that are not available to white males.

Political Extortion (Updated and bumped)

While the common belief is that corporations influence politicians through campaign contributions, Thomas Sowell explains that politicians also "extort" money from companies:


Many among the intelligentsia prefer to think of special interests as corrupting our dedicated public servants with campaign contributions. But Peter Schweizer's new book, "Extortion," shows what happens as the extorting of tribute by politicians in a position to do a lot of harm to businesses that do not pay them protection money. 
Campaign contributions are just one of the things that can be extorted. The number of spouses, children or other relatives or favorites of Congressional incumbents who get high-paying jobs in private businesses regulated by government can hardly be coincidental. 
When Al Gore was Vice President during the Clinton administration, he simply phoned various special interests and told them how much he wanted them to contribute.
He did not have to spell out the reasons why they should — or why they had better. They already knew from experience how the game is played.
 
If we are serious about countering this and other political games, at the country's expense in both money and confidence in our government, we have to oppose the creation of a permanent class of long-serving politicians in Washington.
 The problem I see is that we have to amend the Constitution to create a term limitation. If we are going to do that, we should also repeal the 16th Amendment.

Update (Oct. 31, 2013): Alejandro Chafuen writes at Forbes on a very similar issue:

The explosive growth in government regulations impose huge costs on productive activities. The arbitrary way in which they are enforced causes more insidious damage. It corrodes the rule of law and creates serious distrust on the merits of winners and losers in the market place. In addition, this “arbitrary” enforcement does not take place randomly. It is not the product of chance. It is the result of political machines that have perfected the art of extortion. 
... The governing principle of, “To my friends everything, to my enemies, the law,” which seems so prevalent in banana republics and totalitarian regimes, describes the selective use of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Complex laws, promoted by Democrats, such as the Dodd-Frank bill, and the Medicare reforms during the Bush administration, also get their fair share of criticism.  Obamacare is providing new examples of how the process works.  CNN has reported how health insurance executives are being told to be quiet or else fear retribution.
 Read the whole thing.

Michelle Obama Dreams of Kids Begging for Fruits and Vegetables

The Washington Examiner quotes Michelle Obama saying: “Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips." Although Ms. Obama is referring to kids changing their eating habits, I'm afraid her wish is coming true in another way, and more literally, as more and more children slip into poverty and the cost of eating healthy rises.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why Cops Shouldn't Have Guns--They Don't Always Secure Their Firearms

The Las Vegas Sun reports on a negligent (reckless?) discharge of a police rifle at an elementary school in Chino, CA, which injured three students. From the article:

Police policy was not followed leading up to a school assembly where a student pulled the trigger of an assault rifle mounted on a police motorcycle and three children were injured by bullet fragments, authorities said. 
Department rules state the rifle chamber should be empty when it is mounted, Police Chief Miles Pruitt said in a statement late Thursday. 
"The preliminary investigation has shown that the established safeguards and procedures were not followed," Pruitt said. "It is unfortunate that this event occurred and I will make every effort to ensure it does not happen again." 
The AR-15 was locked to the side of the motorcycle that was on display at Newman Elementary School on Wednesday during an anti-drug program when a student managed to fire it, Chino police spokeswoman Tamrin Olden said.
The article noted that there was no information on whether the officer was near the motorcycle at the time of the incident.

A few issues here. First, obviously, a round shouldn't have been chambered in the rifle. The officer's primary weapon is his/her handgun--there is no reason his/her secondary weapon should have also been ready to fire. Second, and this may be speculation on my part, but why wasn't the safety engaged? Third, why wasn't the trigger covered by the locking mount? Fourth, why was the officer allowing children to touch his/her (loaded) rifle without supervision?

Global Cooling

The Daily Caller reports on an interview by the BBC with Professor Mike Lockwood from Reading University, who indicated that, at the current rate of decline in solar activity, there is a risk that Northern Europe could become much colder and enter a new “Little Ice Age.”

Lockwood argues that during the late 20th century, the sun was unusually active, with the so-called “grand maximum” of solar activity occurring around 1985. But solar activity has decreased since then. 
“By looking back at certain isotopes in ice cores, [Lockwood] has been able to determine how active the sun has been over thousands of years,” The BBC reports.” Following analysis of the data, Professor Lockwood believes solar activity is now falling more rapidly than at any time in the last 10,000 years.” 
Based on these findings, Lockwood argues that there is an increased risk of a Maunder minimum; and a repeat of a “Dalton solar minimum,” which occurred in the early 1800s, is “more likely than not” to happen again. 
“He believes that we are already beginning to see a change in our climate — witness the colder winters and poor summers of recent years — and that over the next few decades there could be a slide to a new Maunder minimum,” BBC reports, adding that harsh winters and cooler summers would become more frequent.
(Brackets in original).

Why Cops Shouldn't Have Guns--Sacramento Cops Terrorize Citizens

From Info Wars:

After a gang member shot and injured several law enforcement officials before going into hiding in a Sacramento suburb on Friday, police responded by setting up a checkpoint and aiming guns at innocent people’s heads, an AP photo shows. 
The photo, (credited to AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Randall Benton) is captioned, “A California Highway Patrol officer and another emergency responder stop a vehicle at a checkpoint near the neighborhood where a federal immigration officer was shot and three local police officers were wounded during a violent confrontation with a suspect in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013.” 
After an hours-long standoff, the suspect, 32-year-old gang member Samuel Nathan Duran, eventually surrendered after leaving a nearby house in which he had been holed up. 
The felon responsible for the shootings was a wanted parolee and was already known to police having been seen riding a bike earlier in the day. His description would have been well circulated and known intimately by those tasked with hunting him down.
 Underline added.

China Will Become Embroiled in the Middle East

David Goldman writes about a possible "pax sinica" in the Middle East:

English-language media completely ignored a noteworthy statement that led Der Spiegel’s German-language website October 12, a call for China to “take on responsibility as a world power” in the Middle East. Penned by Bernhard Zand, the German news organization’s Beijing correspondent, it is terse and to the point: now that China imports more oil from the Middle East than any other country in the world, it must answer for the region’s security.  
... China’s capacity to exert pressure on the Iranian regime is considerable. Apart from its interest in avoiding nuclear proliferation in the Persian Gulf, China has a number of points of conflict with Iran, well summarized in an October 17 survey by Zachary Keck in The Diplomat. ...  
Iran sits between two Sunni powers -Turkey and Pakistan – that depend to a great extent on Saudi financing, and that also have excellent relations with China. Turkey’s still-disputed agreement to buy a Chinese air defense system represented a revolution in Chinese-Turkish relations, motivated by a Chinese promise to transfer the whole package of relevant technology to Turkey and to help the Turks to manufacture the systems, a more generous offer than ever Ankara got from the West. Turkey is the logical terminus for the “New Silk Road” of road, rail, pipelines and broadband that China has proposed to build in Central Asia. 
China, it might be added, also has excellent relations with Israel, whose premier technical university just was offered a US$130 million grant from Hong Kong magnate Li Ka-shing to fund part of the costs of building a branch in China. Chinese provincial and local governments will contribute another $147 million. The seamless interchange of ideas and personnel between Israel’s military, universities and tech entrepreneurs is a success story in miniature that China hopes to reproduce in scale. As Singapore-based political scientist Michael Raska reports, China’s military modernization envisions the spread of dual-use technologies to private industry. 
Without attributing any geopolitical intention to Beijing, the visible facts make clear that China has the capacity to exercise strategic influence in the Middle East, and it has an unambiguous interest in maintaining stability. What China might choose to do, Washington will learn after the fact, if ever. If China wished to influence Iran, for example, it has considerable means to do so, and a great deal else besides.

McCain Being Underhanded Again

Sen. John McCain (RINO, Az), has suggested that Republican Congressmen will be more open to "immigration reform" following primary elections in the spring.

“I think conventional wisdom is that time is not on our side,” McCain told reporters on Monday after an event in Chicago. “But there are a number of members of Congress who have primaries and when those primaries are done, they may be more inclined to address the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.” 
President Barack Obama has urged Congress to pass immigration reform legislation this year. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is reportedly going to bring legislation to the floor within the next month and other House Republican leaders have indicated support for piecemeal pieces of legislation that can make it to conference with the Senate, where proponents and opponents of immigration reform had said a pathway to citizenship will prevail.  
Though the Congressional Budget Office has determined the Senate's immigration bill would lower the wages of working class Americans, House Republicans are reportedly working on piecemeal pieces of legislation to eventually get to conference with the Senate. McCain also said on Monday that the House should just "pass something" to get to conference with the Senate. House Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are reportedly working on legislation that would grant a pathway to citizenship to all of the country's illegal immigrants.

They Lied to Pass ObamaCare

The conservative websites (and even liberal sites) are all over the Administration and Democrats' lie that under ObamaCare, you could keep you current insurance. However, here are a couple of notable stories:

First, the Washington Post fact-checker gives Obama four (4) Pinocchios  (it's worst rating) for telling people that they could keep their own insurance plans.

As we have noted, a key part of the law is forcing insurers to offer an “essential health benefits” package, providing coverage in 10 categories. The list includes: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care. 
For some plans, this would be a big change. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services noted: “62 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for maternity services; 34 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for substance abuse services; 18 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for mental health services; 9 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for prescription drugs.” 
The law did allow “grandfathered” plans — for people who had obtained their insurance before the law was signed on March 23, 2010 — to escape this requirement and some other aspects of the law. But the regulations written by HHS while implementing the law set some tough guidelines, so that if an insurance company makes changes to a plan’s benefits or how much members pay through premiums, copays or deductibles, then a person’s plan likely loses that status. 
If you dig into the regulations (go to page 34560), you will see that HHS wrote them extremely tight. One provision says that if copayment increases by more than $5, plus medical cost of inflation, then the plan can no longer be grandfathered. (With last year’s inflation rate of 4 percent, that means the copay could not increase by more than $5.20.) Another provision says the coinsurance rate could not be increased at all above the level it was on March 23, 2010. 
While one might applaud an effort to rid the country of inadequate insurance, the net effect is that over time, the plans would no longer meet the many tests for staying grandfathered. Already, the percentage of people who get coverage from their job via a grandfathered plan has dropped from 56 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2013.
In the individual insurance market, few plans were expected to meet the “grandfathered” requirements, which is why many people are now receiving notices that their old plan is terminated and they need to sign up for different coverage. Again, this should be no surprise. As HHS noted in a footnote of a report earlier this year: “We note that, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, we expect grandfathered coverage to diminish, particularly in the individual market.”
 
Indeed, at least six states — Virginia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Wyoming and Kansas — require insurance companies to cancel existing policies, rather than amend them, if the grandfathered coverage lapses. 
Now, it’s important to note that many people — perhaps a large majority — are receiving notices that they have lost their insurance plan because they were never grandfathered in the first place. In other words, they got a plan after the bill was signed into law back in 2010. If that’s the case, they have no option but to accept the more fulsome insurance mandated by the law.
 Also, a list of 13 Democrats running for reelection in 2014 who knew Americans would lose their current health insurance plan, but, nevertheless, continued to lie about it.

(H/t Weasel Zippers for both).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Obama's Military Purge


Is the Obama administration in the midst of a military purge? This year alone, nine senior commanding generals have been fired by the administration, and retired generals and current commanders who have spoken to TheBlaze believe that political ideology is the primary impetus behind the effort. “I think they’re using the opportunity of the shrinkage of the military to get rid of people that don’t agree with them or not toe the party line,” a senior retired general told website. “Remember, as Rahm Emanuel said, never waste a crisis.” The general spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still provides the government with services and believes this administration would retaliate against him. 
... The firing of military leaders goes much further than top generals, however. On its Facebook page, Breitbart.com compiled a list of more than 197 military commanders, mostly at the rank of Colonel or above, who have been purged by the Obama administration since 2009. 
According to military.com, allegations of sexual misconduct account for the firing of 30 percent of military commanders over the past eight years. That figure that increases to 40 percent when “ethical lapses” such as sexual assault and harassment, pornography, drugs and drinking are lumped together. But there are other dubious reasons why these commanders have been terminated, ranging from unspecified dereliction of duty, to improper saluting. 
One of the largest purges occurred on the last day of November in 2011, when the administration terminated 157 Air Force Majors, a move the Chapman University of Military Law and its associated AMVETS Legal Clinic characterized as illegal. They noted that the Department of Defense specifies that absent extenuating circumstances, service members within six years of retirement would ordinarily be retained, and allowed to retire on time and collect benefits. 
The Air force cited budget shortfalls as their primary reason for the terminations. Yet as institute director Maj. Kyndra Rotunda explained, based on the Defense Department’s Instruction 1320.08, “derogatory information” is the only reason officers can be terminated. “The defense department’s own regulation does not authorize what the defense department is doing,” Rotunda contended at the time. “The Airmen relied on the law when they entered service and now the Secretary wants to change that law, without authority.”

After noting similar dismissals of naval commanders, the article goes on:

Theories for these purges run the gamut. One posits that anyone associated with Benghazi had to go. Another states that many of these firings are an effort to clean up “operational failures,” most notably a 2007 incident in which six nuclear-tipped missiles went missing for 36 hours. Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, who has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, believes it is part of the president’s strategy to reduce America’s standing in the world. “[Obama is] intentionally weakening and gutting our military, Pentagon, and reducing us as a superpower, and anyone in the ranks who disagrees or speaks out is being purged,” he contended. 
Vallely’s assessment was echoed by a source at the Pentagon who wished to remain anonymous because the source was not authorized to speak on the subject. He or she contended that “young officers, down through the ranks, have been told not to talk about Obama or the politics of the White House. They are purging everyone and if you want to keep your job—just keep your mouth shut.” 
This theory finds validation when one considers the Obama administration’s larger assault on the military. The military is the last organized bastion of conservative values, due in large part to the nature of the military itself. Yet, in recent years, the push to embrace progressive values, such as openly gay servicemen, women in combat and diversity worship have been pursued with vigor. Even the aforementioned effort to “win the hearts and minds” of Islamists in Iraq and Afghanistan, as opposed to pursuing victory, marks a sea change from traditional military values.
I think Obama is afraid of the military leadership and is consolidating his power.

DNA Study Links Ancient Americans with Europe (Update)

From Science:


Where did the first Americans come from? Most researchers agree that Paleoamericans moved across the Bering Land Bridge from Asia sometime before 15,000 years ago, suggesting roots in East Asia. But just where the source populations arose has long been a mystery. 
Now comes a surprising twist, from the complete nuclear genome of a Siberian boy who died 24,000 years ago—the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date. His DNA shows close ties to those of today's Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia. The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today's Native Americans can be traced to "western Eurasia," with the other two-thirds coming from eastern Asia, according to a talk at a meeting* here by ancient DNA expert Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen. It also implies that traces of European ancestry previously detected in modern Native Americans do not come solely from mixing with European colonists, as most scientists had assumed, but have much deeper roots.
Updated (11/21/2013): For some reason this suddenly popped up again in the news. Here are links to articles at the New York Times, Nature, and New Scientist.

"Goodnight Dune"

For those of you that liked the "Goodnight Moon" storybook as a child, and like the Dune science fiction novels as an adult.

U.S. Navy Launches New Stealth Destroyer

The U.S. Navy launched the USS Zumwalt yesterday.

The USS Zumwalt, the largest stealth destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy, was launched into the waters of the Kennebec River in Maine for the first time on Monday.

... The Zumwalt looks like no other U.S. warship, with an angular profile and clean carbon fiber superstructure that hides antennas and radar masts.
 
... Originally envisioned as a ‘stealth destroyer,’ the Zumwalt has a low-slung appearance and angles that deflect radar. Its wave-piercing hull aims for a smoother ride. 
The 610-foot ship is a behemoth that's longer and bigger than the current class of destroyers.  
It was originally designed for shore bombardment and features a 155mm ‘Advanced Gun System’ that fires rocket-propelled warheads that have a range of nearly 100 miles.
Thanks to computers and automation, it will have only about half the complement of sailors as the current generation of destroyers.

The article states that work will continue on the ship, and that it won't be delivered to the Navy until 2015.

Motorola Teams Up with Phonebloks


Google-owned phone firm Motorola has announced a new project to let users customise their smartphone components. 
Project Ara allows users to buy a basic phone structure and add modules such as keyboard, battery or other sensors. 
Motorola has partnered with Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, who has created Phonebloks, a modular phone idea, on the project. 
... The project will consist of what Motorola is calling an endoskeleton, the frame that will hold all the modules in place. 
"A module can be anything from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter - or something not yet thought of," the firm said.

Turkey Opens Tunnel Under Bosporus

From the Telegraph:

Turkey opens the world's first underwater rail link between two continents today, connecting Asia and Europe and allowing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to realise a project dreamt up by Ottoman sultans more than a century ago. 
The engineering feat spans 8 miles to link Istanbul's European and Asian shores some 60 metres below the Bosphorus Strait. Called the Marmaray, it will carry subway commuters in European's biggest city and eventually serve high-speed and freight trains.

Spy vs. Spy

By now, most everyone is aware of the recent revelations that the NSA had been spying on European leaders, including Angela Merkel of Germany. However, this will probably not receive the same amount of attention from the press:

America’s NSA spy agency has been under fire from around the world for its surveillance activity over the past few months. 
Now the Russians are facing criticism for some allegedly shady operations, too.
It’s claimed that USB drives and phone chargers, given to world leaders at the G20 summit in Russia were 'Trojan horses' capable of sending data back to the Kremlin.
 
David Cameron did not receive one of the USB sticks, Downing Street insisted. 
But No 10 did not rule out the possibility that officials were given one of the pen drives that is said to have contained a Trojan horse programme allowing sensitive documents stored on laptops to be accessed. 
German secret services reportedly discovered that the gadgets, given out to all delegates at the meeting of world leaders in St Petersburg last month, were able to retrieve data for use by the Russians.

Deep Divisions and Persecution

ABC News has a poll out showing deep divisions among Americans. For instance:

While these issues divide a variety of Americans, this poll, produced for ABC and Fusion by Langer Research Associates, finds that the gaps in nearly all cases are largest among partisan and ideological groups – so enormous and so fundamental that they seem to constitute visions of two distinctly different Americas. 
Consider: 
•    Among all adults, 53 percent think women have fewer opportunities than men in the workplace. But that ranges from 68 percent of Democrats to 38 percent of Republicans, a difference of 30 percentage points. Comparing the most unlike groups, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, it’s 76 vs. 35 percent.
•    Forty-one percent overall think nonwhites have fewer opportunities than whites in society. Fifty-six percent of Democrats say so, as do 62 percent of liberal Democrats (more than the number of nonwhites themselves who say so, 51 percent). Among Republicans that dives to 25 percent.
•    Forty-three percent of Americans say it would be a good thing if more women were elected to Congress – but the range here is from six in 10 Democrats and liberals alike to just 26 percent of conservatives and 23 percent of Republicans. Instead two-thirds or more in these latter two groups say it makes no difference to them.
•    Just 23 percent overall say it would be a good thing if more nonwhites were elected to Congress; 73 percent instead say it makes no difference to them. Seeing this as a good thing peaks at 50 percent among liberal Democrats (far more, in this case, than the number of nonwhites themselves who say so, 29 percent). Among conservative Republicans, it’s 5 percent.
•    Thirty-nine percent of adults say they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right; six in 10 don’t. Apparently reflecting views of the Obama administration, trust peaks at 62 percent of Democrats, as many liberals and 69 percent of liberal Democrats. Just a quarter of Republicans and conservatives, and 18 percent of conservative Republicans, feel the same.
•    Support for legal status for undocumented immigrants, 51 percent overall, ranges from 77 percent among liberal Democrats to 32 percent among conservative Republicans. Views on this issue also show sharp differences among other groups – for example, nonwhites vs. whites, 70 vs. 43 percent; and adults younger than 40 vs. their elders, 61 vs. 47 percent.
 You will note, of course, that what the poll is really measuring is a person's belief and acceptance of the basic principles of identity politics. What is not discussed is the vitriol poured out on those that do not buy into identity politics, or other liberal philosophies.

A good example of this is the latest comment from the very liberal Sean Penn, who recently suggested that conservatives/Tea Party supporters in Congress are insane and should, by executive order, be committed (apparently a la the Soviet Union's method of dealing with political dissent). Like all tyrant wannabes, he is content to use government's coercive powers against political opponents.

Which brings me to the latest from Angelo M. Codevilla, an essay entitled "The War on Us." Codevilla begins by describing the increased militarization of the police (he makes one small error, which is assuming that open carry of rifles is legal in California, whereas it was recently outlawed). He goes on to write:

... In fact every US government agency, and most state and local ones now police their ever burgeoning regulations with military equipment, tactics, and above all with the assumption that they are dealing with people who should not be dealt with any other way [i.e., with extreme prejudice]. 
Modern militarized government stems from the Progressive idea that society must mobilize as for war to achieve “the greater good.” Hence we have “wars” on everything from hunger and drugs and ignorance and global warming. Reality follows rhetoric. Since the health of “the environment” is a matter of life and death, the Environmental Protection Agency must deal with “enemies of the planet” with armored cars, machine guns, and home invasions. Apparently, even the Department of Education has SWAT teams. 
... But governments, including ours, do not and cannot oppress citizens equally. 
Persons who possess the greatest power have the larger opportunity to direct blame and distrust, even mayhem, onto those they like least. Since the mid- 1990s, authoritative voices from Democratic President Bill Clinton to Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, echoed by the media have intoned a familiar litany: America is beset by racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious obscurantism, by domestic abuse, greed, and gun owners. These ills are not so different from those found in backward parts of the world where we fight “extremism” in order to fight terrorism. Indeed these ills argue for fighting extremism, indeed for nation-building in America as well as abroad. Who in America embodies extremism? Who is inherently responsible for social ills, including terrorism? Who will have to be re-constructed? No surprise: the ruling class’ political opponents: the conservative side of American life. 
... Today, computer searches find that the term “extremist” correlates in the major newspapers with “conservative” or “right wing” at twelve times the rate it does with “liberal” or “left wing.” 
The focus on “Homeland Security” has only added “terrorism” to our ruling class’ excuses for “going after” conservative Americans. And so, the Department of Homeland Security uses its intelligence “fusion centers” to compile ominously worded dossiers against such groups as “pro-lifers” and such “anti government activists” as “homeschoolers” and “gun owners.” The FBI infiltrates the Tea Parties as it once did the Communist Party. DHS conducts its “practice runs” against mockups of these groups. The IRS audits conservative groups. 
Why not? President Barack Obama called these very groups “enemies of democracy,” and Vice President Joseph Biden has called them “terrorists.” Obama Administration spokesmen have referred to them as “jihadists,” “hostage takers,” persons “with bombs strapped to their chests, etc. Indeed a Rasmussen poll shows that 26% of the Obama Administration’s supporters – possibly not the least influential among them – regard the Tea Parties as the top terrorist threat to America. 
No official act is needed for like-minded persons at the top of society to act in mutually pleasing ways. No law, no official policy, much less conspiracy is needed – only the prejudices and convenience, the intellectual, social, identity of those in power. Why should not officials all across the US government act according to their superiors’ opinions, to what they hear from the best people and what they read in the best media, indeed according to their shared beliefs?

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Next Apple?

The Atlantic discusses the rise of a moderately priced smart phone made by Xiaomi. What I find interesting is the marketing, or lack thereof:

How has Xiaomi done it?  
The simplest explanation is clever pricing: Xiaomi's phones are affordable, but not too cheap. And that's a good thing. “The price is right in the sweet spot—it's cheap enough that it's still affordable to most people in their target demographic, but expensive enough that people know it's not garbage,” says Charlie Custer, a writer who blogs about the Chinese tech industry.  Indeed, in a country where defective, substandard products are common, Xiaomi phones are noted for being well-made. “Feature for feature, you would likely pay 40 to 60 percent more for a similar phone from Samsung, and Xiaomi's quality is consistently acceptable,” says David Wolf, a public relations professional who has written extensively on the industry.  
How has Xiaomi managed to achieve this balance? Though the company is often compared to Apple, its business model actually resembles another Internet phenomenon: Amazon.  Like the retail giant, which deliberately loses money with each sale of its signature Kindle products, Xiaomi makes little to no profit from the physical phone itself. Instead, it makes its money through selling apps and movies through its software, which is based on Google's Android operating system.  
But perhaps the real secret to Xiaomi's success is its marketing strategy; which, oddly, is to avoid any marketing at all. Most Chinese cell phone companies rent space in the country's ubiquitous multi-story shopping centers, but Xiaomi sells its devices online only. In addition to cutting down on costs, this strategy gave the company an edgy, exclusive factor that other cell phone manufacturers lacked. As Custer says, “The gold iPhone 5s is the phone your corrupt official uncle and all his rich friends will buy, while the Xiaomi is the phone your cool hipster cousin has.” In a country where criticizing—and mocking—the rich has become something of a national sport, Xiaomi's “cool and cheap” message has a powerful resonance.


Vampires and Superstition


We now imagine vampires as blood-drinking, cloaked Counts—or possibly sparkly, sexy teenagers—but throughout history everyone from the Ancient Greeks, to the Eastern Europeans, to 19th-century Americans saw them as disease victims (and sometimes simply dead miscreants) who could prey on the living from the Great Beyond. 
To keep these fiends from feasting on their villages, the surviving relatives would try to physically keep them in their graves, sort of like setting up an obstacle course for the deceased. 
... Part of the reason the myth persisted, it seemed, was widespread confusion over what happens to people after they die. The pagan Slavs obviously didn’t know about decomposition, but even centuries later, people might have been misled by the fact that rigor mortis eventually gives way to flexible limbs, making a corpse seem more lifelike than dead-like. Similarly, a digestive tract’s decaying ooze might have looked like fresh blood to an unwitting villager, and burial shrouds sometimes snagged on the corpses’ teeth, making them appear to be partially eaten. (Some believe this is why in Ulysses, when Stephen sees what he believes is an apparition, he cries, “Ghoul! Chewer of Corpses!”) 
Eventually, similar fears migrated to the New World. During tuberculosis epidemics, 19th-century New Englanders began to notice that the relatives of TB victims began to sicken and waste away after their loved one’s death. This was before germ theory took hold, so one popular explanation was that the deceased TB victims were rising from the dead to suck the life out of their loved ones. One Connecticut town, for example, thought the solution was to exhume the remains of the dead relative and arrange the remains in a skull-and-crossbones pattern. 
The Scottish writer Emily Gerard first documented the Eastern European myths that gave rise to the vampire-burial practices in a 1885 article called “Transylvanian Superstitions:"
"These restless spirits, called Strigoi, are not malicious, but their appearance bodes no good, and may be regarded as omens of sickness or misfortune. More decidedly evil, however, is the vampire, or nosferatu, in whom every Roumenian peasant believes as firmly as he does in heaven or hell." 
In 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was based partly on Gerard’s work, as well as the 1931 film adaptation, cemented the pasty, bloody-fanged vampire we know today into pop horror consciousness.
 LiveScience, last year, related the following about vampires and vampire myths:

 The vampires most people are familiar with (such as Dracula) are revenants — human corpses that are said to return from the grave to harm the living; these vampires have Slavic origins only a few hundred years old. But other, older, versions of the vampire were not thought to be human at all but instead supernatural, possibly demonic, entities that did not take human form. 
Matthew Beresford, author of "From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth" notes that "There are clear foundations for the vampire in the ancient world, and it is impossible to prove when the myth first arose. There are suggestions that the vampire was born out of sorcery in ancient Egypt, a demon summoned into this world from some other." There are many variations of vampires from around the world. There are Asian vampires, such as the Chinese jianshi, evil spirits that attack people and drain their life energy; the blood-drinking Wrathful Deities that appear in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead," and many others.

The same article notes:

The belief in vampires stems from superstition and mistaken assumptions about post-mortem decay. The first recorded accounts of vampires follow a consistent pattern: Some unexplained misfortune would befall a person, family, or town — perhaps a drought dried up crops, or an infectious disease struck. Before science could explain weather patterns and germ theory, any bad event for which there was not an obvious cause might be blamed on a vampire. Vampires were one easy answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people. 
Villagers combined their belief that something had cursed them with fear of the dead, and concluded that perhaps the recently deceased might be responsible, having come back from the graves with evil intent. Graves were unearthed, and surprised villagers often mistook ordinary decomposition processes for supernatural phenomenon. For example, though laypeople might assume that a body would decompose immediately, if the coffin is well sealed and buried in winter, putrefaction might be delayed by weeks or months; intestinal decomposition creates bloating which can force blood up into the mouth, making it look like a dead body has recently sucked blood. These processes are well understood by modern doctors and morticians, but in medieval Europe were taken as unmistakable signs that vampires were real and existed among them.

Theodora Goss writes about vampires at Realms of Fantasy, discussing the myths (primarily focusing on Romanian) and the modern literature. Among other things, she relates the following account of vampirism:

 The following account of one such attack was published in Ion Creanga, the Romanian journal of folklore, in 1914: 
Some fifteen years ago, in Amărăşti in the north of Dolj, an old woman, the mother of the peasant Dinu Gheorghiţa, died. After some months, the children of her eldest son began to die, one after the other, and, after that, the children of her youngest son. The sons became anxious, dug her up one night, cut her in two, and buried her again. Still the deaths did not cease. They dug her up a second time, and what did they see? The body whole without a wound. It was a great marvel. They took her and carried her into the forest, and put her under a great tree in a remote part of the forest. There they disemboweled her, took out her heart, from which blood was flowing, cut it in four, put it on hot cinders, and burnt it. They took the ashes and gave them to children to drink with water. They threw the body on the fire, burnt it, and buried the ashes of the body. Then the deaths ceased.
She also discusses some of the "rules" from Romanian myths on how to tell if a corpse has turned to a vampire, and how to "kill" a vampire.

For those interested, Wikipedia has a list of myths or vampire-type creatures from around the world.

Why Cops Shouldn't Have Guns--They Might Kill Their Ex

The Daily Mail reports on a Baltimore police officer that shot his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend dead before committing suicide.

Libertarian Jesus

Libertarian Jesus
(Source)
H/t Instapundit

60 Minutes Does Benghazi

You can find the transcript here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Time for Nullification

Danny de Gracia writes at the Washington Times that perhaps it is time for states to start using the 10th Amendment and work at nullifying federal overreach.

The sincerely intentioned yet ultimately deceived who think purely partisan solutions will fix America should Google “Weimar Republic” and discover this has all been tried before to no success in world history. Partisan remedies only mask the symptoms of a nation’s crisis but allow the real disease – excessive concentration of power among a few – to worsen. 
Immediate relief from Washington’s abusive and unstable governance is best achieved in our local state capitols and city councils through the constitutional remedy of the Tenth Amendment.  America’s founders engineered the Tenth Amendment into the Bill of Rights as a means to nullify and rebuke tyrannical abuses by the federal government against the states. 
The founders studied history and, seeing the curse of Ozymandias on countless dead republics and democracies, recognized that only divided power could hold back the tide of tyranny. By reserving distinct and separate powers for the states and federal government, the founders believed that America could remain free from monolithic oppression. 
The Tenth Amendment has never been repealed, though in practice it has of recent been ignored. It’s time for states to identify the unconstitutional federal laws, regulations and practices which have encumbered populations and depleted local budgets. State legislatures then need to act accordingly to nullify these illegal encroachments rather than waiting for Washington D.C. to change its collective mind on bad policy. 
America’s state and city elected leadership need to remember well their oaths to uphold both the Constitution of the United States of America and their state charters. Look how bad things have turned for the nation in just the last three months alone. America cannot wait until 2014 or 2016 for vain hopes of rebooting the federal government. 
America has already expressed its disgust and mistrust of Washington’s leadership. It’s time for the power of K Street to decline and for Main Street to arise, starting in our capitols and city councils. The rightful remedy is nullification and the right time to act is now.

Fibromyalgia Solved

It is not psychosomatic as many have believed. From the Washington Times:

The National Biotechnology Information Center (NBIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently released the findings of research funded by grants from Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals and Forest Laboratories that claim to have discovered a causative pathology (the science of cause and effect)  for fibromyalgia. 
... Research has identified alterations in our core body temperature is a culprit, as our blood acts as a coolant in much the same fashion water does in the radiator of a car. Our major organs and active muscles require a constant temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit but sufferers cannot maintain a steady temperature. 
If we lose too much heat (hypothermia) or gain too much heat (hyperthermia), our body’s primary thermostat, the hypothalamus, struggles to maintain balance. Our blood is the means by which our body and brain get nutrients, oxygen and takes away waste and blood flow is disrupted. 
When we use our muscles, particularly the hands and feet, blood flows between the skin and muscles and must be kept in balance. We have internal thermostat controls distant from the hypothalamus called aterio-venous shunts or AV shunts that act as valves between arterioles or veins that supply the good stuff and venules which carry away waste. 
Much as the body as a whole, these must be in synch for homeostasis. 
The smallest part of our blood supply system is the capillaries which are tiny vessels that act as temperature regulators (among many other functions) and either conserve or release heat. Capillaries run throughout or bodies and are highly concentrated in our hands and feet.  It has long been known that when malfunctioned from injury or another pathological issue, capillary function is diminished causing problems for diabetics.
Now it has been discovered when the AV shunt is defective in function and interferes with capillary function, muscle and skin tissue cannot get proper nutrition or waste drawn away. Additionally, temperature regulation becomes an issue affecting nerve fibers.
 
One result is a build-up of lactic acid in muscle and deeper tissue affecting the muscular system and causes pain that can seem to ‘travel’ from areas of the body one day to the next and cause fatigue, commonly reported from victims of fibromyalgia. 
The sympathetic nervous system which uses the spinal cord for communication and the sensory fibers or nerve fibers that carry signals to the central nervous system, can have their communication disrupted by the results of AV shunt disorder and hypersensitized nerves send pain signals that can ‘travel’ as well. 


Friday, October 25, 2013

5 Reasons "Clue" is the Ultimate Halloween Movie

At the New York Post. It has always been one of my most liked comedies, and my kids love it too.

Obama Unwittingly Tells the Truth

The DiploMad notes that, when discussing problems with the ObamaCare website the other day, Obama admitted that "[n]obody's madder than me ...."

Heh.

Why Cops Shouldn't Have Guns--They Shoot People and Then Lie About It

The Truth About Guns notes a news item from Dallas, TX, where a cop had shot a schizophrenic man armed with a knife when the man lunged at the officer. Only problem is, a video of the incident shows that the man didn't lunge--he was standing perfectly still, legs straight and arms straight and to his side. To the credit of local law enforcement officials, the officer has been fired and is facing criminal charges.

Why We Pay So Much for Prescriptions

Here is something I've always suspected, but didn't have the statistics to back up. From an article on the why new drugs cost so much:

There are inherent problems with a system where the government is one of the biggest payers, and where doctors, hospitals, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, drug companies, and investors all expect to profit handsomely from treating sick people, no matter how little real value they add to patients’ lives or to society. Drug companies insist that they need to make billions of dollars on their medicines because their failure rate is so high and because they need to convince investors it is wise to sink money into research. That’s true, but it’s also true that the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, buys more than 50 percent of its prescription drugs. And it buys them at prices designed to subsidize the rest of the industrial world, where the same drugs cost much less, although most poor governments can’t afford them at even those lower prices.
(H/t Instapundit)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Another White House Lie

From the Daily Mail:
The White House admitted Thursday that it was the source of a phony quote attributed to a top House Republican, who had allegedly told President Obama during a tense Oct. 10 meeting that 'I cannot even stand to look at you.'

The War Against Large Families


I encountered fertility shaming for the first time years ago when I entered a store with three children in tow and one on the way. A woman stared at me with a sneer on her face and after I checked my blouse for a grape jelly handprint or something else offensive, I realized she was offended at my number of children. She glared at my children and then my belly with a look of revulsion and turned away, shaking her head. 
... Why is this bias problematic? Underneath the ridicule of the minivan lifestyle is a current of intolerance toward large families, and a culture that doesn’t regard big families with approval and affection is a culture in decline. .... 
... For our very survival, the cultural disdain for large families must end. The myth of overpopulation must be fought. Couples with four or more children are happier, more stable, and more devoted to each other than those with smaller numbers of offspring. Large families are good for our culture and good for our future.
I think of it as evolution in action.

Orrin Hatch -- RINO

Harry Reid's long-time buddy, Orrin Hatch speaks out about the Tea Party:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had some strong words for his tea party colleagues on Tuesday, suggesting some members need to be "rehabilitated" after their recent actions during the government shutdown. 
In an interview with the Deseret News and KSL-TV, Hatch was asked about junior Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). He stopped short of endorsing a second term for the tea party freshman, instead saying that Lee has time "to show he's worthy of being re-elected." 
"The tactics were not the right tactics," Hatch said of Lee and fellow Sen. Ted Cruz's effort to defund Obamacare. "It takes experience sometimes to make sure you can use the right tactics."
 "Worthy of being re-elected"? "Worthy" in whose eyes--the establishment Republicans who would rather eat the crumbs off the Democrats table than actually show some principles?

No posts today

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We Sure Seem to Have Had A Lot of Top Generals Resign or Fired Lately (Updated and bumped)

This story is from about a week ago, but concerns the announcement of the Air Force firing one of its top generals--in charge nuclear missile wings--two days after a counterpart with the Navy was also fired.

First it was bad attitudes among young officers in nuclear missile launch centers. Now it's alleged bad behavior by two of the nuclear arsenal's top commanders.
 
Together the missteps spell trouble for a nuclear force doubted by some for its relevance, defended by others as vital to national security and now compelled to explain how the firing of key commanders this week should not shake public confidence. 
The Air Force on Friday fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who was in charge of its nuclear missiles. Two days earlier the Navy sacked Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, the second-in-command at U.S. Strategic Command, which writes the military's nuclear war plans and would transmit launch orders should the nation ever go to nuclear war. 

... On Friday the Air Force removed Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, a 35-year veteran, from his command of 20th Air Force, responsible for all 450 of the service's intercontinental ballistic missiles. Carey, who took his post in June 2012, will be reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation into personal misbehavior, the service said. 
The Air Force would not specify what Carey did to get fired, but two officials with knowledge of the investigation indicated that it was linked to alcohol use. 
On Wednesday the Navy said Giardina was relieved of command amid an investigation of gambling issues. He was demoted from three- to two-star rank and reassigned to a Navy staff job until the Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe is completed.
In February of this year, Front Page Magazine noted:

 During the Bush administration there were only two American commanders of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Under Obama there have so far been five. There has been a new ISAF commander nearly every single year that Obama has been in office. The only exception is 2012 when Obama was too busy trying to win an election to bother further sabotaging a losing war. 
The parade of musical chair generals began when Obama demanded the resignation of General McKiernan. The Washington Post called the firing of a wartime commander a “rare decision.” It was the first time since the days of General Douglas MacArthur that a four-star commanding general had been purged during a war.
 After discussion of the various replacements in Afghanistan, the article continues:


The War in Afghanistan has been lost and so have the careers of most of its commanders. Obama has constantly swapped out generals, and unlike the rotating allied ISAF commanders during the Bush era, many of them were fired because they threatened Obama politically in some way. 
The record is an ugly one, but it is not limited to the war theater in Afghanistan. After the Benghazi disaster, General Carter Ham of AFRICOM was reportedly edged out after telling a Republican Congressman that he had not received any requests for support. His replacement, General Rodriguez, had earlier taken over part of McKiernan’s job after Obama had forced him out. 
More recently General Mattis, the commander of United States Central Command, Petraeus’s old job, was booted out without even a personal phone call for being too hawkish about Iran. The insult was unprecedented and the reason was the same. Like McKiernan and McChrystal, Mattis had offended important people in the Obama administration. And for that he paid the price. 
General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, exemplifies the costs of career survival in the age of Obama. Dempsey echoes everything that the civilians tell him. He never disagrees with them in public and likely not in private. Whatever new gimmick comes out of the White House, whether it’s Green Energy or homosexuality, he’s right there behind it and out in front of it. 
Dempsey has no ideas of his own and he doesn’t need any. He has nothing to bring to the table except a willingness to act as Obama’s pet parrot in a uniform. When McChrystal first met Obama, he recalled thinking that Obama was “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the room full of military brass. That observation helped get McChrystal fired and these days it’s the military brass that feels uncomfortable and intimidated by Obama Inc.
 In November 2012, the New York Times reported:

... a worrisomely large number of senior officers have been investigated and even fired for poor judgment, malfeasance and sexual improprieties or sexual violence — and that is just in the last year.
 
Gen. William Ward of the Army, known as Kip, the first officer to open the new Africa Command, came under scrutiny for allegations of misusing tens of thousands of government dollars for travel and lodging. 
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, is confronting the military equivalent of a grand jury to decide whether he should stand trial for adultery, sexual misconduct and forcible sodomy, stemming from relationships with five women. 
James H. Johnson III, a former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was expelled from the Army, fined and reduced in rank to lieutenant colonel from colonel after being convicted of bigamy and fraud stemming from an improper relationship with an Iraqi woman and business dealings with her family. 
The Air Force is struggling to recover from a scandal at its basic training center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where six male instructors were charged with crimes including rape and adultery after female recruits told of sexual harassment and sexual assault. 
In the Navy, Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette was relieved of command of the Stennis aircraft carrier strike group — remarkably while the task force was deployed in the Middle East. Officials said that the move was ordered after “inappropriate leadership judgment.” No other details were given. 
While there is no evidence that David H. Petraeus had an extramarital affair while serving as one of the nation’s most celebrated generals, his resignation last week as director of the Central Intelligence Agency — a job President Obama said he could take only if he left the Army — was a sobering reminder of the kind of inappropriate behavior that has cast a shadow over the military’s highest ranks. 
Those concerns were only heightened on Tuesday when it was revealed that Gen. John R. Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said was “inappropriate communication” with Jill Kelley, the woman in Tampa, Fla., who was seen as a rival for Mr. Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.
 ... While most of the more notable improprieties have been alleged against officers of the ground forces, the Navy, which has not been the fulcrum of the wars of the last decade, is also showing strain. A study by the Navy Times found more than 20 commanding officers were fired this year for inappropriate behavior and misconduct.
 This article from the AP also examines the issue, but focuses on the numbers. Nearly 40% of senior officers fired since 2005, according to the article, have been for some form of sexual misconduct (although, I would note that statistic includes harassment, which may include a non-sexual bias against the other gender).

Updated Oct. 23, 2013: The Blaze reports on this same phenomena:

Nine senior commanding generals have been fired by the Obama administration this year, leading to speculation by active and retired members of the military that a purge of its commanders is underway. 
Retired generals and current senior commanders that have spoken with TheBlaze say the administration is not only purging the military of commanders they don’t agree with, but is striking fear in the hearts of those still serving. 
The timing comes as the five branches of the U.S. armed forces are reducing staff due to budget cuts, and as U.S. troops are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan next year.
“I think they’re using the opportunity of the shrinkage of the military to get rid of people that don’t agree with them or not tow the party line. Remember, as (former White House chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel said, never waste a crisis,” a senior retired general told TheBlaze on the condition of anonymity because he still provide services to the government and fears possible retribution.
 
“Even as a retired general, it’s still possible for the administration to make life miserable for us. If we’re working with the government or have contracts, they can just rip that out from under us,” he said.

12 Rules for Being a Liberal

Heh. From Townhall a list of 12 unspoken rules that all devote liberals follow:

1) You justify your beliefs about yourself by your status as a liberal, not your deeds.

2) You exempt yourself from your attacks on America.

3) What liberals like should be mandatory and what they don't like should be banned.

4) The past is always inferior to the present.

5) Liberalism is a jealous god and no other God may come before it.

6) Liberals believe in indiscriminateness for thought.

This one was so good that I stole it from my buddy, Evan Sayet: " Indiscriminateness of thought does not lead to indiscriminateness of policy. It leads the modern liberal to invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success. Why? Very simply if nothing is to be recognized as better or worse than anything else then success is de facto unjust. There is no explanation for success if nothing is better than anything else and the greater the success the greater the injustice. Conversely and for the same reason, failure is de facto proof of victimization and the greater the failure, the greater the proof of the victim is, or the greater the victimization."

7) Intentions are much more important than results.

8) The only real sins are helping conservatism or harming liberalism.

9) All solutions must be government-oriented.

10) You must be absolutely close minded.

11) Feelings are more important than logic.

12) Tribal affiliation is more important than individual action.


EU Restarts Membership Talks with Turkey



The European Union agreed Tuesday to restart membership talks with Turkey next month, ending a three-year freeze despite Ankara's crackdown on protests this year. 
EU European and foreign affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg said talks would resume in a fortnight, with an inter-governmental conference to be held in Brussels on November 5. 
Keen to breathe new life into Ankara's long-stalled effort to prise open the EU door, the 28-nation bloc had agreed to the resumption in principle in June, but then postponed the process in protest over Turkey's spring crackdown.
I think that ship sailed a long time ago.

Fecundophobia

Mollie Hemingway writes about the Left's irrational fear of babies:

In August, I visited the Hawthorne Street Fair in Portland, Oregon, and had a blast. A parade of Occupy protesters marched down the street, calling on everyone to vacate their houses and live outside — and to turn their houses into houseplant sanctuaries. I hadn’t been at the street fair more than five minutes before I was asked to sign something in support of Planned Parenthood. Then I saw the NARAL Pro-Choice America booth, encouraging activism in support of abortion rights. A few blocks later I was thankful to see enthusiastic signage in support of adoption. It turned out to be about pet adoption. By the time I got to the tent with a sign that said “Thank you for not breeding,” I’d had enough.
(H/t Instapundit)

An Illegal Implementation of ObamaCare?

Obama acting beyond his legal authority? What a shocker!

The Daily Mail reports:
A federal judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a case that could fatally cripple the Obamacare health insurance law. 
The Affordable Care Act forbids the federal government from enforcing the law in any state that opted out of setting up its own health care exchange, according to a group of small businesses whose lawsuit got a key hearing Monday in federal court. 
The Obama administration, according to their lawsuit, has ignored that language in the law, enforcing all of its provisions even in states where the federal government is operating the insurance marketplaces on the error-plagued Healthcare.gov website. 
Thirty-six states chose not to set up their exchanges, a move that effectively froze Washington, D.C. out of the authority to pay subsidies and other pot-sweeteners to convince citizens in those states to buy medical insurance. 
But the IRS overstepped its authority by paying subsidies in those states anyway, say the businesses and their lawyers.


Snipers at the Keene Pumpkin Fest 2013

Keene, a small town in New Hampshire, apparently is ruled over by a very paranoid police chief. At this year's pumpkin fest, there were four (4) teams of police snipers watching over the festivities. Obviously a police department with too large of a budget.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Machete

John Cline writes about the machete--a bit of its history, mixed together with its symbolism among communist/socialist movements (representing field workers in some areas of the world), and its duality of use as a tool and as a weapon. He throws in some left-wing dogma, but it still makes for an interesting read.

The International Mountain Summit's Best Photos

Some spectacular outdoor photography at Spiegel Online.

Advances in Li-Fi

Last year I noted an article describing research into "Li-Fi"--essentially, a wireless network using lights to transmit data rather than radio signals. Now it appears that Chinese researchers have taken this idea and advanced it a little further toward reality. DVice reports:

 Scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics have discovered that a microchip embedded one-watt LED bulb is capable of emitting Wi-Fi, with enough signal strength to provide internet for four computers. 
The discovery, aptly named "Li-Fi," relies on the use of special LED light bulb that operate with light as the carrier instead of traditional radio frequencies. Data rates as fast as 150 megabits per second were achieved with the new Li-Fi connection, making it faster, cheaper and more energy efficient than traditional Wi-Fi signals. Li-Fi apparently only uses five percent of the energy required to power Wi-Fi-emitting devices, which rely on energy cooling systems to supply Internet to cell towers and Wi-Fi stations. 
Though the discovery has huge potential in the way we use Internet connection, Li-Fi is still in a crude testing stage ... 
 Well, I don't know if "discover" is the correct word, since it builds off earlier research and development by other companies, including Casio. The articles I've seen on this are somewhat misleading because they show standard incandescent bulbs, yet it is very clear that this will only work with LED lights because of the need for rapid pulsing.

More information at Quartz.

Fla. Congress-critter Compares Tea Party to KKK


Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida sent a fundraising pitch equating the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan, which includes an image of a burning cross for the letter "T." 
... "Ask yourself this: Who else in American public life today is as honest and as blunt as this? Congressman Alan Grayson deserves your support, like no one else," reads the end of Grayson's message. "He, and only he, is saying the things that you are thinking, and so much need to be said." 
The National Republican Congressional Committee is highlighting Grayson's fundraising e-mail and Klan comment. Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the House GOP campaign committee, said Grayson is using "hateful words and imagery" that should be condemned by House Democrats.
The problem is that the GOP is obsessed with being liked by liberals. Grayson is probably from a long string of Democrats. The KKK were Democrats. Surely there is someone in Grayson's family (perhaps Grayson himself) that belonged to the KKK. If nothing else, the KKK-Democrat party link needs to be stressed.

Egyptian Tomb Found

Fox News reports on the discovery of a Fifth Dynasty tomb of a royal physician. 

Excavations at Abusir Archaeological Cemetery at Giza have revealed the tomb of Shepseskaf ‘ankh, Head of the Physicians of Upper and Lower Egypt who dates to the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. 
The physician's final resting place is "huge" for its time, vice head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector Ali ALasfar described. The limestone tomb is approximately 69 by 45 feet long and 13 feet high.

And It Continues...

California's legislature will soon be considering a bill that eliminates tax exemptions for youth groups that "discriminate" based on various factors including "gender identity" or "sexual orientation." The bill specifically names 25 organizations, including the Boy Scouts, Young Men's Christian Association and Little League.

Crocodile Tears

BBC News reports:
The head of the UN body tasked with delivering a global climate treaty broke down in tears at a meeting in London as she spoke about the impact of global warming on coming generations. 
Christiana Figueres told the BBC that the lack of an agreement was "condemning future generations before they are even born". 
Ms Figueres said this was "completely unfair and immoral".
Oh the horror! People that have spent millions on exclusive beach front property may find that property under water eventually.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The War On the Middle Class



If interest ever returned to 1997 levels, at say 6.6%, we’d be paying over a trillion dollars a year in debt service. In crude terms, the winners of this Ponzi scheme are the very wealthy connected to Wall Street, which is flooded with foreign and domestic capital. It need not do much of anything more than outperform a pathetic 1% return on savings accounts. 
The poor benefit from the vast increase in federal spending and exemption from federal income taxes. In contrast, the middle class still pays high interest on its student loans, credit card, and, to a lesser extent, car debt, receives almost no interest on its meager savings accounts, and is not so ready, after 2008, to dabble in real estate and the stock market. 
In some sense, holders of U.S. Treasury debt and passbook savers are giving up hundreds of billions of dollars in interest returns (cf. the difference, say, between 1% and a more normal 5%) to subsidize the redistributive policies of the federal government. 
The lack of interest, or de facto negative interest, keeps the near-retired working and hampers job prospects of the young; discourages thrift, savings and investment; and plays an underappreciated role in the slow economic recovery. The Democrats must deal with the contradiction of needing zero interest rates to service their recent extra $6 trillion in debt, and higher interest to encourage savings, investment, and job growth. 
... over 300 million people are going to find their health care analogous to a DMV visit. The logic of Obamacare was always redistributionist; those who had health care were obligated to give up some of it so that others might share the same benefits, regardless of the circumstances, fair or unfair, under which such differences first arose. Washington has decided that, with more money and employees, it can decide who has too fine a health care policy and who too little insurance, and then make the necessary redistributive adjustments. 
... [Immigration reform] is not about giving the Korean engineer a chance to become a legal skilled employee, or allowing the Romanian doctor to practice without fear of deportation. 
It is not about giving the Mexican national, who is a National Merit Scholar, a chance to attend MIT without worry of deportation. At least not entirely. 
Instead the bill is politically and ethnically chauvinistic. ... it favors Latin American nationals over others entirely on the basis that they have already broken federal immigration laws, are residing here illegally, and share the same ethnic background as their leaders in the Democratic Party. 
It hurts the lower classes, many of them minorities, who compete with cheap labor of foreign nationals. It burdens state budgets that must allot hundreds of billions in entitlement costs to allow rough parity to the vast majority who arrive from Mexico and Latin American illegally, without a high school diploma and without English. 
It will ensure Democratic majorities in the American Southwest for a generation and turn Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and perhaps Texas into something akin to the politics of California. The bill is ethnocentric, championed by corporate elites and ethnic chauvinists, and central to Democratic Party strategy.

Over Reporting Seizures, Or Under Reporting Production

NarcoLeaks is an organization that has decided to dig into the statistics release by governments measuring the "success" of the drug war--which is generally limited to quantifying the amount of product captured and estimates of the impact on production. NarcoLeaks questions both of these.

From an article at the Borderland Beat, we learn that in 2011, the total of high quality cocaine seized that was 774 metric tons. Additional tonnage was lost due to raids on production facilities, smuggling vessels sunk, etc. However, that same year, world wide production of cocaine was supposedly only 700 metric tons. This begs the question of how more cocaine be seized than had been produced? The obvious answer is that the amounts seized are over inflated or the amount produced is underreported, or both.

My guess is that both is occurring because law enforcement is under pressure to show success on drug enforcement, it must show large numbers of seizures, but also that it is having an impact on production. It would be unacceptable if law enforcement had failed on both counts.

More Fallout from the NSA Spying...


The National Security Agency (NSA) has a division for particularly difficult missions. Called "Tailored Access Operations" (TAO), this department devises special methods for special targets. 
That category includes surveillance of neighboring Mexico, and in May 2010, the division reported its mission accomplished. A report classified as "top secret" said: "TAO successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon's public email account." 
According to the NSA, this email domain was also used by cabinet members, and contained "diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico's political system and internal stability." The president's office, the NSA reported, was now "a lucrative source." 
This operation, dubbed "Flatliquid," is described in a document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, which SPIEGEL has now had the opportunity to analyze. The case is likely to cause further strain on relations between Mexico and the United States, which have been tense since Brazilian television network TV Globo revealed in September that the NSA monitored then-presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and others around him in the summer of 2012. Peña Nieto, now Mexico's president, summoned the US ambassador in the wake of that news, but confined his reaction to demanding an investigation into the matter. 
Now, though, the revelation that the NSA has systematically infiltrated an entire computer network is likely to trigger deeper controversy, especially since the NSA's snooping took place during the term of Peña Nieto's predecessor Felipe Calderón, a leader who worked more closely with Washington than any other Mexican president before him.
Ars Technica reports on anger in France over an NSA spying program:

 "Amongst the thousands of documents extracted from the NSA by its ex-employee there is a graph which describes the extent of telephone monitoring and tapping (DNR—Dial Number Recognition) carried out in France," wrote Follorou and Greenwald. "It can be seen that over a period of thirty days—from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, 70.3 million recordings of French citizens' telephone data were made by the NSA. This agency has several methods of data collection." 
The paper added that when a targeted number is used in France, "it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS messages and their content using keywords. Finally, the NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target—or the metadata."
In response, the French government has summoned the American ambassador and has demanded answers from Washington.
 
"We work in a meaningful way in the field of the fight against terrorism, but it does not justify everything," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris, adding that it will require "a very quick clarification," from the US Secretary of State John Kerry, whom he is scheduled to meet (Google Translate) in Paris on Tuesday.
As Ars has reported before, the French prosecutor’s office has already opened an investigation into possible violations of French law sustained during the NSA’s data collection of French citizens. France itself is also conducting some degree of NSA-style metadata gathering with the DGSE, its own foreign intelligence and signals intelligence agency.
 
As a former intelligence agency head also told Le Monde earlier this summer, "We've been operating in a zone of virtual authorization for years, and each agency is quite content with this freedom, which is possible thanks to the legal vagueness surrounding metadata."
 Just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should; and the end does not always justify the means.

The Real Failure of the Republicans...

... and yes, it falls at the feet of the RINOs. From Jed Babbin at the American Spectator:

The context of the current round of crises — and the temporary solution to them — is that President Obama has never yet been compelled to compromise. Not on Obamacare, not on tax rates, not on individual budgetary items or overall spending. Heaven forbid that any government spending be limited. On none of those things will Obama bargain. He simply won’t negotiate any compromise, so Republicans have spent the past two years trying to find a way to force him to negotiate with them. 
And they have failed. Problem One with the Republican establishment’s narrative is that they — the leaders of the House and Senate Republicans and their allies — haven’t come up with any strategies that have succeeded in forcing Obama to bargain a compromise. If they had a better idea than Ted Cruz’s filibuster, we’ve yet to hear it. 
We’ve seen this movie again and again. In the so-called “supercommittee” exercise of 2011, the Republicans were negotiating with themselves, not with Obama or even his congressional cohort. There was no negotiation or compromise in the 2012 “fiscal cliff” crisis or the twin debt ceiling and government shutdown crises this month. And there was no Establishment Republican strategy to even oppose Obama, far less to compel him to compromise. 
After those sad experiences, it’s absolutely clear that the Republican establishment leadership — House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Boehner’s “leadership team” and senators like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the others opposed to Ted Cruz’s filibuster — have proven themselves incapable of devising any strategy that will rein in government spending or put a dent in Obamacare. 
The Republican Establishment has nothing to offer other than their demand that conservatives keep silent. ...
... The Republican establishment isn’t only similar to the media and the Dems because they’re totally uncomfortable with conservatives. The other disabling factor is that the Republican establishment isn’t uncomfortable with big government. ... The only difference between the Republican establishment and the hyper-liberal Obama establishment is a minor disagreement on the size of big government.