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Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Only Cops Should Have Guns--Shoots Old Man Reaching for Walking Cane (Updated)

Rifle

Hugo Adjustable Offset Handle Cane with Reflective Strap Amber
Cane















The Washington Post reports:
A police officer in South Carolina shot a 70-year-old motorist who was reaching for a cane during a traffic stop because he thought the man was grabbing a rifle from the bed of his pickup truck, investigators said. The man was expected to survive.

... After stopping, Canipe got out of his pickup truck and reached into the bed, pulling out what Knox thought was a long-barreled rifle, Faris said. It was Canipe’s walking cane. The officer fired several times, hitting Canipe once, Faris said.

...“The situation is very unfortunate,” Faris said, reading from a statement at a news conference. “It does appear, at this time, that Deputy Knox’s actions were an appropriate response to what he reasonably believed to be an imminent threat to his life.”
Good thing the guy wasn't reaching for a walker, or the officer may have mistaken it for a quad-machine gun.



More seriously, though, I understand officers being cautious about being shot, and we obviously don't know all of the facts of this incident. However, if a private citizen had shot an old man, mistaking a cane for a rifle, he or she would be charged with a crime. Remember, liberals tell us that the police are highly trained and more competent with firearms than an ordinary person.

(Updated 3/13/2014): The Daily Mail has a video of the incident, so you can decide whether it was justified or not.

What Are Russia's Intentions?

As I suspected, Russia isn't going to let Ukraine leave its sphere of influence so easily. The Guardian reports:
With Russian armoured personnel carriers on the move in the Crimean peninsula, world leaders have sought assurances from the Kremlin that Moscow is not acting to escalate the violence in Ukraine.

A convoy of nine APCs painted with the Russian flag were seen on the road between the port city of Sevastopol and the regional capital of Sinferopol. Reporters spotted them parked on the side of a road near the town of Bakhchisarai, apparently stalled after one vehicle developed a mechanical fault.

The Russian foreign ministry said movements of vehicles belonging to the Russian Black Sea Fleet were prompted by the need to ensure the security of its base in Sevastopol. Russia is supposed to notify Ukraine of any troop movements outside the naval base. The Ukrainian defence ministry said it had no information about the vehicles' movements.

... Military troops in unmarked uniforms resembling Russian uniforms took over two airports in Crimea, Simferopol airport and a military facility at Sevastopol, overnight, and there were reports on Friday evening that Simferopol airport was not allowing flights from Kiev.

After the airport seizures, Andriy Paruby, the newly appointed top Ukrainian security official, accused Russia of waging "a military invasion and occupation". "These are separatist groups … commanded by the Kremlin," Paruby said of the armed military men patrolling streets in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Sevastapol.

Moscow has denied launching a military offensive in the region.

Journalists and the Ukrainian border guard have reported a fleet of more than 10 Russian military helicopters entering Ukrainian air space over Crimea, flying from Russia.
... In Simferopol, groups of armed men arrived overnight at the main airport serving the region. They wore military fatigues with no insignia and refused to talk, though one told news agencies they were part of a self-defence unit who wanted to ensure that no "fascists" arrived in the region from Kiev.

At Sevastopol airport, a military airport that handles few commercial flights, a man who said he was a captain in the tactical aviation brigade but declined to give his name, told the Guardian there were about 300 people of unknown identity inside the airport. "We don't consider it any invasion of our territory," he said without elaborating.

He said the men looked like military, were wearing two different types of uniform and were armed with sniper rifles and AK-47s. "We don't know who they are, nor where they've come from."

He added that there were two large trucks inside. "They [the vehicles] looked like they could contain 50 people at a push, so how they got 300 people inside I don't know," he said

A Major Fidorenko, from the Ukrainian military based at the airport, said the Ukrainians had been in touch with the unknown gunmen, who said they were there "to prevent unwanted landings of helicopters and planes".
 The BBC also has confirmed some movement of Russian vehicles into Ukraine.

The Daily Beast is reporting that the "troops" which took over the airports are not Russian military, but, rather, Russian "security consultants":
Private security contractors working for the Russian military are the unmarked troops who have now seized control over two airports in the Ukrainian province of Crimea, according to informed sources in the region. And those contractors could be setting the stage for ousted President Viktor Yanukovich to come to the breakaway region.
... but the troops are being directed by the Russian government. Although not confirmed, informed sources in Moscow are telling their American interlocutors that the troops belong to Vnevedomstvenaya Okhrana, the private security contracting bureau inside the Russian interior ministry that hires mercenaries to protect Russian Navy installations and assets in Crimea. Other diplomatic sources said that the troops at the airport were paramilitary troops but not specifically belonging to Vnevedomstvenaya Okhrana.

“They don’t have Russian military uniforms and the Russia government is denying they are part of the Russian military. But these are people that are legally allowed to perform services to the Russian fleet.”
 
“They don’t have Russian military uniforms and the Russia government is denying they are part of the Russian military. Actually most of them may be Ukrainian citizens. But these are people that are legally allowed to perform services to the Russian fleet,” said Dimitri Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest.
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement Friday did not address the troops at the airport but did acknowledge that armored elements of the Black Sea Fleet had been moved in Crimea, “associated with the need to ensure the protection of locations of the Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine, what is happening in full accordance with the basic Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea Fleet.”
 That the Russians have made some movement of troops into Ukraine (specifically, Crimea) is to be expected because of their need to safeguard their naval base. Certainly, if there was a revolution in Cuba, the U.S. would probably airlift troops to protect Guantanamo without necessarily having any intention of "invading" the rest of the country.

The Daily Beast article raises a secondary purpose, as well:
Second, the forces could be paving the way for Yanukovich to travel to Crimea, where he will maintain that he is still the president of all Ukraine. In fact, Yanukovich was involved in the decision to deploy the security contractors to the airport, he said.

“They are providing an extended perimeter of security. Yanukovich certainly has the authority (in Moscow’s view) to allow these units to extend their service wherever it is appropriate,” said Simes. “I am told by informed sources in Moscow that this is what it happening.”
... But the private security forces provide a loophole for Vladimir Putin; he can claim there is no Russian “military” intervention while using Russian-controlled forces to exert influence inside Ukraine. The plan would be to give the new Crimean government a space to hold a referendum and then elections, thereby establishing a province with some autonomy from Kiev.
 Another article from the Daily Beast sums up the potential for war:
Demography may not be destiny, but in this case it’s trying like hell to be. According to Andrei Malgin, a writer for Ehko Moskvy, as of 2001, 58.3 percent of Crimea’s population was Russian. But Russians outnumber other ethnicities, such as the Tartars, in only a few raions or municipalities: Feodosiya, Simferopol and Yalta among them. Elsewhere throughout Crimea—Krasnoperekopsk, Dzhankoy, Pervomaysk—Russians are in a minority. If armed clashes were to break out in a region-wide scale, the “victor” would by no means be predetermined. What the media has rather glibly been defining for months as a geographical or ethnolinguistic East-West split for Ukraine as a whole might actually be better applied to Crimea. But here it runs along a North-South divide, with pro-Russian concentrations more heavily distributed closer to the Black Sea.

Yesterday, demonstrations and counter-demonstrations broke in Simferopol, leading to at least one death, probably from heart attack. “Glory to Ukraine” (shouted by Tartars) competed with “Russia!” (shouted by Russians). Refat Chubarov, the Crimean Tartar leader, has even called on his people to form self-defense militias to guard against attack or provocations, as Ukrainska Pravda reported. Tartars have even asked Ankara for military intervention to protect them against the Russians: whispers, however deafly received, of another Balaclava campaign. Meanwhile, news emerged that the Russian military would now be conducting a large-scale “snap” exercise featuring 150,000 soldiers (as Naval War College Professor John Schindler points out, this is roughly the number that the United States dispatched into Iraq in 2003) for what Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called “action in crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security.” This drill, running from February 28 until March 3, would encompass the entirety of Russia’s Western Military District, which spans from the Arctic to the borders of Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the Second Army of the Central Military District, the command of the Aerospace Defense, the Airborne Troops, and the Long-Range and Military Transport Aviations. The district that would theoretically invade Crimea isn’t involved in the exercise: both saber rattling and plausible deniability done right.

In Atherton, It is Woe, Woe, Woe

Here is an article from CBS about how shocked (!) are the liberal elites in the San Francisco 'burb of Atherton that someone (Occupy, perhaps) would spray graffiti on their homes. These are people so wealthy that, instead of the ho-hum, "we'll send an officer out in a few days to take your statement," throw it in the round-file, police response that most of us would get, the FBI is getting involved. Who knew that graffiti was such a threat to national security.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Resistance in Connecticut

File:Don't Tread On Me. Believed to be the first flag of the Marines and of the Continental Navy. This coiled snake was paint - NARA - 532358.tif
(Source)

Mike Vanderboegh at Sipsey Street Irregulars has penned an "open letter to tyrants" of the Connecticut legislature noting that they have laid the foundation of a civil war. However, there are more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes.

The simple fact is that in the face of massive civil disobedience, the state cannot enforce the law because the legal system cannot handle the case load if--and I want to emphasize this--everyone charged under the law were to seek a jury trial. Because to enforce the law in the face of this scale of civil disobedience would swamp the legal system. Connecticut can't afford that--it doesn't have the judges, prosecutors, public defenders, jails, or prisons to enforce this law ... if everyone demanded a jury trial instead of pleading guilty. They know it, and that is why they are so nervous.

To further push the issue, gun rights organizations in Connecticut should also begin educating the public through letters to the editor, blog posts, ads, and so on, about jury nullification. The State will stack everything in their favor--but jury by one's peer is one of the most effective means of leveling the playing field.

The Face of Tyranny -- IRS Thuggery

File:Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpg
Rex Tyrannus

Bradley A. Smith writes at the Wall Street Journal about connecting the dots on the IRS scandal. He notes that there is a clear progression from the Jan. 21, 2010, Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC upholding the right of corporations and unions to make independent expenditures in political races, the various comments from the White House and other senior Democrats criticizing the decision, to calls from senior Democrats asking the IRS to investigate the 501(c)(4) (i.e., tax exempt) status, and criticism when the IRS initially did nothing, to a sudden change in IRS rules and handling of 501(c)(4) applications by conservative groups. Smith notes the similarity to another tyrant of old:
In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Patrick Moore--No Evidence of Global Warming

From the Daily Caller:
There is no scientific evidence that human activity is causing the planet to warm, according to Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, who testified in front of a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Moore argued that the current argument that the burning of fossil fuels is driving global warming over the past century lacks scientific evidence. He added that the Earth is in an unusually cold period and some warming would be a good thing.

“There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years,” according to Moore’s prepared testimony. “Today, we live in an unusually cold period in the history of life on earth and there is no reason to believe that a warmer climate would be anything but beneficial for humans and the majority of other species.”

The Face of Tyranny

File:Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpg



Danielle Allen, a prominent scholar, was rejected for a seat on the National Council on the Humanities because she would not agree to a loyalty oath to Obama: "... I was not willing to commit to never criticizing the administration, nor to restricting my publishing agenda to topics that were unlikely to be controversial."


Why Only Cops Should Have Guns--Murder/Suicide

The Daily Mail reports:
A Texas police officer and his wife have been found shot to death in their Dallas area home in what investigators are calling a murder-suicide. 
Sgt Nick Pitofsky, 47, of the Crandall Police Department, allegedly killed his 42-year-old wife, Vanessa, Tuesday morning before turning the gun on himself. 
Dallas police responded to the couple's home in the 1800 block of Broward Street at around noon after getting a call asking to perform a welfare check.

Upon entering the two-story duplex, the responding officers discovered the bodies of the man and woman. Both Nick and Vanessa Pitofsky died from gunshot wounds, Dallas Morning News reported.

According to the Crandall Police Department, Sgt. Pitofsky had worked as a patrol officer for the department for two years. Before joining the suburban force, Pitofsky was a reserve officer with the Dallas Police Department.
 
NBC DFW reported that the 47-year-old had spent several months in 2007 working as a jailer with the Dallas County Sheriff's Office. 
‘Nick was well respected by his peers and will be deeply missed by the city and department as a whole,’ a statement from Crandall PD read. ‘Nick was an energetic and jovial person who got along with everyone.
He sure got along well with his wife, no?

The Decline of the Small Bank

From the National Review (h/t Instapundit), an analysis of the decline of small banks and the rise of large banks. The article notes:
Since the financial crisis, US banking assets and deposits have continued to consolidate in a handful of large banks. As the charts show, the five largest banks by assets now hold 44.0 percent of US banking assets and 40.1 percent of domestic deposits—up from 23.5 percent and 19.5 percent, respectively, in early 2000. Correspondingly, small banks’ share of domestic deposits has fallen from 40.4 percent to 23.0 percent since early 2000, and their share of US banking assets has declined from 35.8 to 19.5 percent.
Under this rubric, "small banks" are "institutions with $10 billion or less in assets." The article notes that much of consolidation is due not to market pressures, but to banking regulations--it specifically focuses on the Dodd-Frank Act passed on 2010. The problem for small banks is the increase in overhead to comply with the Act, including adding additional "non-value added" employees. This reduces revenues for the banks, and makes it easier for the larger banks to buy out the smaller banks.

But, as with most business regulation, that is the purpose--to keep the big guys safe from small competitors.

Large Solar Flare

From Space.com:
The sun fired off a major solar flare late Monday (Feb. 24), making it the most powerful sun eruption of the year so far and one of the strongest in recent years.

The massive X4.9-class solar flare erupted from an active sunspot, called AR1990, at 7:49 p.m. EST (0049 Feb. 25 GMT). NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured high-definition video of the monster solar flare. The spaceecraft recording amazing views the solar flare erupting with a giant burst of plasma, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME.
The flare wasn't aimed at Earth, but the story notes that if it had been, it would have caused a severe geomagnetic storm. The report adds, though:
Earth isn't totally out of the woods yet, however. This region of the sun is set to rotate more fully into view of Earth over the next week, according to officials with the NOAA-led Space Weather Prediction Center.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

28 More Ex-NYPD and FDNY Arrested for Disability Fraud

This comes on top of the more than 100 arrested in January. Story at the Daily Mail.

What Do These Have in Common?

The Washington Post (h/t Weasel Zippers) is reporting that D.C. had eight day-light murders in the past 23 days. See if certain details jump out at you:
Vincent Antoine Purvis was shot and killed near a recreation center in Southeast Washington in mid-afternoon on Jan. 15. A week later, his childhood friend was gunned down a few blocks from the Anacostia Metro station at 1:30 p.m. Two days later, Marcus Minor, 21, was killed on a street in Barry Farm.

The three are among eight people, most of them young men, many with past run-ins with police, who lost their lives in quick succession from mid-January to early February in a spate of violence that contributed to the near doubling of this year’s homicide count, compared with the same period last year.

... But the Valentine’s Day shooting of 8-year-old Makayla Darden in Southeast renewed anger and brought attention to the violence.

Police made quick arrests in Makayla’s shooting, but the details only further demonstrated the brazen nature of recent crimes. She was struck by a bullet fired during the day, a few minutes after 3 in the afternoon, while walking from her aunt’s home to her parent’s, an innocent child caught in a dispute that police said involved young men trying to complete a $100 marijuana deal. The third-grader left intensive care this weekend and is recovering at Children’s National Medical Center, family members said.
 Gang and drug related killings. What a surprise.

Another Mass Shooting at a School

From CBS:
Gunmen from Islamist group Boko Haram stormed a boarding school in northeast Nigeria overnight and killed 29 pupils, many of whom died in flames as the school was burned to the ground, police and the military said on Tuesday.
Nigeria has very strict gun laws prohibiting the ownership of all handguns (even flintlock and cap),  all military rifles and any rifle firing a military cartridge, and all semi-automatic shotguns. Even if a weapon is not prohibited, the owner must obtain a license from the government in order to possess one. Maybe the authorities should find out who issued the gun licenses to the terrorists?

(H/t Weasel Zippers)

Lessons from the Ukraine

Roger L. Simon notes that we need an American Spring to cut away the excess and superfluous laws and bureaucracy that  are choking our freedoms and economic development. He writes:
We need some government, obviously, but at this point in American history, in order to save our nation, we need to get the state as much as possible out of our lives, to cut its functions with a meat cleaver to release our better impulses, to have the renewal of Spring. Deep down even some modern liberals realize this. (Bill Clinton famously said the era of big government is over before running the other way as if in fear of his own honesty.)

In this coming crucial year, those of us who feel the overweening state is the problem must reach out our hands to our fellow citizens as never before. My sense is that many of them are ready to hear our message. (The fiasco of Obamacare has been a gift in that regard.) And if we don’t reach out our hands, there will be no American Spring. Things will only get worse. (The horrific attempt of the FCC to monitor newsrooms is a harbinger of totalitarian things to come.)
However, Simon still believes it can be achieved through normal political channels and processes. I'm not so sure for several reasons.

     First, we run up against public choice theory--that most, if not all, people vote in ways that favor their self interest (as they perceive that self-interest); and that bureaucrats, unable to maximize "profits" as in a normal economic model, instead attempt to maximize their power, be it through increasing budgets, increased authority, or increased number of staff. The worst thing for a bureaucrat to do is to actually solve the problem his or her agency was created to solve. This, to a great extent, explains the failure of the war on poverty. The goal was not to move people out of poverty, but to create a population of voters that would loyally vote democratic and large federal bureaucracy. In short, there are entrenched interest groups and government bureaucrats willing to fight tooth and nail against any cuts in government.

     Second, there is a huge disconnect between our political elite and the bulk of America. The elite might as well be aliens--they grow up, are educated, are entertained and work in a world so different from the rest of the country that they do not understand Americans; and, frankly, hold Americans in the deepest contempt.

     Now many conservatives are calling for peace within the party--that we need to work with establishment Republicans to wrest control of Congress and the Oval Office back from Democrats and then implement the needed reforms. Roger L. Simon, for instance, says in the article cited earlier:
But in order to achieve this American Spring, those who favor  a diminished state must exercise discipline and kindness as never before.  They should avoid internal rectification campaigns (shooting their own, looking for ideological perfection that doesn’t exist).  We are not communists.  That’s what they do. 
Those already convinced of our cause — small-government conservatives, Tea Partiers, libertarians — should put aside their squabbles for now,  join together and seek to be as inclusive as possible.  Ideological purity, indeed ideological terminology itself, is inherently exclusionary and often obfuscating. Gloating of any sort is also counter-productive, possibly terminally.  Instead, we must patiently explain, even to our most intractable adversaries, why our proposals for limited government are for their benefit as well as our own. We must do this in the face of a troglodytic and reactionary media and entrenched bureaucracies and interest groups from over a century of statism.  We cannot stop or give up.
     I don't see this working, mostly because working with the Tea-Party is anathema for most establishment Republicans. RINOs such as John McCain actually enjoy greater influence through brokering deals when Republicans are in the minority than they would ever enjoy with Republicans in control of the Senate. Plus, the RINOs know that if the nation swings conservative or libertarian, many of them could end up losing their jobs and associated perks.

     In any event, we know from recent experience that working with the RINOs won't work. The Tea Party swept Republicans into power in the House in 2010. Although there have been a few short-lived fights, the House Republican leadership has pretty much caved to everything offered up by the Democrats while at the same time vilifying the Tea Party. They plan on rolling over on the illegal alien issue, over the clear opposition of the Republican base, even though it will make much more difficult--perhaps impossible--for Republicans to win the White House in the future.

     I will concede that once primaries are over, it is necessary to unite against the liberals. But before primaries, I see no reason to support a RINO over someone who actually believes in fiscal conservatism and small government.

    I also believe it is time we begin to look at the possibility--just the possibility, mind you--of having to act outside the normal political process to protect our rights. Andrew Wood, writing at the American Interest, notes the following about the Ukrainian Revolution:
The seismic shift in Ukraine was achieved by its people, not outside forces, and not its politicians. There was no conspiracy, no mob violence let alone “pogroms”, and no march of eastern Ukraine against the west and center of the country in defense of Yanukovych. Of course there were fears and divisions, and the future is uncertain, but the central, momentous fact was this: the refusal of the Ukrainians to accept that their rulers have the right to compel them to obedience, and the lesson that, on the contrary, Ukraine’s rulers must govern in the interests of the people, as their servants not their masters.
 The protests in Venezuela may be heading down the same path. The New York Times reports:
As dawn broke, the residents of a quiet neighborhood here readied for battle. Some piled rocks to be used as projectiles. Others built barricades. A pair of teenagers made firebombs as the adults looked on.

These were not your ordinary urban guerrillas. They included a manicurist, a medical supplies saleswoman, a schoolteacher, a businessman and a hardware store worker.

As the National Guard roared around the corner on motorcycles and in an armored riot vehicle, the people in this tightly knit middle-class neighborhood, who on any other Monday morning would have been heading to work or taking their children to school, rushed into the street, hurling rocks and shouting obscenities. The guardsmen responded with tear gas and shotgun fire, leaving a man bleeding in a doorway.

“We’re normal people, but we’re all affected by what’s happening,” said Carlos Alviarez, 39, who seemed vaguely bewildered to find himself in the middle of the street where the whiff of tear gas lingered. “Look. I’ve got a rock in my hand and I’m the distributor for Adidas eyewear in Venezuela.”

The biggest protests since the death of the longtime leader Hugo Chávez nearly a year ago are sweeping Venezuela, rapidly expanding from the student protests that began this month on a campus in this western city into a much broader array of people across the country. On Monday, residents in Caracas, the capital, and other Venezuelan cities piled furniture, tree limbs, chain-link fence, sewer grates and washing machines to block roads in a coordinated action against the government.

Behind the outpouring is more than the litany of problems that have long bedeviled Venezuela, a country with the world’s largest oil reserves but also one of the highest inflation rates. Adding to the perennial frustrations over violent crime and chronic shortages of basic goods like milk and toilet paper, the outrage is being fueled by President Nicolás Maduro’s aggressive response to public dissent, including deploying hundreds of soldiers here and sending fighter jets to make low, threatening passes over the city.
      I believe that we cannot affect change through elections if the IRS and other agencies are going to persecute and harass conservative advocates and donors to influence the outcome of elections; if federal and state officials are going to idly stand by in the face of voter fraud; if the media is going to conceal fraud and corruption and actively undermine one party while blatantly supporting the other. Our only recourse may be through widespread protests, boycotts and strikes. Not a gradual "going Galt" but a sudden unified voice saying "no more!"

     Would these protests turn violent? Probably. The militarization of the police has almost guaranteed it. Men in unmarked cars and wearing military fatigues, will pull up and whisk protesters away; police will use tear gas and sonic weapons (video)--perhaps even microwave weapons--to drive protesters away. Flammable gas grenades ("burners") will be used against tents and shacks. Flash bang grenades and grenades firing "non-lethal" shrapnel will be used. "Accidents" will happen, and some protesters will be seriously wounded or die from these "non-lethal weapons." If the protesters try and protect themselves, police snipers firing from rooftops and helicopters will attempt to engage and eliminate the leaders. At some point, police will resort to live ammunition, including using the tens of thousands of automatic weapons (i.e., weapons of war) in the hands of our police forces. The military may even become involved in breaking up such protests. Entire cities may be placed in "lock down." (See also here).

     I guess we will see how this next election turns out, but I for one don't see anything in the excesses and hubris of the media or government that encourages me to believe that this election will be run any different than that of 2012.

Wives Respecting Their Husbands

Mike Walsh has a post on why it is important for wives to respect their husbands in order to have a happy, successful marriage. A good companion article is this one at the Atlantic on why fathers matter.

(H/t Instapundit)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Arizona Governor Pressured to Veto Religious Freedom Bill

Over opposition from liberals, the Arizona legislature approved a bill that would prohibit suit against businesses that do not want to provide services to homosexuals. I haven't read the bill, so I can't comment on the specifics of the text. However, ABC News reports that powerful politicians and corporations are pressuring the Arizona governor to veto the bill:
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer faced intensifying pressure Monday from CEOs, politicians in Washington and state lawmakers in her own party to veto a bill that would allow business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gay people.

... The chorus of opposition has grown each day, and on Monday, three state senators who voted for the bill changed course and said they oppose it. U.S. Sen. John McCain asked Brewer to veto the measure, as did the CEO of American Airlines.

... The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

... Republicans stressed that the bill is not about discrimination but protecting religious freedom. They frequently cite the case of a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to take wedding pictures of a gay couple. They said Arizona needs a law to protect people in the state from heavy-handed actions by courts.

Another frequently cited example is a suit brought against an Oregon baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The businesses were sued, but those efforts came under state laws that extended protected-class status to gays. Arizona has no such law protecting people based on sexual orientation.
Just a couple of thoughts on this article. First, the bill was designed to protect small businesses against financially devastating investigations and law suits where the owner was being forced to set aside religious convictions in order to provide a service in support of gay marriage. Large businesses have an inherent interest in allowing such suits because they help drive smaller competitors--including potential start ups--out of business or keep them from entering the business in the first place.

Second, the failure to include homosexuals as a protected class does not preclude a state agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws, or a court, from reading it into the law under some other rubric such as gender discrimination.

They Revel in Their Wickedness

From the Hannah Arendt Center, an article on "The Irony of the Elite" discussing why the Washington and Wall Street elite are willing to not only recognize their own debauchery and corruption, but seem to revel in it.
What is more important than the decadence on display is the self-satisfied irony. The elites in Washington and Wall Street seem not to care about their decadence and even take joy in the revealing of their decadence. It is as if a burden has been lifted, that we all in the outside world can now know what they have borne in secret. With the secret out, they can enjoy themselves without guilt.

This embrace of the revelation of decadence recalls the cultural milieu of Weimar Germany, and especially the reception of Berthold Brecht’s classic satire the “Threepenny Opera.” ...

Arendt has little hope for the mob or the bourgeoisie, but she is clearly cut to the quick by the ease with which the elite felt “genuine delight” in watching the bourgeoisie and the mob “destroy respectability.” As Arendt explained, the “members of the elite did not object at all to paying a price, the destruction of civilization, for the fun of seeing how those who had been excluded unjustly in the past forced their way into it.” Because the elite had largely rejected their belief in the justice and meaningfulness of the moral and common values that had supported the edifice of civilization, they found more joy in the ironic skewering of those values than they felt fear at what the loss of common values might come to mean.

... What we see in the irony of the elites—let alone the decadence of the bourgeoisie and the power brokers—is the superior feeling of freedom that proceeds from the belief in the comic dissolution of the moral, political and economic values that have for two centuries animated the American imagination of itself as a exceptional experiment in free and democratic self-government.
The reason the elite can do so is because they feel no shame; and they feel no shame because they lack both morals and respect. That is, they lack morals because they no longer possess a sense of right or wrong, but, at best, what is legal or illegal, or perhaps more realistically, "what can I get away with and what can I not." In addition, they lack respect. Instead, they possess a sense of entitlement to their money and power. The elite do not honor the institutions and people of this great nation, nor do they fear them, but hold us and our culture in undisguised contempt.

(H/t Instapundit)

Farrakhan Calls for Sharia Courts in U.S.

He didn't exactly use the term "Sharia," but that essentially is what he is suggesting. From the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:
In a fiery speech Sunday delivered to 18,000 at Joe Louis Arena, Minister Louis Farrakhan blasted the judicial systems in the U.S. as being biased against African Americans, calling upon the community to set up their own courts.

"We want equal justice under the law," Farrakhan said on the last day of the Nation of Islam's annual convention, held in Detroit this year. "Our people can't take much more. We have to have our own courts."

With Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones sitting behind him, Farrakhan spoke for nearly three hours, reiterating the Nation of Islam's view that the U.S. is a land headed for destruction because it has disobeyed the word of God.

Farrakhan suggested that African Americans rely on the Quran and Bible to help set up their own legal system that would be more fair to African Americans.
 (H/t Weasel Zippers)

Why the Second Amendment?

I don't think I could say it any better than the Ukrainian Gun Owners Association:
Today every citizen of Ukraine understands why our country has hundreds of thousands of policemen. Last illusions were crushed when riot police used rubber batons and boots at the Independence Square on peaceful citizens.

After such actions we realize that it is not enough to only adopt the Gun Law.

As of today Ukrainian Gun Owners Association will start to work on the preparation of amendments to the Constitution, which will provide an unconditional right for Ukrainian citizens to bear arms.
 
People should have the right to bear arms, which will be put in written into the Constitution.

Authorities should not and will not be stronger than its people!

Armed people are treated with respect!
 They understand.

From those who do not, or will not, we receive this message:
Since the first day of this year, thousands of otherwise law-abiding Connecticut residents - at least 20,000 and maybe as many as 100,000 - have become criminals. They have broken a new state law that required owners of military-style rifles and high capacity magazines to register them with the State Police by last Dec. 31. Not quite 50,000 rifles were registered by the deadline but that could be as little as 15 percent of the now illegal assault rifles in Connecticut, according to the state-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is familiar with industry sales.

We do not doubt that many sincerely believe the measure, passed after the Newtown massacre, should never have become a Connecticut law because it violates their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. But that doesn't give them the right to disobey it. The law's constitutionality is a matter for the courts to determine, not the individual gun owner. In the meantime, he or she must obey the law or face the consequences of breaking it.
The editorial board for the Day recognizes that Connecticut has a serious problem, though, if it is going to suddenly make 100,000 of its citizens (nay, subjects) felons. Thus, it backs down a bit, and calls for the legislature to extend the deadline.

(H/t TTAG)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Left Considers "1984" to be a Manual

The College Fix reports that the Harvard magazine, "The Crimson," published an piece by  senior Sandra Y.L. Korn, a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality major, wherein she calls for the end of academic freedom, and the imposition of a new standard she terms "academic justice." Korn writes:
Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do. ...
Korn goes on to give her support to protests and boycotts to enforce her political views. She then explains:
... People on the right opposed to boycotts can play the “freedom” game, calling for economic freedom to buy any product or academic freedom to associate with any institution. Only those who care about justice can take the moral upper hand.

It is tempting to decry frustrating restrictions on academic research as violations of academic freedom. Yet I would encourage student and worker organizers to instead use a framework of justice. After all, if we give up our obsessive reliance on the doctrine of academic freedom, we can consider more thoughtfully what is just.
Of course, what is "just" or "moral" is what expresses her political belief. In other words, her's is simply another argument for censorship. Don't let anyone see how stupid and evil the left has become. Just take your pill, THX1138.

Well, there is a way to combat this. In another of her columns, Korn observes:
Of course, Harvard is a political actor in many ways. Our university makes political statements through where it invests its massive endowment; it makes a political statement withits [sic] treatment of workers on campus; it makes a political statement with the research it funds and the faculty it hires. Yet it also quite literally spends between a quarter million and one-and-a-quarter million dollarseach [sic] year directly advocating for policy changes. Harvard’s top administrators, the Office of Federal Relations, hired lobbyists, and a contracted law firm all spend timelobbying [sic] the federal government and the state of Massachusetts on behalf of our university.

Harvard is certainly not the only university to engage in lobbying the federal government. Even in its highest-spending year recently, 2007, Harvard was outspent by both California State University and Johns Hopkins University. But Harvard’s huge endowment as well as its influence as a huge academic institution means that it can put a lot of economic and moral
clout behind legislation that it cares about.
So Korn acknowledges that Harvard is engaged in lobbying activities involving politics. By that, it shouldn't be permitted its tax-free status. Harvard, and its endowment, should be taxed. It's time that Harvard began contributing its fair share.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ragnarok

Tomorrow is the date Ragnarok is supposed to begin.
Ragnarok, the final bloody battle predicted in Norse mythology approaches on February 22.

Believers say that when the fateful day arrives Earth will split open, unleashing the inhabitants of Hel.

The wolf, Fenrir, son of Loki, will break out of his prison and the Midgard snake Jormungand will rise from the sea.

Nidhogg, the dragon of the underworld, will gnaw at the world tree, Yggdrasil, until it groans and wilts.

Then as the ice giants of Jotunheim come thundering over the horizon, the dead heroes of Valhalla will descend from heaven to fight them.

These events were prophesied by the god Odin who had hung himself from Yggdrasill for nine days so he could die and be re-born with wisdom and foresight.
The Viking apocalypse may not be starting tomorrow, but events in the Ukraine are heating up, and could possibly lead to a civil war ... or worse. Earlier it had appeared that the protests in Kiev might simmer down, as opposition leaders signed an agreement with Ukrainian President, Victor Yanukovich. That is not what has happened. Rather, protesters have denounced the deal. The Globe and Mail reports:
The future of Ukraine appears more uncertain than ever after thousands of protesters angrily denounced an agreement aimed at ending months of unrest.

While politicians managed to reach a deal on Friday that will see the removal of embattled President Viktor Yanukovych by December, the thousands of protesters still on the streets here made it clear they want him out immediately and some vowed to take up arms if that doesn’t happen.

“The Right Sector is not putting down our weapons,” said Dmytro Yarosh, who leads the right-wing organization which some have labelled extremist. “We are not going to stop any of our activities until Yanukovych resigns.”

It was a day of drama and intrigue in Kiev. Under intense pressure from European diplomats alarmed at the increasingly violent confrontation between the Moscow-backed government and its opponents, Mr. Yanukovych and the three main opposition party leaders emerged with an agreement to set up a unity government and hold early elections.

The negotiations were aimed at calming the popular uprising – dozens of people were killed in the now wrecked centre of the capital this week – but they risk exacerbating tensions between the West and Russia over the future of Ukraine.

A Russian envoy in Kiev refused to sign the accord, although EU mediators signed as witnesses. But whether Russia will accept the concessions is unclear. Later on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had what was described as “constructive” discussions, speaking by phone for about an hour, mainly about the Ukraine crisis.
Given Obama's record at foreign relations, I'll hazard a guess that nothing in the conversation was "constructive," but it was a complete disaster.

Meanwhile, the rats have begun to flee the sinking ship, so to speak. Mediaite and Hot Air both indicate that Yanukovych has fled Kiev. From Mediaite:

The Russian-backed president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich, fled the capital city of Kiev on Friday evening shortly after signing a deal with opposition protesters aimed at ending the months-long standoff. The protests in Ukraine against the government’s proposal to avoid integrating with the European Union in favor of strengthening ties with Russia have grown deadly in recent days.

The State Department confirmed on Friday that Yanukovich left the city of Kiev to hold meetings with officials in the nation’s second largest city, Kharkiv. There, the Ukrainian president would be greeted with anti-Yanukovich protesters.

Some, however, are suggesting that Yanukovich’s move may not be as innocent as his office is leading the international press to believe. A Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter tweeted on Friday that the Ukrainian president’s belongings are being prepared for travel as well.
And he is not the only one leaving. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports:
... However, charter flight records published on Twitter and by Ukrainian media suggest that dozens of Yanukovych allies appear to have fled -- or attempted to flee -- the country as the president's regime has grown increasingly shaky.

With the current death toll from protest violence at nearly 80, Yanukovych announced a peace deal on February 21, establishing early presidential elections, a national unity government, and reduced presidential powers.

But even before Yanukovych revealed the terms of the deal, the prospect of such an outcome was reportedly enough to send regime stalwarts scurrying to Kyiv's Zhulyany airport, where records indicate that as many as 180 charter flights have been registered since February 19. (A roll call at the parliament session on February 21 showed only 131 of the Party of Regions' 204 deputies in attendance.)

One log, published online, showed flights to international destinations as well as locations in Ukraine's Russian-speaking south and east. The destinations include Moscow, Frankfurt, Budapest, Istanbul, Kharkhiv, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, and Simferopol.

Many of the surnames on the passenger list appear to correspond to those of high-ranking members of the Yanukovych regime, as well as police officials and oligarchs.
The Daily Beast reports on a law passed by the Ukrainian parliament that would require an investigation into violence against protesters. The same news story goes on:
The second group of MPs took to their heels to the airport with their families and big suitcases, undoubtedly stuffed with cash. They have lots of places to escape to. One of those rumored to have fled: Serhyi Klyuyev, who has close ties to D.C. lobbying firms and who is the brother to Andryi Klyuyev, one of the country’s most powerful politicians. Serhyi’s daughter is said to have an apartment in a luxury building at Clearwater Beach, Florida. Meanwhile, the parents of Yevhen Heller, a key member of the Yanukovych-Ahmetov clan, reportedly live in Brooklyn. While snipers are shooting students in Kiev on the orders of Heller’s boss, his family gets to take advantage of American democracy. If civil war starts in Ukraine, Heller could even ostensibly try to flee to the U.S. through America’s Family Reunion program.

Meanwhile, Yanukovych looks to be increasingly alone. State media reported that he had been prepared to declare a state of emergency, but nobody from the National Security and Defense Council signed the papers for the decree, and so he left his signature off, too. Meanwhile, someone for the opposition drafted a document for the president to read—it accused him of acting like a tyrant. Foreign diplomats have visited Yanukovych to try to persuade him to stop the carnage. But it’s clear who is real friend is: earlier, he allegedly put in a call to Moscow asking Putin if it would be possible to get some guarantees in case he needed to escape. It’s said Putin gave an evasive answer. Yanukovych was left as alone as a Führer in his bunker.
 Allahpundit, writing at Hot Air, warns that the result may be a division of Ukraine along ethnic lines, with a portion of the country seeking to join Russia. This could lead to a civil war. Moreover, he quotes from the Financial Times:
Russia is prepared to fight a war over the Ukrainian territory of Crimea to protect the ethnic Russian population and its military base there, a senior government official has told the FT.

“If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war,” the official said. “They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia.” In August 2008, Russian troops invaded Georgia after the Georgian military launched a surprise attack on the separatist region of South Ossetia in an effort to establish its dominance over the republic…

However, many government officials say in private that Ukraine falls inside Russia’s sphere of influence. “We will not allow Europe and the US to take Ukraine from us. The states of the former Soviet Union, we are one family,” said a foreign policy official. “They think Russia is still as weak as in the early 1990s but we are not.”
 And there is this op-ed from Reuters:
Ukraine has had two weeks to find a compromise in its Russia versus the West dispute. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been focused on promoting his soft image with the Winter Olympics in Sochi. With the games ending Sunday, however, time has run out and the crisis in Kiev and other cities is only getting worse.

If Putin uses Russian history as a guide, it would not be out of the question that Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine. After all, Soviet leaders did just this to retain control during the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the 1968 Prague spring in Czechoslovakia.

For Putin stands to lose influence and his ability to affect policy in Ukraine if the opposition gains control. This is at the core of the current Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich disregarded a much-anticipated association agreement with the European Union in November to sign a $15 billion bailout deal with Russia. It was this Kremlin-influenced act that sparked the protests — first peaceful but now increasingly violent. Ukraine now appears divided into an eastern part that supports Yanukovich and the Russian deal, and the Europe-prone western half.

So the real question may well be: What does Russia want?

Looking to history, Moscow wants what it has always wanted — Ukraine, translated as the Edge (of Russia) and also known as Malorossiya or Small Russia. ...

Laws Are For The Little People....

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio had just recently given a speech about cracking down on bad drivers who endanger pedestrians when his motorcade (with de Blasio as a passenger) was filmed breaking numerous traffic laws. From CBS New York:
Speaking to reporters Friday after his weekly meeting with the mayor, Bratton defended the security detail, which is operated by NYPD detectives, saying the officers did “what they’re trained to do.” 
He added that the video “did not raise significant concerns.”

“He’s the mayor of New York and his security is paramount, much the same as the President of the United States, the governor or even for that matter the security that’s provided to me,” he said. “I’m sorry that’s the way it is.”
 
De Blasio’s two-car motorcade was caught on camera speeding and violating other traffic laws while returning to City Hall after a news conference Thursday in Queens. The incident happened just days after the mayor called for a crackdown on bad driving to protect pedestrians. 
... The NYPD responded Thursday by saying the security detail receives “specialized training in driving based on maintaining security as well as safety” and sometimes has to use special driving techniques for protective reasons. 
“At certain times, under certain conditions, this training may include the use of techniques such as maintaining speed with the general flow of traffic, and may sometimes include tactics to safely keep two or more police vehicles together in formation when crossing intersections,” the NYPD said. “The handling of police vehicles transporting any protectee is determined solely by police personnel based on their specialized training in executive protection and professional judgment.”
 In other words, "shut up you stupid peasant! He's royalty."

"Like a Broken Vessel"

File:Ethiopian Flowerpot (2093019039).jpg
Wikimedia


Last October, at the LDS General Conference, Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk entitled "Like a Broken Vessel" about dealing with emotional problems. Just a few excerpts from his talk:
... In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.

Let me leave the extraordinary illnesses I have mentioned to concentrate on MDD—“major depressive disorder”—or, more commonly, “depression.” When I speak of this, I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines, or other discouraging moments we all have. Everyone is going to be anxious or downhearted on occasion. The Book of Mormon says Ammon and his brethren were depressed at a very difficult time, 2 and so can the rest of us be. But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively—though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!

No, this dark night of the mind and spirit is more than mere discouragement. ...

... So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. ... Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.

In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.

If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.

If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to “stand still” or “be still”—and wait. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education.

For caregivers, in your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own. In all these things be wise. Do not run faster than you have strength. Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and you can give “love unfeigned.” “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; … [it] beareth all things, … hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”

Also let us remember that through any illness or difficult challenge, there is still much in life to be hopeful about and grateful for. We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions! ...

Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says, we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.

I testify of the holy Resurrection, that unspeakable cornerstone gift in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ! With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power. I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally “free at last.” Until that hour when Christ’s consummate gift is evident to us all, may we live by faith, hold fast to hope, and show “compassion one of another,” I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(Footnotes omitted).

A Liberal's Dream Come True...

CNS News reports on a study done by New York City's health department:
In 2012, there were more black babies killed by abortion (31,328) in New York City than were born there (24,758), and the black children killed comprised 42.4% of the total number of abortions in the Big Apple, according to a report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Keep in mind that this was the founding purpose of Planned Parenthood. (See also this article by Michelle Malkin).
 

The Face of Tyranny

File:Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpg
(Source: Wikimedia)
In the Bible, Christ teaches:
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth devil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
 (Matt. 7:16-20). There is much that I could point to from this Administration, but let me focus on an op-ed from yesterday's Washington Examiner (h/t Instapundit). Bryon York writes on a new Orwellian "initiative" by the FCC:
The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…" But under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to send government contractors into the nation's newsrooms to determine whether journalists are producing articles, television reports, Internet content, and commentary that meets the public's "critical information needs." Those "needs" will be defined by the administration, and news outlets that do not comply with the government's standards could face an uncertain future. It's hard to imagine a project more at odds with the First Amendment.

The initiative, known around the agency as "the CIN Study" (pronounced "sin"), is a bit of a mystery even to insiders. "This has never been put to an FCC vote, it was just announced," says Ajit Pai, one of the FCC's five commissioners (and one of its two Republicans). "I've never had any input into the process," adds Pai, who brought the story to the public's attention in a Wall Street Journal column last week.

Advocates promote the project with Obama-esque rhetoric. "This study begins the charting of a course to a more effective delivery of necessary information to all citizens," said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn in 2012. Clyburn, daughter of powerful House Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, was appointed to the FCC by President Obama and served as acting chair for part of last year. The FCC, Clyburn said, "must emphatically insist that we leave no American behind when it comes to meeting the needs of those in varied and vibrant communities of our nation -- be they native born, immigrant, disabled, non-English speaking, low-income, or other." (The FCC decided to test the program with a trial run in Ms. Clyburn's home state, South Carolina.)

The FCC commissioned the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy to do a study defining what information is "critical" for citizens to have. The scholars decided that "critical information" is information that people need to "live safe and healthy lives" and to "have full access to educational, employment, and business opportunities," among other things.

The study identified eight "critical needs": information about emergencies and risks; health and welfare; education; transportation; economic opportunities; the environment; civic information; and political information.

... The FCC awarded a contract for the study to a Maryland-based company called Social Solutions International. In April 2013, Social Solutions presented a proposal outlining a process by which contractors hired by the FCC would interview news editors, reporters, executives and other journalists.

"The purpose of these interviews is to ascertain the process by which stories are selected," the Social Solutions report said, adding that news organizations would be evaluated for "station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs, and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
 
... the FCC also proposes to regulate newspapers, which it has no authority to do. (Its mission statement says the FCC "regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable…")
Due to intense criticism, the FCC has backed down ... a bit. According to the Washington Post:
Faced with an outcry, the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman said Thursday that he would amend the effort — intended to assess whether the news media were meeting the public’s “critical information needs” — by removing questions that critics had deemed invasive.

... FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to the growing furor Thursday by ordering the removal of questions about news philosophy and editorial judgment.

Cats and Dogs Can See into the Ultraviolet Spectrum

File:Amber eye1.jpg
(Source: Wikimedia)

... according to this article from the Daily Mail.
To explore which animals possess the capability to see ultraviolet light, the researchers obtained eyes from a wide array of mammals that had died in zoos, vets, science labs or slaughterhouses. 
They measured how much light got through each animal’s eye to the retina. 
Scientists found that many of the animals, including cats, dogs, hedgehogs, ferrets and okapi, have lenses that let some ultraviolet light though, suggesting that they can see well in the dark.
Scientists already know that bees and other insects use their UV vision to see colours and patterns on plants, while rodents use it to follow trails of urine, but they are not sure what pets use it for. 
‘The question is only being asked because humans can't see it,’ Dr Douglas said.

... Other scientists think that the UV filter in the human eye means that we can see more accurately than without it. They found that animals that also block this part of the spectrum have the highest resolution vision. 
Humans can see in such detail because we have dense colour-sensitive cells (cones) in the retina that create detailed images in low levels of light, but nocturnal creatures have eyes that let in as much light a possible, including UV, but do not enjoy the same level of detail.

Farmers' Almanac More Accurate than Gov't Scientists

This exceptionally cold and snowy winter has shown that government climate scientists were dead wrong when it came to predicting just how cold this winter would be, while the 197-year old Farmers’ Almanac predicted this winter would be “bitterly cold”.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) predicted temperatures would be “above normal from November through January across much of the lower 48 states.”

... Who could have predicted such a harsh winter? The Farmers Almanac did, according to a CBS News report from August 2013. The nearly 200-year old publication hit newsstands last summer and predicted that “a winter storm will hit the Northeast around the time the Super Bowl is played at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey,” and also predicted “a colder-than-normal winter for two-thirds of the country and heavy snowfall in the Midwest, Great Lakes and New England.”

“We’re using a very strong four-letter word to describe this winter, which is C-O-L-D. It’s going to be very cold,” Sandi Duncan, the almanac’s managing editor, told CBS News in August.

While there was thankfully no snow on Super Bowl Sunday, those sad Broncos fans trying to get back home from New Jersey had some trouble as snow started falling the day after the most important football game of the year.

The Midwest and Great Lakes regions also saw terribly cold weather and record levels of snowfall this winter. Major Midwest cities like Chicago, Cincinnati and Detroit have seen record levels of snowfall. Chicago alone saw 45.8 inches of snow by the end of January, and, as of Friday, the Great Lakes were 90 percent frozen over.

The Midwest and New England were hit with frigid weather and snow for long periods of time. So long, in fact, that there were propane shortages and natural gas prices spiked due to increased need for heating and supply bottlenecks.

The Farmers’ Almanac makes predictions based on planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles — a prediction system that has remained largely unchanged since its first publication in 1818. While modern scientists don’t put much stock in the almanac’s way of doing things, the book says it’s accurate about 80 percent of the time.
Conspicuously absent from the list of factors considered by the Almanac are models used by climate scientists to predict global warming.

When News Becomes Not-News

The Washington Times has a lengthy article on shortcoming and defects with the M-4 carbine. It states, in part:
Army Senior Warrant Officer Russton B. Kramer, a 20-year Green Beret, has learned that if you want to improve your chances to survive, it’s best to personally make modifications to the Army’s primary rifle — the M4 carbine.

Warrant Officer Kramer has been dropped into some of the most ferocious battles in the war on terrorism, from hunting Islamists in the mountains of northern Iraq to disrupting Taliban opium dealers in dusty southern Afghanistan. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in Operation Viking Hammer to crush the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam in Iraq.

The warrant officer said he and fellow Special Forces soldiers have a trick to maintain the M4A1 — the commando version: They break the rules and buy off-the-shelf triggers and other components and overhaul the weapon themselves.

“The reliability is not there,” Warrant Officer Kramer said of the standard-issue model. “I would prefer to use something else. If I could grab something else, I would.”

Documents obtained by The Washington Times show the Pentagon was warned before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that the iterations of the M4 carbine were flawed and might jam or fail, especially in the harsh desert conditions that both wars inflicted.

U.S. Special Operations Command in 2001 issued a damning private report that said the M4A1 was fundamentally flawed because the gun failed when called on to unleash rapid firing.

In 2002, an internal report from the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey said the M4A1 was prone to overheating and “catastrophic barrel failure,” according to a copy obtained by The Times.

The test findings also carried ramifications for the regular Army. By 2002, soldiers were carrying thousands of the conventional, light-barrel M4, of which the service ultimately would buy nearly 500,000 and send them into long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The M4, at times, has been called upon to perform the same kind of rapid fire as the M4A1.

... In 2011, a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Army announced that it was converting M4s to the commando version with a heavier barrel and automatic trigger firing.

Some of the problems uncovered in 2001 and 2002, such as stoppages or jamming, became evident in the conventional firearm, most infamously in the 2008 Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan in which nine U.S. troops lost their lives.

“Realistically speaking, there’s been loss of life that is unneeded because there was a dumbing-down of the weapon system,” said Scott Traudt, who advised the Army on how to improve the M4 a decade ago.
... Mr. Traudt said he thinks the jamming problems encountered by a significant segment of troops over the past decade could have been avoided if special operations continued developing Green Mountain’s Reliability Product Improvement Kit.

The kit was tested at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind., in 2001 and at Picatinny in 2002. It included replacing the extractor spring, ejector spring, gas tube and gas plug with more heat-resistant ones, and moving to a one-piece, four-coil system that was engineered from more thermally durable materials to make the gun function better.

“An M4A1, when equipped with those parts, will fire continuously on full-automatic magazine after magazine until its barrel disintegrates,” Mr. Traudt said. “In our tests, M4A1 barrel failure occurred at 1,375 rounds. A normal Army M4A1 is out of action at 840 shots fired when equipped with its standard, metallurgically and technologically antiquated parts — and this isn’t even barrel failure. It’s gas system or bolt failure.”

At the time of the tests, internal reports by SoCom and Picatinny said the M4A1 was terribly flawed and not suited for commando missions.
This is not something new to the M4. All American service rifles in the last century (and probably before) have had "teething" problems. Some have been with manufacturing (e.g., the Springfield M1903, which had problems with the heat treating of its receivers), design (the M14 had many issues when it was first introduced which was one of the reasons for the rapid adoption of the M16 in the first place), and cartridges (the cartridge for the Springfield M1903 was completely redesigned). In fact, most firearms go through a similar process of refinement as companies improve designs and address problems.

But I also think the article is beating  a dead horse. The reports upon which the Washington Times relies were written over 10 years ago. Many of the reliability issues have been addressed, as discussed in this 2010 article at the New York Times. The author of the NYT's piece, while embedded with troops in Afghanistan, looked at this very issue, and wrote:

The reliability questions interest me most, for two reasons. First, a rifle’s range and lethality are moot points if the rifle will not fire when a soldier needs it to fire. And second, effective range and lethality are related in part to allied cartridge choice for all NATO forces and to bullet composition — two decisions that are beyond a manufacturer’s purview.

So far this year, the photographer Tyler Hicks and I have spent roughly three months in the field in Afghanistan with American troops, many of whom are engaged in some of the most regular and intensive fighting of the war. As part of our work, we have been observing rifle performance and querying soldiers and Marines about their experiences in combat with what is arguably the most important piece of equipment they carry.

The question before us was simple: How do the reliability complaints about M-4s and M-16s we hear in the States line up against what we see and hear in the field, where the war is being fought? Put another way, could we verify the troops’ reported dislike of the rifle because of its reliability, and demonstrate the nature of any problems behind the reported disaffection?

The answer was a surprise: The M-4 and M-16 were not seen to be suffering from reliability problems, at least not among people whose paths have crossed ours.

Simply put, in observations in many firefights in harsh conditions, and in the experiences of Army and Marine grunts queried this year, the issue of rifle reliability seems much less pressing than it has appeared in accounts of widespread worries about or dislike of the M-4 and M-16.
... To be equally clear, no sample of 100 or so grunts is enough to settle any longstanding argument. But after years of carrying an M-16 (the A2 version, in the 1980s and 1990s) and years of observing them in the field, often in firefights, I have yet to see a modern M-16 or M-4 fail in the ways described in others’ reports, and I have not found significant reliability complaints from troops using the rifles in trying environments. (Interestingly, two Web sites that closely follow military equipment decisions, www.military.com and www.defensereview.com, reported late last month that the special operations community had dropped its program to replace M-4s with a rifle colloquially known as the SCAR, in part because the SCAR was not living up to its early billing – a common trait among rifles in development – and because it was not regarded as offering an upgrade on the M-4 that was worth the investment.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Being Tolerant and Inclusive Means Excluding Whites

From the Gates of Vienna:
Amarra Ghani is a 24-year-old woman of Pakistani background who is interning at National Public Radio. She was born in Brooklyn, and remembers suffering greatly as a child from the intolerance expressed towards her family by non-Muslim Americans in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Before she joined the cadres at NPR, she was a student at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, and a member of the Muslim Students’ Association on campus. While she was at UNC in 2012, she guest-blogged at “Breakfast at Night: A Ramadan Photo Project” about her fellowship with the other two “Abrahamic faiths”.

In March 2012 she took part in a UNC event to commemorate Trayvon Martin ....

On Twitter yesterday, Amarra Ghani posted a tweet that included a snippet of Urdu.

... So her tweet is really: I thank god 90x a day that I’m not a white woman.

Alps Murder--Not Solved After All?

I had just posted yesterday about a possible breakthrough in the Saad al-Hilli murder case. But, according to the Guardian, it may have been a dead end.
Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud told reporters on Wednesday that it was unlikely at this stage that the former policeman would be charged in connection with the murders, and insisted he was not a suspect. But in the light of a cache of second world war guns found at his home in Talloires, near Chevaline, and the arrest of a friend who tried to escape and whose home also contained a weapons arsenal, the pair may be charged with arms trafficking.

Police have until Friday to decide whether to formally place the man under investigation. He was arrested on Tuesday in what appeared to be a breakthrough in the Hilli case. But in the latest setback for prosecutors, two DNA samples taken from the murder scene are not a match with the arrested former policeman, sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday evening.

However, it remains possible that the DNA found in the layby may not match a suspect as many people passed through the popular tourist area south of Lake Annecy.
 I'd be more interested in the ballistic tests.

Why Only Cops Should Have Guns--Cop Kills Child for Holding Wii Remote

File:Browning 9mm Pistol MOD 45151558.jpg
What a pistol looks like (Source)

File:Wiimote-with-Motionplus-Attach.jpg
What officer claims looked like a gun (Source)

















CBS Atlanta reports:
The family attorney representing a 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Euharlee police officer says that the boy was holding a video game controller when he was shot opening his door. 
Christopher Roupe was shot and killed on Friday when Euharlee officers showed up at the door of his home at 937 Euhar Lee Road, Lot 5, in Eagle View Mobile Home Park to serve a probation violation warrant for the boy’s father, WSB-TV reports. A female officer told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that Roupe pointed a gun at her after he opened the door. 
But the family’s attorney, Cole Law, said the boy was holding a Nintendo Wii video game controller, and was about to watch a movie. 
“It just doesn’t add up,” Law told WSB. “We don’t know where that statement came from. The eyewitnesses on the scene clearly state that he had a Wii controller in his hand. He heard a knock at the door. He asked who it was, there was no response so he opened the door and upon opening the door he was immediately shot in the chest.”
Now, if you or I were to shoot someone as soon as they opened their door because we thought they had a gun, but it was a Wii controller, we would be facing homicide charges, and the media would be howling for greater gun control.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Breakthrough in Saad al-Hilli Murder?

There may have been a break-through in the investigation into the murder of Saad al-Hilli, his family, and a passing bicyclist, Sylvain Mollier. The murder occurred in the French Alps in 2012, and had sparked numerous theories as to whether the murder was a contract killing related to defense technology work by al-Hilli, disputes between him and his brother, and even theories that Mollier was the actual target. The Telegraph reports:
A former policeman named locally as Eric Devouassoux has been arrested by French Police in the Alps murder mystery case.... 
The 48-year-old, described as a “taciturn mountain man” and said to have left the police force last year, was found to have a number of weapons in his home – less than two miles from the site of the quadruple murder. 
The weapons were seized by police searching his home on Tuesday.
... Tuesday’s arrest is the first to be made in France and has been seen as a breakthrough, taking place 18 months after the murders. 
The French man arrested was a former municipal police officer in the town of Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the local prosecutor confirmed to AFP.
... The man was arrested at his home in Lathuile and taken to a police station in Chambery for questioning. The GIGN, a special operations unit of the French Armed Forces, was involved. 
Lathuile is the site of another unsolved murder after a woman was shot in her home, at a campsite, in November last year. It is also where William Brett Martin, the Briton who discovered the murders while on a bike ride, has a holiday home. 
Also on Tuesday, French police investigators were searching the nearby town of Talloires, scanning the ground with a metal-detector and shovels. A police source said the operation in Talloires was linked to Chevaline.
 The report indicates that the man has not been charged with the murder, but is being questioned in connection with the murder. He had been spotted riding a motorcycle near the scene of the crime, and his motorcycle helmet was a special helmet only produced for French police.