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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Was Walter Sickert Jack the Ripper?

Patricia Cornwell first theorized that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper in her 2002 book, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed, which I've read and found as convincing (or more convincing) than other Jack the Ripper theories. Although the article doesn't go into detail, the Daily Mail reports that Cornwell has uncovered additional evidence which suggests that Sickert was the killer and linking him to the Royal Family. Unfortunately, we will have to wait for Cornwell to publish her findings next year.

Cornwell's theory is based on Sickert's later interest in, and paintings of, the Ripper murders. Also, she tracked down some details concerning Sickert's travels and personal habits that seemed to coincide with the Ripper killings, as well as similar killings elsewhere. A summary of her ideas are here.

In 2001, the Guardian ran an article critical of Cornwell's theory. And this Wikipedia article on Cornwell's book briefly lists some other arguments.



Are Humans a Result of Pig-Chimpanzee Hybrids?


The human species began as the hybrid offspring of a male pig and a female chimpanzee, a leading geneticist has suggested. 

The startling claim has been made by Eugene McCarthy, of the University of Georgia, who is also one of the worlds leading authorities on hybridisation in animals.
 
He points out that while humans have many features in common with chimps, we also have a large number of distinguishing characteristics not found in any other primates.
... Scientists currently suppose that chimpanzees are humans' closest living evolutionary relatives, a theory amply backed by genetic evidence.

However, as Dr McCarthy points out, despite this genetic similarity, there are a massive number of divergent anatomical characteristics distinguishing the two species.
These distinguishing characteristics, including hairless skin, a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, light-coloured eyes, protruding noses and heavy eyelashes, to name but a few, are unmistakeably porcine, he suggests.
Some of these characteristics (as well as some others) are those that support a theory that humans passed through a marine mammal stage. Anyway, Dr. McCarthy also notes:
There are also a number of less obvious but equally inexplicable similarities between humans and pigs in the structure of the skin and organs.
Indeed, pig skin tissues and heart valves can be used in medicine because of their similarity and compatibility with the human body.


Dr McCarthy says that the original pig-chimp hook up was probably followed by several generations of 'backcrossing', where the offspring of that pairing lived among chimps and mated with them - becoming more like chimps and less like pigs with every new generation.
This also helps to explain the problem of relative infertility in hybrids. Dr McCarthy points out that the belief that all hybrids are sterile is in fact false, and in many cases hybrid animals are able to breed with mates of the same species of either parent.
After several generations the hybrid strain would have become fertile enough to breed amongst themselves, Dr McCarthy says.
 Dr. McCarthy presents his hypothesis in a self-published paper.

If I were Dr. McCarthy, I would avoid travelling to any Muslim countries for a while. I doubt the followers of the Religion of Peace will take his theories very peacefully.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rejecting "I have a dream"

I've seen some a couple posts concerning Wayne Bennett, who is a Pennsylvania judge, commenting about the book, "White Girls Bleed A Lot" by Colin Flaherty.

Wayne Bennett writes at his blog:
Here is the deal, no matter how violent some young black punks act and wild out towards groups of white people--or a single white individual, it will never make up for all the violence that was practiced against people of color throughout this nation's history. So spare me the isolated (and high profile) incidents of horror.
Unfortunately, this is not an aberration. In reviewing Bennett's blog, this seems to be an accurate representation of Bennett's attitude. But let's be clear what Bennett espouses--revenge. Not justice. It doesn't matter to him whether or not white victims may have been responsible for "the violence that was practiced against people of color throughout this nation's history." Certainly the victims Flaherty documents did not enslave anyone, or lynch anyone in the post-Civil War South, or engage in any of the other "violence" to which Bennett refers. He rationale brands him as bigot, plain and simple.

Moreover, the "knock-out game" attacks are not high profile because they are isolated. Rather, it because they are so obviously racially motivated that it is impossible to ignore them. Because the media does its best to ignore the violence. Flaherty wrote earlier this month:

A black mob in New York beat a young white couple earlier this month. The event was horrific, but not unusual.

Black mob violence is an increasingly common occurrence in many American cities, though you would never know of this trend from mass media. When confronted with astounding levels of such violence, the same reporters who dutifully produce stories about black caucuses, black churches, black colleges, and other race-based institutions suddenly become color-blind.

The following incidents all occurred during the last several days — did you read about any of them?

– In New Haven, Connecticut, 500 blacks attending a party billed as “An All Black Affair” fought and destroyed property in and around a downtown restaurant. The chaos then spread to two other nearby venues. Shockingly, no one was arrested – New Haven police claimed their resources were tied up with crowd control.

– At Virginia State University, 200 black students rampaged through the campus, assaulting people and destroying property. One person was stabbed. Only one was arrested.

– A small group of blacks beat and robbed riders on a New Jersey commuter train, sending four people to the hospital.

– In racially fueled violence, blacks at the University of Minnesota robbed and assaulted four separate groups of white students over a weekend.

Despite the very recent and short time frame, the above list is far from a complete accounting. The New York Daily News did cover the recent beating of a white couple, but dismissed the idea that the attack was race-fueled – despite witnesses reporting the attackers’ spewing racial epithets. The paper chose to quote a witness who described them as “just some teenagers.”
 Bennett appears to be a liberal. But it is liberal policies that have been so poisonous to blacks, and so destructive to black communities and culture.

Corruption at Work

Corruption arises where respect for the rule of law falters. So I begin with Charles Krauthammer's scathing review of President Obama's attempts to suspend the law:

Barack Obama may be remembered for something similar. His violation of the proper limits of executive power has become breathtaking. It’s not just making recess appointments when the Senate is in session. It’s not just unilaterally imposing a law Congress had refused to pass — the Dream Act — by brazenly suspending large sections of the immigration laws.

We’ve now reached a point where a flailing president, desperate to deflect the opprobrium heaped upon him for the false promise that you could keep your health plan if you wanted to, calls a hasty news conference urging both insurers and the states to reinstate millions of such plans.

Except that he is asking them to break the law. His own law. Under Obamacare, no insurer may issue a policy after 2013 that does not meet the law’s minimum coverage requirements. These plans were canceled because they do not.

The law remains unchanged. The regulations governing that law remain unchanged. Nothing is changed except for a president proposing to unilaterally change his own law from the White House press room.

That’s banana republic stuff, except that there the dictator proclaims from the presidential balcony.
Whether or not Obama, himself, ordered or knew of the activities of his subordinates, it is clear that his subordinates have been busy being a law unto themselves as well.

The IRS targeting of conservatives before the 2012 election, of course, is one of the most corrosive things to happen to our political system. No representative and free government can exist without open and robust political speech. No matter how the media tries to ignore this (and that they do is evidence, itself, of partisanship in the media), there is 50% of the country that is aware of it. Worse, the lackadaisical coverage means that such political use of the IRS continues to fester. (There is the deeper issue that this type of behavior is only possible because of the too great discretion enjoyed by bureaucrats, but that is a topic for another day). Or, at the least, it casts doubt on any action taken by the government. For instance, Bill Eliot, a cancer patient that had come out publicly with the story of how he lost his health insurance because of ObamaCare is suddenly the subject of an IRS audit.  Is Eliot's audit an attempt to silence the most effective critics of ObamaCare? I don't know. But given the IRS's recent history, dare I think otherwise?

Then there is the newest election scandal: that census officials lied about employment figures in order to give a false narrative on how well the economy was doing in the lead-up to the 2012 elections. Peter Ferrara writes at Forbes:
Just one month before the 2012 election, the Obama campaign received a major illegal campaign contribution from the Commerce Department. The Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on October 5, 2012 that the nation’s unemployment rate suddenly dropped sharply over the prior month, from 8.1% to 7.8%. That supposedly ended the longest period in the nation’s history with unemployment over 8%, except for the Great Depression, which occurred under President Obama.

Just before the election. How convenient.

... The statistical decline in the unemployment rate for September, 2012, came out of a supposed highly implausible 873,000 new jobs for that month reported in the separate, Household Survey, which is conducted for the BLS by the Census Bureau. That is highly inconsistent with the results of that Survey for both before and after September, 2012. That same Household Survey reported a decline of 119,000 jobs in August, 2012, and a decline of 195,000 jobs in July, 2012, when the Obama Administration told us the Household Survey should be ignored because it was highly unreliable.

Moreover, if the Household Survey found 873,000 new jobs created in September, 2012, that should have been followed by similar increases for quite some time. The economy shows no record of suddenly creating nearly one million new jobs for a month, and then going back to the doldrums thereafter. But that is exactly what the Obama economy has done, once Obama squeaked through to reelection.
 The media is currently attempting to spin this away as another act of a few rogue employees who made up Survey reports to boost their income (they get paid for each survey they conduct). However, as Ferrara notes, it is an incredible coincidence that this only happened during a key month that boosted Obama's election prospects. So, now, like a banana-republic, we cannot trust government statistics.

(H/t Instapundit)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spengler -- Iran, the Nuclear Deal, and Obama

David P. Goldman has a new essay discussing the tentative deal reached with Iran on nuclear weapons, and explaining the reason behind Iran's fear. As Goldman has written before, Iran faces a demographic disaster unfolding much faster than in the West, which will likely cause the collapse of the country within a single generation. He notes: "Iran must break out and establish a Shiite zone of power, or it will break down."

Facing this existential threat, Iran is much more dangerous than Germany before WWII simply because Iran has nothing to lose in the long run by going to war now. Goldman, rather, believes that war is inevitable at this point. Read the whole thing.

Goldman moves on to explore why Obama is so nonplussed by Iran. He writes:
What explains, though, the Obama administration’s obsession with a compromise at any cost with the Tehran regime? I have not changed my view of what an Asian leader privately called “America’s NGO president” since I profiled Barack Obama in February 2008:

"America is not the embodiment of hope, but the abandonment of one kind of hope in return for another. America is the spirit of creative destruction, selecting immigrants willing to turn their back on the tragedy of their own failing culture in return for a new start. Its creative success is so enormous that its global influence hastens the decline of other cultures. For those on the destruction side of the trade, America is a monster. Between half and nine-tenths of the world’s 6,700 spoken languages will become extinct in the next century, and the anguish of dying peoples rises up in a global cry of despair. Some of those who listen to this cry become anthropologists, the curators of soon-to-be extinct cultures; anthropologists who really identify with their subjects marry them. Obama’s mother, the University of Hawaii anthropologist Ann Dunham, did so twice."


Obama’s most revealing disclosure, perhaps, came in his autobiobraphy Dreams from My Father as he recounts his thoughts while visiting Chicago’s public housing as a young community organizer:

"And yet for all that poverty [in the Indonesian marketplace], there remained in their lives a discernible order, a tapestry of trading routes and middlemen, bribes to pay and customs to observe, the habits of a generation played out every day beneath the bargaining and the noise and the swirling dust. It was the absence of such coherence that made a place like [the Chicago housing projects] so desperate."


He deeply identifies with the fragile, unraveling cultures of the Third World against the depredations of the globalizing Metropole. So, I suspect, does his mentor and chief advisor, the Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett, and most of his inner circle. ...  For Obama, it is a matter of personal experience. His father and stepfather were Third World Muslims, his mother was an anthropologist who dedicated her life to protecting the traditional culture of Indonesia against the scourge of globalization, and four years of his childhood were spent at an Indonesian school. The same point has been made by Dinesh d’Souza, among others.

Obama’s commitment to rapprochement with Iran arises from deep personal identification with the supposed victims of imperialism. That is incongruous, to be sure. Persia spent most of its history as one of the nastier imperial powers, and its present rulers are no less ambitious in their pursuit of a pocket empire in the Shi’ite world. The roots of his policy transcend rationality. Israel can present all the evidence in the world of Iran’s plans to build nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and the Iranians can cut the Geneva accord into confetti. Obama will remain unmoved. His heart, like his late mother’s, beats for the putatively oppressed peoples of the so-called Third World.


No factor of this sort was present in 1938: Neville Chamberlain did not sympathize with Hitler. He simply feared him and needed time to rearm, as the Wall Street Journal’s Mr. Stephens observes. If Lord Halifax rather than Chamberlain had been prime minister then, the parallel to Obama would be stronger.

Life Created the Continents ...


On live-Earth, algae, bacteria and more complex life colonise the new land, erode it and dump masses of sediment into the ocean. The sediment – 40 per cent water by weight – is eventually pulled down more than 100 kilometres beneath the surface by early subducting tectonic plates, where piping hot temperatures release the trapped water. The hydrated mantle is viscous and more buoyant, so it rises and bursts through the surface in volcanic eruptions that add to the continental plate. "This is the major factor for how life enhances the continental formation rate," says Höning. 
In the model, live-Earth settles into an equilibrium where plate tectonics create as much continental crust as it destroys. About 40 per cent of the surface is covered in continent, much like today. 
The big surprise came from dead-Earth. There, the mantle is drier, so continental crust is produced much more slowly. The planet becomes a stable water-world, with very little continental land.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sometimes There is No Rationale

Fox News reports on the Sandy Hook investigation report:
An investigation into the Newtown school shooting did not determine a motive for the attack that killed 20 children and six women, a prosecutor says, but did reveal that the shooter had an obsession with the 1999 Columbine High shootings and other such mass killings.

State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, who led the investigation, said there is no clear indication why 20-year-old Adam Lanza chose Sandy Hook Elementary School as the target for his rampage other than the fact that it was close to his home. The summary report by Sedensky comes nearly a year after the massacre.

He said Lanza had significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and interact with others but did not affect his mental state for the crimes.
The need to find some rationale, some cause and effect linkage, to allocate fault or blame, is deeply ingrained in the Western psyche. But sometimes there is no rhyme or reason.

One thing that is clear from the report, however, is that when seconds counted, the police were only minutes away.

Internet Mystery -- Cicada 3301 (Update)

The Telegraph has an article on an interesting internet mystery--who is behind the Cidada 3301 puzzles and what is the purpose.
One evening in January last year, Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden, was trawling the web, looking for distraction, when he came across a message on an internet forum. The message was in stark white type, against a black background. 
“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.” 
The message was signed: "3301”. 
A self-confessed IT security "freak” and a skilled cryptographer, Eriksson’s interest was immediately piqued. This was – he knew – an example of digital steganography: the concealment of secret information within a digital file. Most often seen in conjunction with image files, a recipient who can work out the code – for example, to alter the colour of every 100th pixel – can retrieve an entirely different image from the randomised background "noise”. 
... Eriksson thought he’d try his luck decoding the message from "3301”. ...
... Eriksson didn’t realise it then, but he was embarking on one of the internet’s most enduring puzzles; a scavenger hunt that has led thousands of competitors across the web, down telephone lines, out to several physical locations around the globe, and into unchartered areas of the "darknet”. So far, the hunt has required a knowledge of number theory, philosophy and classical music. An interest in both cyberpunk literature and the Victorian occult has also come in handy as has an understanding of Mayan numerology. 
It has also featured a poem, a tuneless guitar ditty, a femme fatale called "Wind” who may, or may not, exist in real life, and a clue on a lamp post in Hawaii. Only one thing is certain: as it stands, no one is entirely sure what the challenge – known as Cicada 3301 – is all about or who is behind it. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either a mysterious secret society, a statement by a new political think tank, or an arcane recruitment drive by some quasi-military body. Which means, of course, everyone thinks it’s the CIA.
Read the whole thing.

Of course the mundane explanation (and which, at this point, is demanded by Occam's razor) is that some organization--likely an intelligence organizations, but perhaps a criminal syndicate--is attempting to recruit cryptographers. But perhaps there is something more to it....

(Update 1/3/2014): CBS News has a story on the Cicada 3301 mystery.

Hacking Smart TV's

An article from the Daily Mail warns about how easy it is to hack into "smart televisions" to steal consumer data, transactions (such as pay-on-demand), or even hack into cameras on televisions. Some of the monitoring had been by the manufacturers. One brand identified in particular was LG, a South Korean brand, which apparently was siphoning data from its televisions. From the article:
There, the electronics company appeared to be using its customers’ data to make money. A promotional video shown to commercial clients suggested that data was being used to provide ‘the ad experience you have always dreamed of’. 
The information Huntley’s TV had sent — without his knowledge — included the contents of his private digital video collection, which he’d watched on the television. This included camcorder footage of family celebrations containing images of his wife and two young children. 
Most worrying of all, the device continued sending such information to Korea even after Huntley had adjusted the television’s default settings to ‘opt out’ of data sharing.
Apparently the data was used by LC for purposes of "targeted advertising." The article goes on to note the greater danger of criminal hackers obtaining financial information:

Gangs based largely in Eastern Europe and Russia, meanwhile, are already using so-called ‘data-mining’ programmes to trawl the internet looking for smart TVs in which owners have entered their credit card details. A single search can yield thousands of results. 
According to Roger Grimes, who has written eight books on IT security and worked in the field for 28 years, the gangs then sell lists of hacked credit card numbers to fellow criminals. 
Card details that were obtained within the past 24 hours sell for around £2.20 each. Older ones are cheaper because there is more chance the cards could have been changed or stopped.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon Actually Built in Nineveh?

Although well known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have never been definitively located. Dr Stephanie Dalley from Oxford University now suggests a solution--that archaeologists have been looking in the wrong place. Dr. Dalley believes that the Gardens were actually built in Nineveh by Sennacherib who was leader of the Assyrian empire. He bases his conclusion on the lack of references in Babylonian sources, but writings from Sennacherib which included "references to a palace built near the Assyrian capital of Nineveh as well as a garden he called ‘wonder for all people.’ Sennacherib’s grandson Assurbanipal was also said to have drawn an image of the garden on a panel in this palace."


Monday, November 25, 2013

Remembering the Real JFK

The DiploMad reminds us of the real John F. Kennedy:

I remain intrigued and puzzled by the generally high regard Americans continue to have for JFK (here, for example.) He, after all, was an incompetent. Even his war record was marked by incompetence and dereliction of duty. His affair with a known German spy in Washington DC, and his inept handling of his PT boat, which resulted in it getting rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer, should have meant a court martial. His father's political connections, however, and JFK's, admittedly, brave leadership of his shipwrecked crew, avoided that fate and got him a medal for "Life Saving," not, however, one for valor as his father wanted--the Navy would not go that far. He had an undistinguished career in Congress and, eventually, became a Chauncey Gardiner President.


He made a hash of the anti-Castro policy inherited from Eisenhower; got outplayed by Khrushchev at his first summit meeting; nearly got us into WWIII, for real, with his bungling of the October Missile Crisis which ensured Castro's survival, again; made a mess of our Vietnam policy, arrogantly having the leader of South Vietnam assassinated; and began a reform of our immigration laws which resulted in the disastrous 1965 Immigration Act that turned our focus from Europe to the Third World. He was regularly consorting with all sorts of questionable women which left him open to blackmail; used powerful pain-killing drugs; and kept the parlous state of his health a secret.


JFK, however, was the first modern "liberal" president. He was the father of the "liberalism" that now runs and ruins our country. His administration saw the melding of Hollywood and Washington, from the dishonest hack hagiographic PT 109 movie to the mixing it up with Sinatra, Lawford, and, of course, Monroe. It was the new liberal royalty. They had the pretty wives dressed by French designers. They had gone to the fancy schools, and earned the fancy degrees. They were true sophisticates who knew the world, and had a vision of a better one and a plan to lead us there. They looked so good, so smart, so educated, so photogenic, so, so . . . well, so unlike the stodgy, grey, and serious Eisenhower, Nixon, Dulles, etc. The journalists ate it up, protecting him and covering for his lies and deceptions. They, too, wanted to play with and be like the cool kids.

Liberal Hypocrisy

Weaselzippers had linked to a story earlier from Ivan Fernando at the Diversity Chronicles reporting on a professor who called for the extermination of whites. Frankly, when I first read the Diversity Chronicles' article and peeked around their web site, I was not sure but that it was a parody site like the Onion. However, Weaselzippers had links to other racist rants by the professor, Noel Ignatiev, so the article (or at least Prof. Ignatiev's) statements may be genuine. Anyway, from the article/story:
“If you are a white male, you don’t deserve to live. You are a cancer, you’re a disease, white males have never contributed anything positive to the world! They only murder, exploit and oppress non-whites! At least a white woman can have sex with a black man and make a brown baby but what can a white male do? He’s good for nothing. Slavery, genocides against aboriginal peoples and massive land confiscation, the inquisition, the holocaust, white males are all to blame! You maintain your white male privilege only by oppressing, discriminating against and enslaving others!” Professor Noel Ignatiev, a tenured professor at Massachusetts College loudly proclaimed to his class last Monday, his final teaching day before retirement.

The good Professor’s sound and reasonable words resonate with every enlightened and progressive mind. They are indisputable and no one can debate them. They should not be controversial in the slightest, yet remarkably a few far-right extremists object to the Prof. Ignatiev’s advice. The Professor however, reported receiving “a standing ovation” from his “largely white and middle class students.” Prof. Ignatiev’s critics say that openly calling for students, even if they are white males, to kill themselves was inappropriate and perhaps excessive. In this article, we will look at the other side of the issue.
Mr. Fernando then writes up an interview with "the good Professor" that is even more incredible than the statements above. Assuming this isn't some sort of spoof (which I still believe to be the case), I have to admire Mr. Fernando's ability to make it through the interview without erupting into laughter strong enough to cause massive internal bleeding, or at least a hernia. That Mr. Fernando was probably almost paralyzed by the effort to not guffaw, even once, probably is what prevented him from asking several obvious questions, including the key question I had, which is why the Professor, who is a white male, had not killed himself!

It's Not Climate Change--It's Climate Billions

There was some hope on my part that the climate treaty talks in Warsaw would fall apart, but that didn't happen, and a last minute compromise was reached, as related in this Speigel Online article. One of the many (expensive) propositions to come out of the accord was this:
Starting in 2020, the industrialized countries will provide $100 billion (€74 billion) per year to developing nations to help mitigate the effects of climate change. A working group has been established at the Warsaw conference that is now expected to develop a finance plan.
I presume that once it is admitted that the world is beginning to cool, the West will be responsible for that as well.

Comet ISON Update

From the Washington Post (h/t Drudge):

On Thanksgiving, when the comet rounds the sun, professional and amateur astronomers alike will await ISON’s fate with bated breath. Its tail may get ripped off by a cloud of solar particles, or the sun’s brutal radiation and pressure may demolish it completely.


But if ISON makes it out alive, stargazers say, it could provide a breathtaking show visible to the naked eye and possibly live up to the name “Comet of the Century,” as some astronomers have dubbed it.


“On Friday, we’ll all be delighted to see its beautiful face as it then comes around the sun,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division. “Then between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it will fly over the North Pole — a very nice holiday comet.”

"The Year of the Billionaire" (Updated)

Politico has a story entitled "The Year of the Billionaire." Its thesis: 
In the off-year campaigns of 2013, liberal and Democratic interests have enjoyed a decisive advantage in the billionaire spending bracket. Indeed, groups tied to just three billionaires — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California investor Tom Steyer and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — have spent well more than $25 million this year pushing progressive candidates and causes. 
Their arrival on the political scene, at the same time as many conservative donors remain disheartened from the GOP’s 2012 defeat, represents a shift in power in the arena of big-money campaigns. And it’s the clearest sign that Democrats have abandoned their initial revulsion about outside money in favor of a recognition that they have to play and win by the same political rules as their opponents.
The Politico story, as you can tell even from brief quote above, has very much a "whats good for the goose is good for the gander" attitude. However, there has never been any question that the very wealthy have always supported the Democrats. One needs to look no further than the political fetes hosted by Hollywood moguls and among the super-rich of San Francisco (the site of his 2008 "bitter-clingers" remark).

However, Matthew Continetti at the Washington Free Beacon asks if it really matters how the billionaire donors label themselves (or are labelled).
But, when closely examined, the differences between the suppositions of billionaires grow somewhat thin. The consensus shared by most of the American elite is well established and long enduring and objectively liberal: a love of economic growth; rhetorical support for fiscal responsibility; a desire to play nice with others and, post Iraq, to avoid war; a belief that the benefits to the economy of comprehensive immigration reform outweigh social cohesion and the costs to low- and non-skilled native workers; an expansive interpretation of all rights, constitutional and judicial, except the right to keep and bear arms; a desire to reduce trade barriers with all nations regardless of regime or labor conditions or the costs, again, to low-skill native industries easily displaced to the other side of the world; a secular-materialist view of nature and support for its protection; and a commitment to multiculturalism and diversity in pursuit of equality.
It is one’s allegiance to these ideas, and not one’s income or the particular industry in which one works, that is the true measure of membership in the Caste. Quibbling over the edges of this worldview—over which programs to cut or expand, which taxes to lower or increase, which industries to subsidize and which to not, how best to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and power America—is a matter of means not ends. Nor is it a question of one side working for selfish purposes and the other being devoted to a higher morality. Only the half-baked can think that particular charge withstands scrutiny. We’ve known since Plato that all human action, no matter how wrongheaded, is taken with a view toward some good; and that it is difficult for human beings, even Democrats, to separate their view of the good from their view of what’s good for them.
 In his Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler cited this as an inevitable result of the evolution from Culture to Civilization (his term from the transition from a dynamic, country-side dominated culture to a culturally stagnant or dead civilization dominated by and for the benefit of the great "world-cities"). Spengler held that the our Culture/Civilization (which he called Faustian) was backed by a moral code that compels us (speaking individually) to force our morals on others. He wrote:
It is these fact-men of the grand style [i.e., the super-rich] who are representatives to-day of the Will-to-Power over other men's destinies and therefore of the Faustian ethic generally. Men of this sort do not broadcast their millions to dreamers, "artists," weaklings and "down-and-outs" to satisfy a boundless benevolence; they employ them for those who like themselves count as material for the Future. They pursue a purpose with them. They make a centre of force for the existence of generations which outlives the single lives. The mere money, too, can develop ideas and make history, and [Cecil] Rhodes--precursor of a type that will be significant indeed in the 21st Century--provided, in disposing of his possessions by will, that it should do so.
Conversely, he also observed:
The Megalopolis--sceptical, practical, artificial--alone represents Civilization to-day. The soil-peasantry before its gates does not count. The "People" means the city-people, an inorganic mass, something fluctuating. The peasant ... is therefore overlooked, despised, detested. With the vanishing of the old "estates"--gentry and priesthood--he is the only organic man, the sole relic of the Early Culture. There is no place for him either in Stoic or in Socialistic thought.
Update: More on the power the wealthy exert in the Democratic party: "Obama raises money among the stars"--an article on yesterdays' two fund-raising events that Obama attended.
The gatherings — one at the home of NBA superstar Magic Johnson, and the other at home of Hollywood producer Haim Saban — will benefit a joint fundraising committee aiding Democratic House and Senate candidates.

Obama's Peace for Our Time Moment

The Obama Administration has made a deal on Iran's nuclear weapons production that gives Obama the illusion of a victory, while doing little or nothing to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Daily Mail describes the deal thusly:

Under the deal, Iran will curb many of its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual relief from painful economic sanctions. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement. 
The package includes freezing Iran's ability to enrich uranium at a maximum 5 percent level, which is well below the threshold for weapons-grade material and is aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran could one day seek nuclear arms. International monitors will oversee Iran's compliance. 
For Iran, keeping the enrichment program active was a critical goal. Iran's leaders view the country's ability to make nuclear fuel as a source of national pride and an essential part of nuclear self-sufficiency.

As a different article reports,  "[t]he deal was struck after months of secret negotiations between officials from both Iran and the US, and finalized during talks involving five other world powers early Sunday morning in Geneva." Remember that fact--that this agreement was the result of secret negotiations between Obama's Administration and Iran--as the situation deteriorates 6 months hence. Also, neither Saudi Arabia or Israel were included in the peace talks.

The same article notes:

In addition to suspending further uranium enrichment, the country has also agreed to neutralize it's stockpile of near 20 per cent uranium, US officials said.
 
The regime will not install any new centrifuges, disable roughly half of the country's centrifuge capabilities, and limit production of machines to that only needed to replace damaged ones needed to continue a peaceful program aimed at producing nuclear power, said US officials. 
These actions include centrifuges at Natanz and Arak. 
'While today's announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,' said Mr Obama.
The deal also calls for 'unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program,' according to a White House statement.
 
This transparency includes allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to all previously disputed facilities and the providing of all previously requested information about their operation.

As the first article cited above noted, Israel is particularly displeased by the deal.
While most Gulf countries remained silent in the first hours after the deal was reached in Geneva, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted little time in criticizing it, calling it a 'historic mistake' and saying he was not bound by the agreement. 
Speaking to his Cabinet, Netanyahu said the world had become a 'more dangerous place' as a result of the deal. He reiterated a long-standing threat to use military action against Iran if needed, declaring that Israel 'has the right and the duty to defend itself by itself.'
The United States Congress also lacks faith in Obama's agreement:
Democrats and Republicans in Congress have finally found common ground - a lack of confidence in Iran keeping to the historic agreement reached Sunday to suspend nuclear weapons ambitions. 
Both sides of the aisle affirmed skepticism Iran will keep its word and promised to strengthen already crippling sanctions against the Middle Eastern country if the non-proliferation deal crumbles.
The article goes on to note that Congressional leaders, from both parties, are considering imposing additional sanctions against Iran once Congress reconvenes in December.

There are legitimate concerns with the yet-to-be-signed agreement. Roger L. Simon observes:
... the most egregious part indeed comes down to centrifuges. Iran has some 19,000 of them — more than three times the amount of longtime nuclear-armed Pakistan. The agreement forbids the Iranians to build anymore, but, much more importantly, it allows the Iranians to fix any of their centrifuges that may be broken and get them working again..


How many of those 19,000 are broken? I’m not sure anyone outside Iran knows, ... But now — thanks to the deal that Obama and Kerry have put together — the Iranians will have six unmolested months to get as many of them up and running as they can, enriching uranium.


Speaking of which, Iran’s “right to enrich” is supposedly still under dispute, the Americans saying one thing about the language in the deal and the Iranians another. Some dispute. The prologue to the “interim” agreement states that the amount of enrichment will be decided in future negotiation, not (nota bene) whether enrichment will be allowed or not. (The specific language reads: “a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program.” Uh-huh.) Meanwhile, Iran is able to enrich up to five percent, not the previous alleged maximum of 3.5%. Whatever happened to that other 1/5%? Confusing, no? Oh, well, that’s a long way from the 20% needed for weaponization.


No, it’s not. It’s not very much at all when you have 19,000 centrifuges. How much of a setback for the Iranian nuclear weapons program is this five percent permissible level then? According to the New York Times, about as pro-Obama a publication as you can get outside of a Chicago Democratic Party newsletter, the current agreement will retard the Iranian program only about one month.
 From the Tower:
Western concessions – according to Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – will inject Iran with financial relief ultimately worth roughly $20 billion.

In exchange – per a quick New York Times assessment – Iran agreed to concessions that not only fall short of “roll[ing] back the vast majority of the advances Iran has made in the past five years,” but that shorten its breakout time by “only a month to a few months.” The interim deal allows Iran to continue enriching uranium to 5% purity and to keep building new centrifuges to repair worn ones. Iran will have to convert its 20% enriched stock either to fuel or to diluted 5% stock, but those processes can be easily reversed within weeks. The only way to put that material beyond use is to actually irradiate the stock, but Iran doesn’t have the capacity to do that. In any case experts from the University of Virginia and the U. S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) recently warned [PDF]) that Iran can sneak across the nuclear finish line using only its stockpile of 3.5% enriched uranium. Inasmuch as Iran is not being forced to dismantle its centrifuges, there are fears it will either cheat or just wait six months and use them when the interim period expires.
 What sanctions that remain will likely be cast aside in coming months.

The arguably more significant danger, however, is that the sanctions regime cannot survive even the limited erosion that the deal entails. There are multiple scenarios under which the sanctions relief in the deal would trigger a downward spiral that irreversibly and substantially eroded the regime. The most immediate fear is that major powers and corporations will engage in a feeding frenzy to get into Iran: No one wants to be left behind as Iran’s market opens up, and so everyone tries to get in first. Pletka’s suggestion about the “psychology of impenetrable sanctions” is one mechanism for a downward spiral. Brookings Institute fellow Michael Doran earlier this week pointed to evidence that such a downward spiral was already beginning, with Paris looking to reopen a trade-related attaché office in Tehran next year.
Victor Davis Hansen has some thoughts on what happens in the likely event Iran doesn't live up to its bargain:
In the case of violations, will it be easier for Iran to return to weaponization or for the U.S. to reassemble allies to reestablish the sanctions? Will Israel now be more or less likely to consider preemption? Will the Sunni states feel some relief or more likely pursue avenues to achieve nuclear deterrence? Will allies like Japan or South Korea feel that the U.S. has reasserted its old global clout, or further worry that their patron might engage in secret talks with, say, China rather than reemphasize their security under the traditional U.S. umbrella?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Paris Gunman Associated with Left-Wing Radicals

Abdelhakim Dekhar, the suspect arrested after a series of shootings in Paris:

[Had been] convicted in 1998 of buying a gun used in the October 1994 shooting attack by student Florence Rey and her lover Audry Maupin, who moved in left-wing circles.


Three policemen, a taxi driver and Maupin himself were killed in a case that captivated France.


Investigators at the time compared the young couple to the infamous American outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.


Witnesses at the trial described Dekhar as a mentor to the couple and accused him of exploiting their youth to manipulate them, while his former lawyers have described him as "enigmatic" and "strange".


Rey, a middle-class student hitherto unknown to the police, was tried and sentenced to 20 years in jail. She was released in 2009.


Dekhar was acquitted of armed assault but found guilty of procuring the weapon and sentenced to four years. He was released soon afterwards, having already served his time in pre-trial detention.

Explore Middle-Earth

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - A Journey Through Middle-earth" lets you explore Middle-Earth. Right now there are limited locations that have been mapped, but more are being added. More information here. Its designed for Chrome on an Android device, but seems to be working on my PC based Chrome.

MSM Beginning to Note Black on White Violence?

The MSM is pretty good at self-censoring for news stories portraying black-on-white or black-on-Asian violence. The recent surge in "knock-out" game attacks in New York City is making it more difficult. The New York Post reports:
New York City police authorities are investigating a series of unprovoked physical attacks in public places on people who are Jewish, in the form of what is called “the knockout game.” 
The way the game is played, one of a number of young blacks decides to show that he can knock down some stranger on the streets, preferably with one punch, as they pass by. Often, some other member of the group records the event so that a video of that “achievement” is put on the Internet to be celebrated. 
The New York authorities describe a recent series of such attacks and, because Jews have been singled out in these attacks, are considering prosecuting these assaults as hate crimes.
Not wondering off the plantation too far when the victims are described as "Jews." But then the editor must have fallen asleep:

Many aspects of these crimes are extremely painful to think about, including the fact that responsible authorities in New York seem to have been caught by surprise, even though this knockout game has been played for years by young black gangs in other cities and other states, against people besides Jews — the victims being either whites in general or people of Asian ancestry.
 
Attacks of this sort have been rampant in St. Louis. But they have also occurred in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and elsewhere. In Illinois, the game has often been called “polar-bear hunting” by the young thugs, presumably because the targets are white. 
The main reason for many people’s surprise is that the mainstream media have usually suppressed news about the knockout game or about other and larger forms of similar orchestrated racial violence in dozens of cities in every region of the country. Sometimes, the attacks are reported, but only as isolated attacks by unspecified “teens” or “young people” against unspecified victims, without any reference to the racial makeup of the attackers or the victims — and with no mention of racial epithets by the young hoodlums exulting in their own “achievement.” 
Despite such pious phrases as “troubled youths,” the attackers are often in a merry, festive mood. In a sustained mass attack in Milwaukee, going far beyond the dimensions of a passing knockout game, the attackers were laughing and eating chips, as if it were a picnic. One of them observed casually, “White girl bleed a lot.”

Congressional Aides Shocked At ObamaCare Plan Costs

From Politico:

Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure.
“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO. “Simply unacceptable.”

In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.
Good. Let them suffer the consequences of the laws they help pass. Besides, they will be more effective than any lobbyist at convincing Congresscritters (i.e., their bosses) to repeal this crap.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Win a Debate with a Liberal

Advice from Ben Shapiro. Remember, you win a debate not by changing the other party's mind, but by convincing the audience.

Have We Already Colonized Mars?

Scientific American reports on a very hardy bacteria discovered by NASA:

High atop a platform inside a clean room at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) launch site in South America, scientists painstakingly searched for microbes near the Ariane 5 rocket due to launch the Herschel space telescope in May 2009. Only very unusual organisms can survive the repeated sterilization procedures in clean rooms, not to mention the severe lack of nutrients available. But the scientists’ careful inspection was fruitful, turning up a type of bacteria that had been seen only once before. Two years earlier this same bug had surfaced 4,000 kilometers away in the clean room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where engineers were preparing the Mars lander Phoenix for launch.

... The researchers named the bacterium Tersicoccus phoenicis. “Tersi” is Latin for clean, as in clean room, and “coccus” comes from Greek and describes the bacterium in this genus’s berrylike shape. “Phoenicis” as the species name pays homage to the Phoenix lander. The scientists determined that T. phoenicis shares less than 95 percent of its genetic sequence with its closest bacterial relative. That fact, combined with the unique molecular composition of its cell wall and other properties, was enough to classify Tersicoccus phoenicis as part of a new genus—the next taxonomic level up from species in the system used to classify biological organisms. The researchers are not sure yet if the bug lives only in clean rooms or survives elsewhere but has simply escaped detection so far, says Christine Moissl-Eichinger of the University of Regensburg in Germany, who identified the species at the ESA’s Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

... Still, researchers would like to know whether such organisms could survive the trip from Earth to Mars, and survive on the Red Planet once they get there. To answer this question, scientists launched spores of the bacteria Bacillus subtilis and B. pumilus to the International Space Station in February 2008 and mounted them outside the orbiting laboratory for a year and a half. The experiment, called PROTECT, subjected the organisms to the vacuum of space, extreme temperature fluctuations and a barrage of radiation. Although many spores died, some survived, proving that certain bugs could successfully hitchhike to Mars. The most damaging effects came from the ultraviolet radiation the spores experienced outside Earth’s protective atmosphere. To survive, “either they have to hide or come up with an ingenious mechanism of repairing the DNA damage,” says Vaishampayan, who worked on the PROTECT experiment.


There is no proof that T. phoenicis actually accompanied Phoenix to Mars, but it is possible. “This genus has surely traveled to Mars already, recently in one or more of our spacecraft—they live comfortably in the clean rooms where we build the craft, right?—and maybe even onboard meteorites millions or billions of years ago,” Fairén says. “Therefore, if these bugs can actually survive on Mars, they must be there already.”

WWII German U-Boat Found Near Java

From Speigel Online:

Researchers have apparently discovered the remains of a World War II-era German U-boat and the skeletons of its crew off the coast of Indonesia. Experts say its an unprecedented find that could provide insight into how the war was fought in the South West Pacific theater.


... The researchers believe the wreck is that of the U-168, which German naval forces used to successfully sink several allied ships. The U-boat was eventually torpedoed by a Dutch submarine while en route to Australia. According to a report by German newspaper Die Welt, the Dutch vessel fired six torpedos from 900 meters, but only one of the explosives detonated. Twenty-three German sailors reportedly died in the attack, and the captain and 26 crew members survived.


The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the wreck could also be that of the U-183, which was sunk on April 23, 1945 in the Java Sea. That attack had only one surivor of 55 men on board. Both of the U-boats were part of Nazi Germany's "Monsoon Group," which attacked allied ships in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

Obama Opposes International Privacy Rights

From Foreign Policy:

The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable.


The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington -- which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying -- and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations.


The Brazilian and German initiative seeks to apply the right to privacy, which is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to online communications.
 Not a surprise, since a socialist society is a surveillance society. A socialist is someone whose greatest fear is that someone, somewhere, is doing something not authorized by the government.

It's All About the Money -- Part 2

I noted the other day that the current climate talks were threatened over disagreements over wealth redistribution to third world countries. Well, that issue has terminated the talks:

Poor countries pulled out of the United Nations climate talks during a fight over transferring wealth from richer countries to fight global warming.


The G77 and China bloc led 132 poor countries in a walk out during talks about “loss and damage” compensation for the consequences of global warming that countries cannot adapt to, like Typhoon Haiyan. The countries that left claim to have the support of other coalitions of poor nations, including the Least Developed Countries, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Africa Group.


Poor countries have demanded that the developed world give them $100 billion annually by 2020 to prepare for the impacts of global warming, such as heat waves and droughts. Brazil even put forward a proposal last week that would have made rich countries pay for historical greenhouse gas emissions.
First, these countries should pay back all the aid and assistance they have received, and reparations for all the damages they and their citizens have caused to First World Countries and their citizens, including, but not limited to: loss or seizure of property, loss of life and/or freedom, environmental damage, increased costs of defense and insurance, funding to the victims of crimes, damage from terrorists, economic impact of their terrorist actions, reparations for industrial espionage, spread of diseases, etc.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It's Voluntary As Long As You Comply


Some drivers along a busy Fort Worth street on Friday were stopped at a police roadblock and directed into a parking lot, where they were asked by federal contractors for samples of their breath, saliva and even blood.

It was part of a government research study aimed at determining the number of drunken or drug-impaired drivers.

"It just doesn't seem right that you can be forced off the road when you're not doing anything wrong," said Kim Cope, who said she was on her lunch break when she was forced to pull over at the roadblock on Beach Street in North Fort Worth.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is spending $7.9 million on the survey over three years, said participation was "100 percent voluntary" and anonymous.

But Cope said it didn't feel voluntary to her -- despite signs saying it was.

"I gestured to the guy in front that I just wanted to go straight, but he wouldn't let me and forced me into a parking spot," she said.

Once parked, she couldn't believe what she was asked next.

"They were asking for cheek swabs," she said. "They would give $10 for that. Also, if you let them take your blood, they would pay you $50 for that."

At the very least, she said, they wanted to test her breath for alcohol.
All these people are now going to be on a DNA database.

Mystery Hominids

From Nature:

David Reich ... in collaboration with Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now produced much more complete versions of the Denisovan and Neanderthal genomes — matching the quality of contemporary human genomes. The high-quality Denisovan genome data and new Neanderthal genome both come from bones recovered from Denisova Cave.

The new Denisovan genome indicates that this enigmatic population got around: Reich said at the meeting that they interbred with Neanderthals and with the ancestors of human populations that now live in China and other parts of East Asia, in addition to Oceanic populations, as his team previously reported. Most surprisingly, Reich said, the new genomes indicate that Denisovans interbred with another extinct population of archaic humans that lived in Asia more than 30,000 years ago, which is neither human nor Neanderthal.

The meeting was abuzz with conjecture about the identity of this potentially new population of humans. “We don’t have the faintest idea,” says Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the London Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the work. He speculates that the population could be related to Homo heidelbergensis, a species that left Africa around half a million years ago and later gave rise to Neanderthals in Europe. “Perhaps it lived on in Asia as well,” Stringer says. 

Mr. President, Please Return Your Peace Prize

Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize because of "Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons." Obama may be working toward a world where the U.S. lacks nuclear weapons, even though such cuts would reduce national security. But his efforts to secretly negotiate a deal with Iran that does little or nothing to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while sidelining Saudi Arabia and Israel (and pushing Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons), is more likely to result in a nuclear conflict, not reduce it.

Assuredly, part of the reason he received the prize was his avowed opposition to the war in Afghanistan and commitment to bring troops home. However, like all his other promises, this one will not be honored either. Instead, Obama is planning on keeping troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.

While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key U.S.-Afghan security deal obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces. 
The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. 
The document outlines what appears to be the start of a new, open-ended military commitment in Afghanistan in the name of training and continuing to fight al-Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be ending, but renewed under new, scaled-down U.S.-Afghan terms.
 So, please just return the Peace Prize. You didn't deserve it then, and you definitely don't deserve it now.

Global Warming -- It's all about the money

The Washington Post discusses the ongoing climate talks in Warsaw:

The question of who’s to blame for climate change is central to developing countries who say they should receive financial support from rich nations to green their economies, adapt to shifts in the climate and cover costs of unavoidable damage caused by warming temperatures.

Another Scandal... (Updated and bumped)

Most everyone is aware of how the IRS intimidated conservative groups in the run-up to the 2012 election. Now the New York Post is reporting that the Census Bureau faked job numbers to make the unemployment figure look better than it was in the months prior to the election.

In the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, from August to September, the unemployment rate fell sharply — raising eyebrows from Wall Street to Washington.
 
The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.
And the Census Bureau, which does the unemployment survey, knew it.
 
Just two years before the presidential election, the Census Bureau had caught an employee fabricating data that went into the unemployment report, which is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy. 
And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today. 
“He’s not the only one,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous for now but is willing to talk with the Labor Department and Congress if asked. 
The Census employee caught faking the results is Julius Buckmon, according to confidential Census documents obtained by The Post. Buckmon told me in an interview this past weekend that he was told to make up information by higher-ups at Census.
 Read the whole thing.

Update (11/20/2013): Some additional information and thoughts from Stephen Green (VodkaPundit):
Transparency, truth, lives — none of these things matter when there’s an election at stake. These people — these Chicago thugs — are after power, and they mean to keep it.

Honestly, “President Biden” is the only reason not to impeach the lying SOB.

Do We Live in a Police State? (Updated and bumped)

Yes.

Update: And see this article of government stationing regulators in banks and brokerages.

2nd Update (11/18/2013): From InfoWars:

After local media began questioning the appearance of mysterious “off-white boxes” attached to utility poles in the downtown area, reports uncovered the mesh network devices’ ability to siphon off unsuspecting mobile user’s IP addresses as well as the last 1,000 locations visited. Storyleak and Infowars’ exclusive documents went one step further in revealing the vast amount of local and even federal agencies tied into the network’s information-gathering center.
 
A new file entitled the “Police Video Diagram” proves police officers’ ability to access and control live-video feed from the city’s expansive collection of surveillance cameras, all from the comfort of their police cruisers.

... The diagram and spreadsheet give even more validity to our earlier reports that showed multiple agencies having access to all cameras tied into the mesh network. One spreadsheet section asks that “outside agencies shown on the diagram” be given access and control of cameras tied into the mesh network, including the controversial Homeland Security-run Fusion Center, which was labeled a “useless and costly effort that tramples on civil liberties” by the United States Senate.
 
According to a February West Seattle Blog interview with Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh, no video footage collected can be kept for more than 30-days unless needed for criminal investigation purposes. The specification spreadsheet proposal asks for “at least 60-day archival recording capacity.”
3rd Update (11/20/2013): See this video at Say Uncle of a father being arrested for wanting to pick up his kids at school, on foot, but not wanting to sign a release allowing the kids to leave on their own. The cop started arguing with the man and then arrested him when the cop started loosing the argument.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Australian Authorities Seize Homemade SMGs

Via the Firearms Blog, a report that Australian authorities had seized homemade (although you wouldn't know it from looking at them) Mac 11 submachine guns being sold to local gangs.

Never Argue with a Fool ...

Richard Rowe writes at Americans Against the Tea Party about his suggestions on how to win an argument with a "gun nut." Basically, his article is about using straw-man arguments (although he probably thinks he is cleverly using a reductio ad absurdum strategy) and ad hominem attacks and other irrelevancies.

In the tradition of building a poor argument, Rowe begins by basing his bona fides on the fact he owns guns (actually it sounds like he owns a mixture of automatic weapons and destructive devices), but he is (in his view) reasonable, unlike the "gun nuts" who actually think the 2nd Amendment means something. To bolster this, he says that 88% of gun owners "who think that our weapons policies should periodically evolve(!) from the peerless Garden of Eden that was 1776." I'm not sure where he got that statistic, or if his statement accurately reflects the statistic. (It reminds me of an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" where Barney, who is always claiming "83 percent" of this or that, notes that that 83 percent of statistics are made up). None of this, of course, is relevant to whether Rowe has a valid argument.

Rowe than goes on to claim that the "gun nuts" are actually motivated by fear. This comes up over and over again--that the director of Open Carry Texas was "afraid" to publicly debate him; that the "gun nuts" feel inadequate and live in fear of their alleged inadequacy; "point out that the gun itself only proves their fear, weakness and sense of inadequacy"; and so on. Again, nothing to back up his claim of this pervasive fear among gun owners. (Reminds me of  a joke, though--a grandmother is pulled over by a cop who notices she has a rather large revolver with her. He asks her what she is afraid of. She replies: "Absolutely nothing."). Again, even if true, I'm not sure what the relevance is--this is just a way of demonizing the opposition.

Next he criticizes "Open Carry Texas" for demonstrating by engaging in open carry. Rowe argues that demonstrations should not make anyone feel uncomfortable. He contends that making someone feel uncomfortable is violence. He compares a public demonstration of open carry to be the equivalent of someone showing up  at your door with a gun in hand. He plays the race card here by suggesting that "gun nuts" would automatically think someone with dark skin is a criminal.

He again claims that "gun nuts" are afraid, then suggests that they are bullies and abusers. He writes: "You [i.e., "gun nuts"] hate anyone who doesn’t live in fear, and you resent the fact that you can’t do the same." (Okay, we get it--your thesis is that gun owners live in crippling fear).

Rowe then moves on to gun regulations. It is important to note here that Rowe never discusses what he thinks are "reasonable" regulations. However, he is quite free with telling us all sorts of fanciful problems:

The right to bear arms is ALREADY “infringed” for many, and for very good reason. Here’s a short list of things that could easily happen if we were to give you your way, remove all “infringements,” and completely deregulate the Second Amendment:
--A career felon could walk out of prison, and purchase a full-auto AK-47 from Walmart
--Your psycho ex could buy a sniper rifle and silencer from “some guy” for $100
--A mentally handicapped child could get a pistol from a vending machine
--Known terrorists and those with terrorist affiliations could easily purchase Stinger missile launchers to shoot down airliners, and RPGs to blow up your Hummer
--Any nutjob could walk out of the asylum, buy a grenade launcher and flamethrower, and visit your kids at school.
This straw-man argument has several facets, but two jump out immediately: (1) that supporters of the 2nd Amendment favor allowing all of the foregoing types of people to purchase the type of weapons mentioned; and (2) the foregoing is what would happen if firearms were deregulated. Notice that none of these "statements" have anything to do with open carry, however. That is, Rowe never explains how is allowing open carry would result in any of the above examples.

Rowe next argues that the Second Amendment would be ineffective to protect Americans from tyranny because the government has all of the really big weapons. (It almost sounds like he is arguing that the Second Amendment is flawed because it doesn't allow us to purchase Stinger missiles and RPGs). Also, he claims no one is actually going to stand up against tyranny anyway. Rowe finishes by going into several other absurd comparisons that, again, having nothing to do with open carry.

In short, if these "arguments" actually work for Rowe, it is because everyone realizes arguing with him is to argue with a fool. It is like arguing with someone that their amplifier is not better just because it goes to eleven.

How Embarrassing ...

Breitbart reports:
Hollywood producer and Obama donor Harvey Weinstein said the United States is "embarrassing" because of its adherence to the Second Amendment and lack of universal healthcare.

Appearing on Piers Morgan Tonight Friday, Weinstein said "this is the only the country in the world where we don't have health care. Countries embarrass us around the world."
 
"And this is the only country in the world where we don't have a gun law. I watched you, you know, talking about that," he said. "You know, quite frankly it's embarrassing. Obama's not embarrassing. The country is embarrassing."
What he really is saying is that he prefers how other countries are (presumably he is speaking of Europe) and wishes that the U.S. was more like Europe. It's a contempt for his own country, envy for other cultures. No different than the kid who wants to be accepted by his rich "friends", but is embarrassed by his "less refined" and/or poorer parents. I guess that the only thing to say to someone like Weinstein is "I'm so sorry you didn't get to grow up where you wanted to, with the family you wanted. But you are an adult now, and you are free to leave anytime you want."

Favoring Big Business

If there is a clearer example that "capitalism" is not the same as "free markets," it would be copyright law. And here are a couple of examples:

Ars Technica reports on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty. Although the terms of the treaty are apparently so bad that the drafts have been kept secret, it is apparent that it will provide even greater protection to tech companies:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty pushed by the Obama administration could complicate efforts to loosen restrictions on jailbreaking and unlocking smartphones, tablets, or other consumer electronics.


A working draft of the treaty published by WikiLeaks prohibits the manufacturing or distribution of devices or services "for the purpose of circumvention of any effective technological measure." It goes on to prohibit devices and services that "have only a limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent any effective technological measure, or are primarily designed, produced, or performed for the purpose of the circumvention of any effective technological measure."


Derek Khanna, a Yale Law Fellow who submitted a White House petition that led to the Obama administration publicly supporting the end of a ban on unlocking, wrote in Slate that "while the White House was publicly proclaiming its support of cellphone unlocking, it was secretly negotiating a treaty that would ban it."
 "Jailbreaking" refers to being able to purchase and operate apps other than those approved and/or sold by the manufacturer. It is currently legal for smartphones, but not tablets. "Unlocking" simply refers to being able to use a cell phone on a different network, such as if your cell contract was up and you wanted to change providers.

This article at Tech Dirt explains how companies (in this case, Warner Bros.) can get away with issuing fake take down requests for posted material that doesn't violate copyrights.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How America is Different

Sixteen people list things they couldn't believe about America until they lived here. (H/t Instapundit). An interesting read. Some of the things that come up over and over are (a) how big everything is, from meal sizes, to the size of houses, to just the pure physical size of the country; (b) the importance of religion; (c) that people were polite/considerate, but not as open or quick to form friendships.

I lived in Japan for a couple of years, and I remember a few impressions both when I first arrived in Japan, and then when I first returned to the United States. And size is probably one of the biggest things that hits you. In Japan, the buildings are small, the streets are narrow and, generally, if someone had a garden (there were no yards as an American would understand the term) it was walled. But the walls were contiguous in many neighborhoods, so some streets were nothing more than cinder-block or cement walls on both sides.

For a funny story on the different concepts of distance, I remember bicycling to an appointment, and stopped to ask for directions. The person that helped me told me I should take a bus because where I wanted to go was too far to bicycle, but pointed me down the correct road. Assuming it was a great distance, I didn't even pay attention to where I was supposed to turn until after I rode a mile. Then, because I didn't see it, I road another mile ... and then another ... and then another, and started to get into an area where there were fields and open space around the buildings. Finally, I turned back and found where I was supposed to go was only a half mile or so from where I first asked for directions.

Beautiful gardens, but lousy parks.

Personal space was different. In the U.S., most people stand several feet apart when talking, whereas in Japan people stood very close to one another. It was disconcerting at first to have people invading your personal space.

The homogeneous nature of the country. There was little or no diversity of architecture or buildings from city to city. Tokyo was the exception. I only lived in Tokyo for 5 or 6 months, but I really liked Tokyo more than any other city I lived in.

Deadly Attack Against Chinese Police Station

France 24 reports:

At least nine attackers stormed a police station in China's restive Xinjiang province wielding axes and knives on Saturday, killing two police officers before being shot dead, state media reported Sunday.


The assault took place at about 5:30 pm (0930 GMT) on Saturday in the Serikbuya Township of Bachu County in Kashgar Prefecture, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting local police.


Xinhua said the attackers were armed with knives and axes and that two other police officers were also injured, apart from the two auxilary officers who died. The agency gave no further details.


But Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, a Munich-based advocacy group, said the Uighurs were protesting and that armed Chinese personnel were to blame for the violence.


He said in an email that besides the deaths, "several tens" of Uighur demonstrators were arrested.
Although China blames "Uighur separatists backed by the violent Islamist militant East Turkestan Islamic Movement," the article indicates outside experts doubt the assertion given the amateur style of the attacks. Islamic terrorists haven't been too interested in China--this appears to be a homegrown movement.

Saudi Arabia and Israel Solidifying Plans Against Iran?

Obama will soon come to regret not accepting all those calls from Netanyahu. The Sunday Times of London reports:

... Now Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed in a deal that could be signed in Geneva this week.


Both the Israeli and Saudi governments are convinced that the international talks to place limits on Tehran’s military nuclear development amount to appeasement and will do little to slow its development of a nuclear warhead.


As part of the growing co-operation, Riyadh is understood already to have given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace in the event of an attack on Iran.


Both sides are now prepared to go much further.
 Israel Today reports:

The arrangement reportedly being hashed out would allow Israel to use Saudi airspace en route to Iran. The Saudis would also provide logistical support by coordinating the use of drones, search and rescue aircraft and refueling tankers over their soil.


And it all of this sounds too fantastical, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already hinted at such a deal last week in an interview with with French daily Le Figaro.


There is a "meeting of the minds" between Israel and the "leading states in the Arab world on the Iran issue," Netanyahu told the newspaper, noting that it is "one of the few cases in memory, if not the first case in modern times" of Israel working side-by-side with these particular states.


The Israeli leader reiterated that the Iran nuclear threat is far more severe than Western leaders are willing to admit.
 Of course, Saudi Arabia denies the report, which they would have to do to avoid angering their populace or other Muslim countries.

Spear Points that Predate Human Fossils

This presents an interesting conundrum. Anthropologists working in Ethiopia have uncovered stone spear points (they look like cutters to me) that they believe to be 280,000 years old, or 85,000 years older than the earliest recognized human fossils. The age suggests that the stone tools were made by a predecessor to Neanderthals and modern humans called  Homo heidelbergensis, or the Heidelberg Man. Or, it could indicated that humans have existed longer than believed.

The tools were found in the Gademotta Formation in the Main Ethiopian Rift Valley.

"Intergalactic" Storm

I like the Daily Mail, for the most part, because it covers stories that the national media in the U.S. rarely cover. However, the Mail is subject to fits of hyperbole combined with an utter lack of understanding of basic science that is sometimes humorous.

Such as this headline from a story concerning possible solar storms: "Intergalactic storms on the way as sun does a flip: Magnetic field change could interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts." "Intergalactic"? Really? Watch out all you denizens of Andromeda!

Oprah's Final Solution

Oprah has a solution to end racism which, like most progressive ideas, seems inspired by Hitler or Stalin. From the Huffington Post:

Oprah did not hold back when talking about race in an interview with the BBC on Friday.


She was in the UK to promote "The Butler," and forthrightly told interviewer Will Gompertz that there needed to be some demographic pruning to stamp out racism more fully.


"There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it, in that prejudice and racism, and they just have to die," she said.
I'm wondering if she is including all of those "marinated" in the racism of Jeremiah Wright, et al.

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Can You Smell the Desperation?"

From the Burning Platform:

So the stock market is at new all-time highs. GDP is at an all-time high, well above 2007 levels. Unemployment has supposedly fallen from over 10% in 2009 to only 7.3% today. Corporate profits are at all time highs. Wall Street bonuses are at all-time highs. The talking heads on CNBC and the rest of the MSM tell me that things are great. Interest rates, at least for some people and banks, are at record lows. Bernanke pumps $2.5 billion of heroin into the veins of Wall Street on a daily basis.


So why so glum average Americans? It seems average Americans plan on spending 10% less for Christmas gifts this year than last year. Not only that, but they are spending 19% less than they spent in 2007 and 18% less than they spent in 1999. ...


... Maybe they are little depressed because their health insurance policy just got cancelled and their new Obama policy is going to cost 40% more. Maybe it is the $1,000 less the average household has to spend this year versus last year because the 2% Social Security tax reduction expired. ... Maybe it’s the fact that the real median household income is 10% below the level of 1999.


... The average American is spending less because they have less. It really is that simple. And the less they spend, the more retailers will suffer. The JC Pennys, Sears, Radioshacks, Barnes & Nobles, Best Buys and many more will be forced to shutter stores, fire employees and in some cases file bankruptcy. ....


.... The average American is running on empty. The Wall Street/Hamptons crowd can not sustain the nation with their extravagant spending. I love the smell of desperation in the morning. It smells like bankruptcy and disgrace for delusional retail CEOs.

Obama's Illusory Fix

Obama (and top congressional Democrats) have promised for years that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan." It was a lie and he knew it was a lie, but he needed the lie to sell the legislation. I've compared Obama to Hitler before, and this is another situation where Obama seems to follow his fellow socialist's advice in Mein Kampf:
All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
 Obama is the master of the "big lie," so it is only par for the course that in attempting to deflect blame and outrage over the debacle that ObamaCare has become, Obama resorts to another big lie. As Forbes summarizes:

Yesterday, President Obama announced that his administration would unilaterally decline to enforce the provisions of Obamacare responsible for millions of insurance policy cancellations around the country. “The bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled into 2014,” he said.
Of course, that was lie as well:
The real bottom line is this. If you like your plan, you might be able to keep it for another year. But after the midterm elections are over, non-Obamacare-compliant plans will get canceled yet again. Because, if the delay continues past 2014, one Obamacare architect believes it “could be the beginning of a death spiral” for the law’s insurance exchanges.
Unfortunately, for the President and for the rest of us, Obama can't utter his proclamation and return things to where they were several months ago (in fact, his pronouncement would only apply to plans in affect on October 1, so if you lost your plan before that, you are SOL) because insurance companies have already priced their plans based on healthier people being forced to purchase insurance they don't want or need in order to make insurance less expensive for the really sick. Megan McArdle explains:

Now Obama is saying that those healthier folks who already had insurance can keep buying their old policies, presumably at cheaper rates. But if insurers go along, that means that the average person on the exchange will be somewhat sicker than previously expected. Because the insurers already priced those policies for 2014 and cannot change their rates, they could very well lose money.
 
At least for one year. Come next year, what do they do? Rates for the next open-enrollment period will be set sometime between February and June. Should they assume that there will not be a repeat of this year’s drama during next year’s midterms? Or should they assume that their exchange policies will be purchased mostly by the sick and previously uninsured, then price them accordingly? It’s a pretty bold move for Obama to hang the insurers out to dry like this, considering that he reportedly needs their technical help to get the exchanges working and some cooperation to keep rates low prior to next year’s midterm elections. 
And that doesn’t even touch on the legal problems. The administration is not changing the rules, just declining to enforce them against the insurers. This is becoming a pattern: Obama’s position on the law seems to be that it’s his law, and therefore the law is whatever he and his appointees say it is. That’s dangerous for all sorts of reasons, not least because it makes them vulnerable to court action. 
Presumably they will also not enforce the mandate against people who have grandfathered plans. But that raises an interesting legal issue. Remember that in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate was a tax. And as a lawyer of my acquaintance points out, taxes have to be enforced uniformly; the Internal Revenue Service can pick and choose who it audits, but it cannot pick and choose who has to obey the law. If it declines to enforce the mandate against grandfathered consumers, it's conceivably opening itself up to a bunch of legal challenges. 
This is not, in other words, a good solution if your desire is to make Obamacare work as planned. It is not even a very good solution if you are genuinely moved by the plight of people losing insurance policies they liked. At best, it solves only one real problem: the administration’s plummeting poll ratings. And that's only for the short term; it’s hard to see how we avoid going through this drama again next year.
Going back to the Forbes article above, it explains why Obama chose this questionable path:

Why the focus on unilateral action? The President and his supporters fear that allowing Congress to pass legislative fixes to the law would set a dangerous precedent. “Once Congress reopens Obamacare, no one knows where they stop,” observes Ezra Klein. “You’re opening Pandora’s box with Congress and insurers,” said Drew Altman to Klein.


Again, this contradicts the President’s assertion that Republicans in Congress are opposed to improving the law. “I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans to fix problems as they arise,” Obama averred. But the fact is that the President would much rather enact a regulation of his own choosing than to let Congress pass legislation to that effect.
And, as both these articles note, it is unlikely that the insurance companies will be able to unwind everything in order to reinstate all these plans in time.