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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Another Blow to Global Warming

The Indonesian volcano of Sangeang Api has erupted at least three times since Friday. The ash cloud is so large that it has grounded flights in Australia and South East Asia, according to this report from the Independent. The massive amounts of ash thrown into the atmosphere will further cool the planet by blocking sunlight.

Good News for the Day (Updated)

A couple bits of good news. First, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been released by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He has been held prisoner for nearly 5 years. He was able to walk, but no other word on his condition. Unfortunately, the release necessitated the trade of some Taliban held by the U.S., but the trade was worth it. It will be quite a challenge for Bergdahl to adjust from being a prisoner back to normal life, and our prayers are with him and his family.(Update 6/1/2014: Things may not be as they seem. It is not clear but that Bergdahl may have been a Taliban sympathizer).

Second, Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman facing the death penalty for marrying an American Christian, may be released. This is still preliminary, but we hope and pray for her safety as well.




And Now for Something Completely Different....

A song by Tim Hawkins, "The Government Can."


Friday, May 30, 2014

Whittling Down the Base

Nick Gillespie reviews Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty, at the Daily Beast. He writes about what he terms Libertarianism 3.0:
... a political and cultural development that, if successful, will not only frustrate the left but fundamentally alter the right by creating fusion between forces of social tolerance and fiscal responsibility.
I'm not sure that kicking social conservatives out of the party is going to help.

Vilifying Whites

I've always found racially based, identity politics to be distasteful. It is particularly so when it leads to vilifying another group for the ills of society. We see it with antisemitism--the nutty conspiracy theories that Jews are manipulating the world--and now I increasingly see "whites" cast as the villains. We saw it with George Zimmerman, a Latino, and, now, with Elliot Rodger, who was mixed Asian-British.

Chauncy Devega, who Weasel Zippers notes is a writer for Salon, writes:
Elliot Rodger was/is a white man.

For some people, this fact is very controversial and upsetting.

As I wrote in 'The True Alpha Male': The Santa Barbara Mass Shooting, Elliot Rodger, and Aggrieved White Male Entitlement Syndrome, when the bad behavior of white people is publicly called to account, said person’s relationship to “Whiteness” is rarely discussed.

To be forced to include white mass murderers, madmen, and Right-wing domestic terrorists as part of the tribe is very uncomfortable and disconcerting.

This is understandable: what reasonable person would not want to excommunicate them from their community and affinity group?

Only white folks have such a luxury in the United States: a black rapist, thief, or murderer is de facto a representative of “the black race” with its “bad culture” and “pathologies”. There is no parallel for whites. The white murderer, thief, rapist, or mass shooter is an outlier, “mentally ill”, or some type of deviant whose behavior reveals nothing about white people en masse.

The boundaries of Whiteness and white privilege are heavily policed: bad people are “them”; good people are “us”.
Devega is being dishonest and hypocritical. Notice how he throws in the term "Right-wing domestic terrorists" even though Rodger was neither right-wing or a terrorist. In fact, mass shootings seem to be overwhelmingly a problem with the left-wing. More significantly, though, Devega does exactly what he is critical of--labeling "bad people" as a member of a particular race. In this case, "white." Just as the left could not acknowledge Zimmerman's Latino roots, Devega either is unwilling to recognize Rodger's Asian roots or, more likely, no longer distinguishes between Asians and those of European decent.

Eugene Volokh writes about the latter phenomena in his article "How the Asians became white" at the Washington Post.
This is part of a phenomenon I have long observed, under the label of “how the Asians became white.” It’s not just that Asians are being treated like whites for purposes of race preferences, with some institutions deliberately setting lower standards (or creating a “plus factor,” which is the same thing) for black and Hispanic applicants than for Asian and white applicants — instead, people sometimes actually call Asians white (mostly unconsciously, I suspect).
 (Emphasis in original). He goes on:
“White” has stopped meaning Caucasian, imprecise as this term has always been, and has started to mean “those racial groups that have made it.” “Minority” has started to mean “those racial groups that have not yet made it.” (A recent San Francisco Chronicle story even excludes non-Mexican-American Latinos from the “minority” category.) ...
... calling Asians white is often a tool for misleading the public. Falsely calling a school “lily-white” gets a strong reaction from readers. Accurately saying “There are relatively few blacks and Hispanics at the school, but there are many Asians, perhaps more than there are whites” leads to a much more complex (as well as more well-informed) response. Falsely talking about plummeting “minority” admissions makes more political hay than accurately describing decreases among some racial groups and increases among others.
Although Volokh indicates that the mistake may be unintentional, it does not seem to be. This seems part and parcel of the whole "white privilege" meme which, of course, would be undermined if it were to be instead labelled, "white, Indian, Asian, Jewish, Cuban-American, ... etc. ... privilege."

(H/t Weasel Zippers and Instapundit)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Censoring the German Surrender

The Atlantic has a story of how authorities tried to delay the release of news of the German surrender in 1945. This is the part I found most interesting (and ironic):
At 10 a.m.—more than seven hours after the surrender—[Gen. Frank] Allen called a press conference in Paris. Reporters were angry. Allen promised he was doing what he could to move the story forward that day. Meanwhile, other officials at SHAEF told [Edward] Kennedy [the AP bureau chief] that the delay was a favor to Russian leaders "who wanted to hold another and 'more formal' ceremony in Berlin." But this explanation seemed suspicious to Kennedy, who says he realized that Allied reporters were being told to hold one of the biggest news stories of the century so that Russia could better orchestrate its own spin on the surrender.
This, even though the military officials and reporters all understood that delaying the announcement would cost additional lives. The article notes that the decision to delay the story was made above Gen. Eisenhower's authority, which suggests it had come from the White House.
Ultimately, it became clear that the U.S. plan to delay the news of Germany's surrender was actually a concession to Russia, which wanted the story to be told as a victory for the Soviets. "No word of the real surrender in Reims has ever appeared in Soviet-controlled press," Kennedy wrote in 1948. "The Russian action was quite in line with the Soviet conception of the press for propaganda, and nothing to get excited about; the fault was ours for falling for it."

Does She Really Mean It?

So, driving in to work today, I saw a car that, in addition to the normal liberal-feminist affirmations, had a bumper sticker saying: "My children have four paws."

Does she mean really mean it? Is that permission to call her one?

Richard Epstein: A Case Against Reparations for Slavery

Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Optical Illusions

The Daily Mail has some award winning optical illusions.

Elliot Rodger--Who Is To Blame? (Updated)

Another leftist/progressive has gone a murderous killing spree. So, who is being blamed? Well, apparently not Elliot Rodger--the morally stunted, narcissist that actually planned and carried out the attacks. Richard Martinez, father of victim Christopher Martinez, blamed "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA" for his son's death. According to the same news source, Rodger's aunt also blamed easy access to guns, and claimed that Rodger has been seriously mentally ill for a long period of time. The attorney for Rodger's father, Peter Rodger (one of the directors of The Hunger Games) also released a statement indicating that the family was opposed to ownership of firearms. Over at Slate, they are blaming "the pickup culture."

Rodger left a lengthy manifesto describing what he hoped to do, and outlining his hatred of women. According to the New York Daily News:
In the repulsive manifesto he penned before killing six people and himself in seaside Southern California, tortured Santa Barbara college student Elliot Rodger vowed to “punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex.” 
“They have starved me of sex for my entire youth, and gave that pleasure to other men,” the sex-obsessed 22-year-old virgin wrote in his 137-page screed, titled “My Twisted World.” 
“I cannot kill every single female on earth, but I can deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts.” 
“Females truly have something mentally wrong with them,” Rodger wrote in the rambling diatribe, which he emailed to two dozen people ahead of his bloody Friday night rampage.
(See also these New York Times and National Post articles). Rodger planned on killing his roommates (he stabbed both of them to death, plus another male visitor), then drive around "splattering" as many people as he could with his car and shooting others.

What I wonder is where did he get the idea that the measure of success was casual sexual encounters, or that common people were inferior to him and existed only for his amusement and pleasure? Was it perhaps the liberal-progressive culture from which he had imbibed his whole life?

Update: Where did Rodger learn to objectify women? The Daily Mail reports that his father, Peter Rodger, sells erotic photographs (NSFW).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hoist the Black Flag

Identity politics will be the death of this nation. Ta-Nehisi Coates has written an article at The Atlantic calling for reparations. The article itself is a lengthy description of the many wrongs perpetuated on blacks, from slavery to post-civil war discrimination, to predatory business practices, and so on. However, it is an exaggeration, as the article suggests, that this nation was built on the backs of blacks. Oh, they played an important part in the Southern economy, but their role becomes more attenuated as you move north and west. 

In any event, Coates summarizes:
... But black history does not flatter American democracy; it chastens it. The popular mocking of reparations as a harebrained scheme authored by wild-eyed lefties and intellectually unserious black nationalists is fear masquerading as laughter. Black nationalists have always perceived something unmentionable about America that integrationists dare not acknowledge—that white supremacy is not merely the work of hotheaded demagogues, or a matter of false consciousness, but a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it.

And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans.

Won’t reparations divide us? Not any more than we are already divided. The wealth gap merely puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution. What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt.

What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.
Coates article provides the groundwork for an article by Jamelle Bouie at Slate, also calling for reparations to blacks. The primary difference between the articles is that while Coates laid the groundwork for the "why" of reparations, Bouie discusses the mechanics. He writes:
And so, how would we accomplish the task? Would you attempt a massive transfer of wealth? Or would you try to compensate black communities with targeted policies?

The “wealth option,” accomplished by cash payments, is what we tend to think when we hear “reparations.” In this scenario, the federal government would mail checks to individuals, either in a lump sum or spread out over time. ...

... here’s a lot to recommend when it comes to cash benefits. For starters, it empowers individuals, families, and communities. They know what they need, and we should trust them to figure out their own interests over the long term. Yes, a cash scheme could never be fully fair, but that’s not the point; what we want is to heal injury and balance accounts, and on that score, it could work.

On the other end is the policy approach. Instead of cash, the federal government would implement an agenda to tackle racial inequality at its roots. This agenda would focus on major areas of concern: housing, criminal justice, education, and income inequality. As for the policies themselves, they don’t require a ton of imagination. To break the ghettos and reduce the hyper-segregation of black life, the federal government would aggressively enforce the Fair Housing Act, with attacks on housing and lending discrimination, and punishment for communities that exclude low-income residents with exclusionary zoning.

What’s more, it would provide vouchers for those who want to move, subsidized mortgages for those who want to own, and huge investments in transportation infrastructure, to break urban and rural isolation and connect low-income blacks to jobs in wealthier, whiter areas.

On the education front, state governments could end education budgets based on local property taxes—which disadvantage poor communities and disproportionately hurt blacks—and the federal government could invest in school reconstruction, modernization, and vouchers—for parents who want their children in private schools—in addition to higher education subsidies for black Americans. These “in-kind” benefits have the virtue of freeing up disposable income, thus acting as de facto cash payments.

It almost goes without saying that this move for policy reparations would include an end to the war on drugs, an end to mass incarceration, and a national re-evaluation of police procedures to reduce racial profiling. And, looking forward, it could include progressive “baby bonds”—federally managed investment accounts with modest annual growth rates. At $60 billion a year, according to one proposal, this would help ameliorate wealth inequality for future generations.

There are more policies along these lines, no doubt. The advantage, for most of these, is that they are both universal and hugely beneficial to black Americans.
Bouie predicts that reparations would be unpopular. No kidding. We have been paying reparations in the form of "the war on poverty" ever since the 1960's, and through affirmative action and other educational and employment preferences, urban renewal programs, food stamps and other welfare programs, anti-discrimination legislation creating a de facto "for cause" standard for firing minority employees, special protections as to housing, etc. There have, in addition, been specific payouts to redress past wrongs such as the payouts to black farmers for alleged discrimination by the USDA.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, there is also a question of where do you stop? Do we ignore the exploitation of Chinese, Irish, Swedes, Italians, poor Englishmen, etc. And what about the American Indians? Or the Spanish/Mexican settlers and workers? Should we subtract from the reparations amounts to compensate crime victims? If you tried to compensate every group for real and imagined harms, where would it end?

And why stop with the United States? More slaves were exported to the Middle-East than to the Americas. Should Arab countries escape reparations simply because they killed all their slaves? What about all the Europeans enslaved by Muslims in Africa and the Middle-East? Shouldn't there be reparations for that? Shouldn't China pay reparations for the American soldiers and Koreans killed during the Korean War? Shouldn't African nations have to pay reparations for the land and capital improvements made by Europeans and "nationalized"? Shouldn't China and Russia pay for the damage caused by the Black Plague? Shouldn't Africa be liable for all the dead from small pox and malaria?

I see the demand for reparations, in this context, as merely another form of plunder, and source of corruption for the Democratic political machine. Any demand for reparations should be accompanied by a pirate flag in the interests of truth in advertising.

Karma

Guns'n'Freedom observes:
You have to wonder if the CEO of Jack in the Box is kicking himself after making the decision to request all gun owners to leave their guns at home. It was not even 2 weeks ago that Jack in the Box essentially banned guns from their fast food joints, and now the third armed robbery has taken place since then.

According to Click2Houston, 4 men put on gloves and masks before walking into a Houston Jack in the Box, robbing the restaurant at gunpoint. The armed crooks robbed both employees and customers who were eating at the fast food place.

Who would have thought that criminals would break the restaurant’s policy? But at least they did not have any law abiding gun owners to try and stop them and make their job more dangerous. These gun owners would have to either leave their guns at home or eat somewhere else.
(H/t Weasel Zippers)

Gitmo Detainees Get Better Care Than Veterans

From Fox News:
By now most American have heard about the VA’s infamous patient “secret wait lists” which reportedly contributed to the deaths of up to 40 veterans in the Phoenix area alone. Those patriots were American heroes who served our country proudly. Yet they were left to die waiting to see a doctor.

Here’s another secret the White House doesn’t want you to know about the VA. Al Qaeda detainees get better medical treatment than our veterans.

Say what?

Yes, it’s true. I know because I served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005-2009 and visited Guantanamo Bay Naval Base over 30 times during those years.

Despite the fact that Al Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 terror attacks, killing 3,000 people in America, the admitted co-conspirators and their roughly 150 fellow jihadists at Gitmo have approximately 100 doctors, nurses and health care personnel assigned to them.
That is, the ratio of health care personnel to detainee is 1.5: 1 versus 35:1 for Veterans.

It doesn't surprise me because prisoners in our jails and prisons receive pretty extensive care as well--and it is considered by the courts to be a Constitutional right under the 8th Amendment. Yes, an Amendment intended to do away with "cruel and unusual" punishment such as torture now requires state and federal governments to pay for a prisoner's sex change operation. This has been a natural progression over the years from when courts first began requiring prisons to provide treatment for gender identity disorder (GID)--from counseling, to drugs, and now to the full sex-change operation.

Of course, it is the same court system that stretches the 8th Amendment to ridiculousness that somehow can't understand that freedom of religion extends to protecting businesses from having to provide services or benefits that are offensive to the proprietor's religious beliefs; that skip over the "shall not" language of the Second Amendment, and reinterpreted "arms" to merely be those in common use for self-defense; and have pretty much written out the "warrant" requirement of the 4th Amendment.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another Terrorist Attack in China

From VOA News:
At least 31 people have been killed in an attack on a street market in the capital of China's restive region Xinjiang. Chinese state media say two cars plowed into a market street, running people over and throwing explosives against the crowd.

The attack occurred Thursday morning as many were buying vegetables and fruit at a roadside market in a largely Chinese neighborhood in the regional capital, Urumqi.

Pictures posted online from witnesses showed chaotic scenes with bodies in the street and flames from the explosions.

Chinese media said the attackers drove two cars, which crashed through a metal barricade and plowed into crowds of morning shoppers.

A local resident who lives in a compound facing the market says she was woken from her sleep by loud sounds. When she went outside, she said many people were paralyzed with fear. Witnesses told her two cars drove back and forth down the lane tossing bombs as they did.

Authorities have yet to provide any details about what happened to the assailants, but called the attack an act of terrorism. The bombings are the third major incident in China in recent months. Late last month, a bomb attack at Urumqi's train station left three people dead and 79 injured.

O'Keefe Goes After Hollywood Greens

If you haven't heard about this yet, James O'Keefe (known for his exposure of liberal hypocrisy), has done it again. This time, he is exposing the true color of Hollywood environmentalists. Oh, they're green alright ... the green of hard, cold cash. From the Powerline Blog:
... O’Keefe’s crew pose as a Middle Eastern potentate named “Muhammad” and his American ad executive. They approach the Tickells with an offer of $9 million to finance an anti-fracking film. “Muhammad’s” motives are clearly expressed: he wants to keep the U.S. dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and to that end he wants to stamp out fracking. The Tickells have no problem with this at all. They discuss the need to keep the film’s source of funding secret, and talk about how they can create a false impression as to who paid for it.
The Tickells are Josh and Rebecca Tickell, producers of environmental documentaries such as Fuel.

(H/t Instapundit)

Women Talk About Sex More Than Men ... Oh, and the Sky is Blue

Instapundit cites, via this article at the Tango (probably NSFW, at least if you are male) to a 2002 study that determined that women actually talk about sex more than men. While this fact may be surprising to women, it shouldn't surprise any man that has been friends (in a Platonic sense) with women or worked around women.  The idea that women are somehow purer or operate at some higher spiritual level than men is a relic of the Victorian (i.e., early Progressive) era.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

China Warns Neighbors To Not Join Military Alliances

The Voice of America News reports:
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Asian countries against building what he sees as unhelpful military alliances, in what is seen as a swipe at nations that have developed closer defense ties with the United States.

The comments came Wednesday in Shanghai at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA), a regional grouping China hopes to use to offset U.S. influence.

"We should stick to the basic norms in international relations such as the respect for the independence of sovereignty and integrity of territory, mutual non-interference into internal affairs. We should respect the political systems and development methods different countries choose willingly. We should respect and look after the reasonable security concerns of every country. It is disadvantageous to the common security of the region if military alliances with third parties are strengthened,” said Xi.
Trying to split the herd so it can attack the weaker ones.

Russia and China Ink Gas Agreement

France 24 reports that Russia has signed a $400 billion, 30-year agreement to provide natural gas to China. The gas will be shipped via a pipeline to be constructed through Siberia to China.

NASA E-Book Repository

NASA offers free e-books online.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Illusory STEM Shortage

As you may know, the Republicans are searching for some way to cave to Democrats' demands for "immigration reform" without alienating the Republican base. They think that they have found a way through H1B visas. The Washington Times reported on May 8, 2014:
Republican Rep. Raul Labrador on Thursday offered a potential immigration deal to the White House, saying the GOP would agree to loosen penalties on illegal immigrants if President Obama would agree to increase visas for foreigners who work in high-tech fields. 
Mr. Labrador suggested dropping the penalty period that bars illegal immigrants from reapplying to enter the U.S. legally after being deported, a period that now lasts for between three and 10 years, depending on how long they had first remained in the country illegally.
The immigration debate has put the Republican politicians in a tight spot. Most conservatives are opposed to amnesty programs because of the downward pressure it will put on wages and increased costs of public services. However, amnesty is favored by big business and farmers because they want the cheaper labor. Thus, the Republican politicians must choose between money or carrying out the will of those they allegedly represent. An agreement on H1B visas for skilled workers is a way that these politicians believe that can have their cake and eat it too.

However, this is based on an assumption that there is a shortage of high tech workers. That assumption is not supported. Breitbart reports:
The myth that there are such widespread labor shortages in the high-tech industry has been debunked in numerous studies, but Republicans and Democrats have continued to, as the scholars noted, perpetuate it without being challenged on their specious claims.
 The article goes on:
Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who has worked on these issues for more than a decade, said on the conference call that the H-1B visas that are filling the supposed "gaps" are "doing more harm than good" to the U.S. science and engineering workforce.

He noted that the majority of the H-1B visas are being used for "cheaper workers" from abroad and mentioned that offshoring firms used 50% of the cap last year to further their business model of bringing in "lower-cost H-1B workers to replace American workers." Salzman said that even after American software engineers train their replacements, they cannot speak out about their experiences for fear of being blackballed or having to forfeit their severance payments.
 
Hira said that the H-1B program has run amok because "Congress sets the wage floors way too low" and "far below the market wages for American workers" while not placing any "requirement to look for or recruit American workers first, so there is no displacement of American workers." 
"As a result, you are basically inducing companies to game the system to bring foreign workers to undercut American workers," Hira noted. "Instead of complimenting the U.S. workers as it should, it's substituting for the U.S. workforce and taking away future opportunities by shifting the work overseas." 
Salzman said that in this arrangement, the employer has nearly total control of the "indentured" H1-B workers because they hold their work permits.

Matloff agreed, saying that figuratively "handcuffing" foreign workers is even "more important than saving on wages" because employers can "prevent foreign workers from leaving" in the middle of projects, unlike with American workers.
Other researchers have noted that this is not new:
This trend, though, is nothing new, according to Teitelbaum, the Harvard Law School research associate who has discovered that dating back to World War II, there have been five cycles in which alarms were sounded about shortages in the STEM fields that forced the government to respond by increasing the flow of high-tech workers through more education or visas.

What immediately followed, Teitelbaum said, were periods of busts that put workers out of work and discouraged prospective students from going into the those industries, which would lead to another "shortage" cycle. Matloff said there are some indications that students in the STEM fields, even graduates in Silicon Valley, are responding negatively when faced with bleak job prospects in the high-tech industry after they were assured that STEM degrees would secure them employment. Matloff noted that other students may "eventually see that this is not a good career path" and, consistent with Teitelbaum's findings, discourage others from pursuing STEM degrees and potentially sowing the seeds for a sixth cycle of boom and bust.
See also this article at Right Side News.

In other words, like everything else concerning amnesty, it is a lie designed to cover the fact that the purpose of allowing increased immigration is intended to drive down wages and, in the case if H1B visas, essentially allow a form of indentured servitude.

Where's the Money?

The Wall Street Journal reports on a potential new scandal--this one involving the Clintons:
The news website Tout Haiti reported last month that two prominent lawyers have petitioned Haiti's Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes, demanding an audit of Bill Clinton's management of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). There are powerful interests that won't want to see the petition succeed and it may go nowhere. But the sentiment it expresses is spreading fast. In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, Mr. Clinton has gone from hero to goat.

Four years after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake toppled the capital city of Port-au-Prince and heavily damaged other parts of the country, hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), allocated to the IHRC, are gone. Hundreds of millions more to the IHRC from international donors have also been spent. Left behind is a mishmash of low quality, poorly thought-out development experiments and half-finished projects.

Haitians are angry, frustrated and increasingly suspicious of the motives of the IHRC and of its top official, Mr. Clinton. Americans might feel the same way if they knew more about this colossal failure. One former Haitian official puts it this way: "I really cannot understand how you could raise so much money, put a former U.S. president in charge, and get this outcome."
Mr. Clinton's organization received the money from the State Department while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State.

(H/t Diogenes' Middle Finger)

The Cruelty of Islam

The DiploMad provides some insight into the disparity between Islam and the West:
I am not a vegetarian; I recognize the need for some testing of medicines and other products on animals; I eat meats and seafood of all kinds; I have hunted birds and mammals; I have had no problem pulling a weapon on threatening humans. I, however, hate cruelty and despise people who abuse animals or other humans just because they have the power to do so. That was a big problem I had in my service in Muslim countries; one had to turn a blind eye to the big and little savageries of daily life there. Those were quite common in Pakistan. One saw animals, children, and women beaten. I remember a crowd in Peshawar stoning a confused dog to death while children laughed and cheered. Our maid, a Christian widow with a young daughter, had been forced to undergo sterilization by her previous Muslim employer as a condition of her employment. He assumed Christian women were of loose morals, and didn't want her to get pregnant.

Friday, May 16, 2014

This Should Make You Uncomfortable...

... whether you support gay marriage or not. From an article at the Atlantic entitled "Judges Are Ready for Gay Marriage—Are the People?":
This means the legal battle over same-sex marriage is about to take on a new feel. It's moving south, to the places in America where people feel the strongest moral opposition to homosexuality. As Arkansas has shown, the citizens of these states don't need to approve of gay marriage for it to become legal. Judges all over the country are ruling that bans against these unions are unconstitutional; from this standpoint, the moral sentiments of Arkansans and Texans and Oklahomans are irrelevant.
(Underline added). Rendering the moral sentiments of a majority of a state's population "irrelevant" merely underscores the fact that the issue of gay marriage is a non-justiciable political question.

Pogo and the War on Terrorism

(Source)

Yesterday, I saw this story about the Department of Agriculture having published a solicitation for submachine guns. While you ponder why the Department of Agriculture would want or need automatic weapons, I would recommend reading Angelo M. Codevilla's article entitled "America’s New Security State." It's a long article, but the basic thesis the Professor builds on is:
After 9/11 our ruling class came together on the proposition that, at home as well as abroad, America is at war against enemies so evil that there must be no limit to fighting them, whose identity we must always seek but can never know; that to focus on, to “profile,” the kinds of persons who have committed terrorist acts, is racist and provocative; that any American is as likely as any other to be a terrorist, and hence that all must submit to being sifted, screened, restricted—forever.
He goes on to explain that this fundamental premise--that any American is a potential enemy--has not only fundamentally altered the relationship between the state and the citizen, but it has "diminished the natural distinctions between citizen and foreigner, familiar and alien, friend and enemy," and opened the door to the abuse of power against political or cultural opponents by undermining the rule of law.
If war, once exceptional, is henceforth normal and perpetual, and if all are liable to be treated as enemies, our complex of laws boils down to the Roman dictatorial formula: salus populi suprema lex. In the name of the people’s safety, the dictator’s will is law. But republican Rome’s “dictators” were appointed for brief emergencies for the purpose of returning the state to its ordinary laws, and themselves to live under them. Not incidentally, they were congenitally committed to victory. By contrast, the new American security state is committed neither to victory, nor to any purpose that transcends it. Least of all is it committed to transcending itself. Like Orwell’s Oceania, it is an endless end in itself.
(H/t Weaselzippers and Instapundit)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Magical Thinking and Identity Politics

Robert Weissberg writes at Taki Magazine about the Donald Sterling brouhaha, and makes the following observation:
Central to magical thinking is the belief that thought in and of itself can have tangible real-world consequences. For example, someone dies after you imagined his death, though you are totally innocent of causing it. Add magical thinking and pure coincidences become a causal relationship: “I thought him dead and therefore he died.” In many Earth cultures, silence prevents hexing the outcome; this is why you don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Jews, fearing His wrath, are forbidden to utter God’s name and instead use multiple substitutes. The anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski associated magical thinking with primitive tribes (“savages”); Sigmund Freud saw magical thinking as a childhood trait, e.g., trying to receive a gift simply by wishing it.

The mother of all examples is white racism. There is a belief common among blacks that a white’s mental state can debilitate black people independent of any overt harmful behavior. The very invisibility of this force makes it magical.  ...
 I prefer the allusions to thought police, but I suppose "magical thinking" is more in line with the fanaticism of the left.

Dunce Cap of the Day: Professor John A. Powell

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I may need to make this a regular feature. Anyway, today I'm awarding a dunce cap to Professor John A. Powell for his total incomprehension of the first axiom of existentialism. According to the Blaze, Prof. Powell made the following nonsensical musings at the 15th Annual White Privilege Conference:
“So whiteness, actually, is very tied to our modern sense of self. And this was part of what’s called the ‘Enlightenment project.’ So that project, which goes back to people like Descartes — remember Descartes, where he says, ‘I think, therefore I am’? So he had the separation of mind and body. He had the separation of the mind, rational mind, from nature.”

Powell’s explanation continued: “So this radical individual that perceives himself — and it largely was a him — as being isolated from each other, isolated from nature, hostile to nature in a scary world, was also a white self.”

“So the expression of the self, the modern self, is actually racialized,” he concluded.
So, is Prof. Powell saying that because he doesn't think, he doesn't exist?  Or if you think, you must be racist? I'm not sure, and I doubt he is either. Anyway, for that bit of gibberish, Prof. Powell deserves to wear the dunce cap.

Why Only Cops Should Have Guns--ATF Agent Threatens Other Drivers

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
Authorities partly closed a downtown Minneapolis freeway briefly Tuesday morning as they made a “high-risk” traffic stop to detain a motorist who allegedly brandished a gun at another driver.

Turns out the driver was an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a State Patrol report said.

... The State Patrol took the man into custody but released him after officers learned he was an ATF agent who was carrying proper credentials.
Now ask yourself this--if it had been anyone else other than a law enforcement officer, would they have released the person?

(H/t Instapundit)

The Real War of Inequality

Glenn Reynolds sums it up: "Democratic policies are the warfare of the very-rich, allied with the poor, against the middle class and the petty-rich."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Leftist Love of Death

Some thoughts from Andrew Klavan:
But life hatred — humanity hatred, self-hatred and ultimately God hatred — seem to permeate so much of radical leftism. Feminism and Marxism with their revulsion at human nature, environmentalism with its elevation of greenery over humankind, radical groups like PETA that put the love of animals before the love of neighbor, the sweaty insistence on self-esteem and feeling good about yourself, giving praise, praise, praise for nothing, nothing, nothing, the ceaseless need to define your opposition as hateful… and abortion as a positive. It all smacks of self-hatred, doesn’t it? The love of death over life.

By Their Fruits...And the "Fruit" of ObamaCare

Stephen Green posts at PJ Media about the end of upward mobility. He cites reports and statistics showing how ObamaCare is destroying jobs and hurting businesses ... and notes that many aspects of ObamaCare have not yet even been implemented. Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ethanol Fuel Hits Wall

Voice of America News reports that the EPA is considering backing off of ethanol mandates. Part of the problem the story notes is that the majority of vehicles cannot handle more than 10% ethanol to gasoline mixture (and there is some evidence that even this amount is harmful to your engine). My guess is that the ethanol guidelines were based on a certain number of Americans being able to replace their cars with newer models able to burn ethanol, but this hasn't occurred due to the poor economy.


It's Not Called the Stupid Party for Nothing

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With the exploding number of scandals, the continued economic misery, and the obvious failure of ObamaCare, you would think that this would be a great year for the Republicans. Yet Gallop reports that voter enthusiasm is down sharply this year. This is understandable among Democrats, given that Obama's motto should be "I cannot utter a truth." But among the Republicans? 

Unfortunately, it is perfectly understandable. Republicans rode to a majority in the House, if not on the coattails of the Tea Party, certainly because of the sentiments expressed by the Tea Party. However, the so-called moderates continue to mock the Tea Party and other conservatives. They have caved on every major issue, and appear to be no different from the Democrats.

If I were to pick one specific issue that is going to kill Republican turnout, however, it will be amnesty. For some reason, Boehner is deeply attached to pushing amnesty (see also here). Even going so far as to mock Republicans that didn't want to sign on. (Even though he now claims he was merely engaging in harmless teasing).

The issue is a loser for the Republicans for two reasons. First, the base doesn't support amnesty or anything like it. Second, and something that the base seems to realize but the Congressional leaders seem blind to, is that any new Hispanic voters resulting from amnesty are simply going to vote Democrat, dooming the chance of conservatives to win at a national level:
“We can expect disaster. In sum, we’ll witness the unmaking of America,” Dr. Stephen Steinlight of the Center for Immigration Studies told me late last year. “It would subvert our political life by destroying the Republican Party. The Hispanic vote will make the Democrats the PRI of America. A GOP relic might survive regionally, but could never successfully contest a national election.

“America would turn into a One Party State which, like all others, would be tyrannical and corrupt. The political center would lurch to the left. Political liberty, the freedom to choose among authentically different alternatives, would be lost.
 
“A population transfer from one nation with a different language and political culture which will become the predominant future demographic will destroy social cohesion. The diversity of previous immigration safeguarded against this. Dual language/dual culture countries are plagued by Balkanizing social strife.
 It would also doom those living on the margins--the underemployed and unemployed--who would see their real wages drop due to increased competition. (Actually, I don't think that the GOP leadership is blind to this issue--I think that their attitude is that they would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. As long as they can continue to win their particular Congressional or Senate seat, they don't care if they sell out the Republican party or the nation).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Inkjet Printers Making Counterfeiting Easier

From the Atlantic:
The U.S. government recouped more than $88 million in counterfeit currency last year, and more than half of it was made on regular old inkjet or laser printers.

That's according to Bloomberg, which tells the story of a woman who pleaded guilty to counterfeiting up to $20,000 in fake bills over a two-year period. She took $5 bills, soaked them in degreaser, scrubbed off the ink with a toothbrush, dried them with a hairdryer, then reprinted them as $50 and $100 on a Hewlett-Packard printer, the news service said.

While the counterfeiting business used to be specialized, these days it's easy for anyone with a printer to give it a try. And that's just what's happening in the United States. More from Bloomberg:
 
"Statistics highlight the growth: In 1995, less than 1 percent of fake bills were produced on digital printers. In the last fiscal year, nearly 60 percent of the $88.7 million in counterfeit currency recovered in the U.S. was created using inkjet or laser printers, the Secret Service says." 
That's not the case outside of the United States, where most of the fake $68 million—in U.S. dollars—recovered last year was made with commercial-grade offset presses. The Secret Service says those kinds of machines are super efficient and can "more easily escape detection by U.S. authorities and even operate with the backing of corrupt governments," according to Bloomberg.

Circling the Drain

When I took a class on wills and trusts, the professor referred to dying clients as "circling the drain," which I thought amusing enough to adopt myself. But it is sad to see stories discussing America not only as circling the drain, but having produced what is in the drain. David Goldman has a short piece on Putin and a defense of Western liberties. But he also notes that democracies do not always defeat tyrants. Particularly democracies that are rotten at the core, warning:
I do not know whether Putin will succeed. But I am sure beyond the shadow of doubt that if we keep making billionaires out of scum like Dr. Dre, we will fail. There was something better than Russian-style nationalism once. It was American patriotism. If we forget it, the land will puke us out.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Two Dimensional Transisters

From Voice of America News:
Just when it looked like electronic components could not get smaller, scientists in the United States announced that they have created the first transistor that - for all practical purposes - has only two dimensions. Such transistors could someday be used for building flexible high-resolution displays that need very little energy.

An atom is only about one-tenth of a billionth of a meter wide, so a layer of any material that thin may be considered two-dimensional.

Two groups of scientists - at Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago and at the University of California - report they have successfully built transistors only a few atoms thick, with materials that have better electronic properties than silicon.
The primary advantage are flexibility and fast switching times.

2014 On Track to be the Coldest Year on Record

At Real Science.

Not All Advertising is Good Advertising

The manufacturer of the Medialink Wireless-N Broadband Router with Internal Antennas (300 Mbps) has threatened to sue over this negative review on Amazon, the National Journal reports. What's the point? Out of approximately 2,900 total reviews, 854 are one-star. All the manufacturer has done is draw even more attention to the fact that a lot of people don't like its product.

Negative Marginal Return--Jet Fuel

In my review of "The Collapse of Complex Societies" I suggested that we have reached a point where increasingly we see negative marginal return in complexity and the costs of maintaining our increasingly complex society--i.e., the cost of a marginal increment exceeds any return or benefit achieved. I cited several examples. Here is another one. The Washington Free Beacon reports that the Department of Defense has been paying as much as $150/gallon for "green" jet fuel (i.e., made from algae) versus $2.88/gallon for conventional fuel. It also lists some other "green" jet fuels that it has been testing out, all of which would require substantial subsidies.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

POP! Goes the Real Estate Bubble

Soap Bubble

There are more indications that the Chinese real estate bubble has popped. First, and foremost is this article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Telegraph:
So now we know what China’s biggest property developer really thinks about the Chinese housing boom. 
A leaked recording of dinner speech by Vanke Group’s vice-chairman Mao Daqing more or less confirms what the bears have been saying for months. It is a dangerous bubble, and already deflating.

... Li Junheng from JL Warren Capital has translated his comments, which I pass on for readers.
 
“In 1990, Tokyo’s total land value accounts for 63.3pc of US GDP, while Hong Kong reached 66.3pc in 1997. Now, the total land value in Beijing is 61.6pc of US GDP, a dangerous level,” said Mr Mao. 
“Overall, I believe that China has reached its capacity limit for new construction of residential projects. Only those coastal Tier 3/Tier 4 cities have the potential for capacity expansion.”
Mao cites several factors. One, house production had reached 35 per 1,000 persons in 2011--well above the average of 12 in most industrialized nations.

Two, anti-corruption campaigns have spooked party officials who are quickly trying to offload top-end properties.
The numbers of flats and houses for sale has suddenly doubled. “Many owners are trying to get rid of high-priced houses as soon as possible, even at the cost of deep discounts. As a result, ordinary people who want to sell homes in the secondary market must face deep price cuts,” he said.
Three, “[i]n China’s 27 key cities, transaction volume dropped 13pc, 21pc, 30pc year-on-year in January, February, and March respectively. We expect the trend to continue in April."

Four, “[m]ost cities have seen an increase in the ratio of inventory to sales. Among the 27 key cities we surveyed, more than 21 have inventory exceeding 12 months, among which are 9 greater than 24 months. The supply of residential buildings is rapidly increasing month-on-month.” He also notes that 42 projects in Beijing slated to be completed in 2015 will introduce another 50,000 units.

Fifth, "[a]s for the demographic time-bomb, he said China will have 400m people over the age of 60 by 2033. Half the population will be on welfare by then. 'If China fails to develop technology as a driving force for its economic growth, the country will be in trouble.'” On that note, this article from Quartz Magazine observes: "China’s birth rate peaked in 1987, and since people marry approximately 25 years later, that means demand for 'new household formation' homes maxed out in 2012." The same article states: "Rapid aging of China’s population means that future workers will have less and less disposable income to spend on housing in the next two decades."

Evans-Pritchard goes on to indicate that the problem is even worse in the smaller interior cities--the so-called third and fourth tier cities--where 67 of the construction is taking place.

So what is going to happen? It is not clear. According to Evans-Pritchard, 39% of Chinese tax revenue comes from property transactions. Taking that away, government spending is 10% above GDP. Thus, there will be a temptation to kick the can further down the road.
The question is whether President Xi Jinping wishes to take his lumps now by pricking the speculative bubble and forcing capitulation – hopefully in a controlled deleveraging – or whether he will blink as his predecessor famously did in the summer of 2012 and let rip with another round of stimulus. 
Blinking stores up greater trouble later. Credit has already grown to $25 trillion. Fitch says China has added the equivalent of the entire US and Japanese banking systems combined in five years. 
On balance it is better for China to get the trauma over and done with sooner rather than later. But the rest of the world should be under no illusions as to what it means.
This policy decision – should President Xi stay the course – is equivalent in global scale to the decision by Fed chief Benjamin Strong to pop the US speculative bubble in 1928, causing a commodity slump that was transmitted worldwide through the dollar based currency system (Inter-War Gold Standard) and which later snowballed into something far worse.
 
The US was then the world’s rising creditor power, with foreign reserves above 6pc of global GDP, almost exactly the same as China’s holdings today. When China sneezes … you will catch a cold, wherever you are.
Read both the articles cited above.

Climate Confusion

The L.A. Times reports on the latest climate assessment from the Obama administration:
The paper tackles in plain English and swift strokes the arguments that climate contrarians generally use to deny that man-made climate change is occurring. The report states, for example, that satellite data show that the warming has not been caused by greater solar activity or by volcanic eruptions. A so-called pause in recent global average land temperatures “appears to be related to cyclic changes in the oceans and in the sun’s energy output,” the report said.
 So, it the Earth warms, it is due to CO2 levels, but if it cools, it is because of oceanic and solar energy output? Convenient.

Of course, even those who profess faith in global warming are forced to recognize that global warming is not uniform.
‘Global warming was not as understood as we thought,’ said Zhaohua Wu, an assistant professor of meteorology at Florida State University.

Professor Wu used a newly-developed analysis method on historical temperature records to examine land surface temperature trends from 1900 onward for the entire globe, minus Antarctica.
 
Previous work by scientists on global warming could not provide information of non-uniform warming in location and time due to limitations of analysis methods.

The research team found that noticeable warming first started around the regions circling the Arctic and subtropical regions in both hemispheres.
 
But the largest warming to date has been at the northern mid-latitudes. The research team also found that in some areas of the world, cooling had occurred.
‘The global warming is not uniform,’ Professor Eric Chassignet said. ‘You have areas that have cooled and areas that have warmed.’ 
For example, from about 1910 to 1980, while the rest of the world was warming up, some areas south of the Equator, such as those near the Andes, were cooling down, and then had no change at all until the mid-1990s. 
Other areas near and south of the Equator didn't see significant changes comparable to the rest of the world at all.
In other words, those areas most isolated from the ocean and its mitigation of weather saw the greatest temperature variability, and have seen record cold over the past several years.

The real concern, in any event, may be global cooling.
Study of the orbital mechanics of the solar system in the 1970s led Russians to believe the Earth was about to cool and we should prepare quickly because it will be catastrophic. Their arguments were lost in the rush to warming group-think in the 1990s, but the arguments for impending cold are well founded and still believed by many good scientists. As the sun goes even quieter and January, 2008 saw the greatest year to year temperature drop ever (128 years ofNASA GISS data) and thru the end of 2008 remains relatively cool, it is clear cooling needs to be considered as a very plausible future. This is highlighted by 2 papers published in March 2008. Scafetta and West showed that up to 69% of observed warming is from the sun and remind us that the sun is projected to cool andRamanathan and Carmichael show that soot has 60% of the warming power of CO2. Both papers state that these factors are underappreciated by IPCC. The soot may well explain the Arctic melting, as it has recently for Asian glaciers. Many scientists believe the temperature changes are more dependent on the sun than CO2, similar to the relationship in your home with your furnace. With the Sun's face nearly quiet, the monthly patterns over the last 12 months are most similar to those of 1797 preceding the Dalton Minimum of 1798-1823 during the little ice age (Timo Niroma).
The southern hemisphere has been cooling over the last 10 years, just about as much as the north has been warming. There is no proof within observational data of warming outside of natural variation.
When 3 of the highest 5 or 6 years in the temperature record (since 1890) occurred over 70 years ago and 1900 was warmer than recent years in the USA (where the best data are), we are nowhere near statistical proof, nor even evidence of warming. Modelers are still unable to include important variables and no one is able to predict the future. At least Hadley Centre have tried (below). While CO2 continues to rise, the temperature has stabilized at a warm level, but not unusually so. Which way will it go? The world seems to be betting on warming. However, the probability of cooling may be equally valid and we must be prepared for both. Cooling presents the real danger. Things that go up and down only go so high. It has always been this way. Image of current northern sea ice (latest). Check the S. hemisphere sea ice (latest). 
Virtually all scientists agree that the Earth has warmed a small amount since the year 1000 or, if you choose, since 1850, when instrumented temperature records became reasonably accurate and distributed in key areas of the world. An alternative view, is that the Earth has been cooling since the 1930s when we had 3 of the 5 warmest years since 1860 in the US, and probably globally if the world environmental data base were cleaned up as is happening in the US.
And don't forget--all the warming that is attributed to human emissions is since the end of the Little Ice Age--that is, global warming fanatics are using a cold period, not the "normal" or "average", as their base line.

Archaeologists Find Pre-1st Dynasty Egyptian Tomb

The AFP reports:
Archaeologists in southern Egypt have discovered a 5,600-year-old preserved tomb and mummy predating the First Dynasty of the pharaohs, the antiquities ministry said Wednesday. 
The tomb was built before the rule of king Narmer, the founder of the First Dynasty who unified Upper and Lower Egypt in the 31th century BC, the ministry said in a statement. 
The tomb was discovered in the Kom al-Ahmar region, between Luxor and Aswan, on the site of Hierakonpolis, the city of the falcon, which was the dominant pre-dynastic urban centre and the capital of the Kingdom of Upper Egypt.

Judge Okays Suit Against S&P

This is interesting. An Australian court is allowing  a suit to go forward against the S&P based on it having given AAA ratings to certain derivative based investments. From the story:
A court decision in Australia Wednesday cleared the way for 91 church groups, councils and charities to resume a damages claim against Standard & Poor's over hundreds of millions of dollars they lost on synthetic derivatives. 
Bentham IMF Australia, a publicly-listed company that funds large legal claims, filed a case on behalf of the groups last year over losses they suffered on investments rated AAA by S&P which were sold by Lehman Brothers prior to the global financial crisis. 
The ratings agency applied to have the claim set aside on the grounds that it was an abuse of process, had no prospect of success and the US-based S&P should not be required to submit to the Australian courts. 
But Federal Court Justice Stephen Rares rejected all three arguments on Wednesday, clearing the way for the damages claim to proceed. 
"From the beginning S&P has tried to delay and divert any attempt to bring it to account for losses suffered on products that it had no reasonable basis to provide its AAA ratings," Bentham IMF executive director John Walker said.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The G-7 Whine About European Dependence on Russian Gas

From Voice of America:
Europe will be saddled with its dependence on Russian gas for years, ministers from the Group of Seven industrial nations said on Tuesday, condemning the use of energy as a weapon of political coercion.
(Emphasis added). While you ponder that sentence, consider this from the Wall Street Journal:
As Middle East peace talks founder, Israeli leaders are bracing for the European Union to resume its effort to put an economic squeeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and other disputed territories that the EU considers illegal.

The EU had been working on a guideline that would prevent goods manufactured in settlements from carrying a "Made in Israel" label. The 28-member bloc also had been drafting a list of potential legal risks for European companies doing business in the territories—a list that might cause some to rethink their operations.

Why Only Cops Should Have Guns....

Although no one was shot in any of these events, the Captain's Journal has a nice round-up of recent stories of police exercising their right to terrorize innocent people.

What Do These Three Things Have in Common?

There is a board game called TriBond that gives you three subjects or clues, and you must figure out (or guess) what is the common denominator among them. I read three articles today at PJ Media that seems to fit well into this type of game:

First, Michael Walsh writes about why Benghazi matters. There are, of course, the personal tragedy to what happened to the Americans killed and injured in the attack, and the movie producer scapegoat being jailed, but there is also something larger:
Benghazi matters because it was and is a matter of national honor. And the men and women currently in charge in Washington have no honor. 
Honorable people do not let American diplomats twist slowly in the wind while they attend “debate prep” and rest up for a shakedown meeting with the One Percent. Honorable people do not suddenly go AWOL while American soil is under attack. Honorable people do not fail to mobilize the formidable resources of the American military, even if it might not be possible for them to get there in time. Honorable people, under questioning by Congress, do not lose their temper and start shouting. Honorable people do not look the bereaved in the eye and lie about who and what killed their loved ones. 
Further: honorable people do not go before the public on the Sunday talk shows and knowingly transmit a bald-faced lie. Honorable people do not continue to lie about what took place. Honorable people do not say “We are Americans; we hold our head high,” and then hang their heads in shame as they cut and run at the first sign of trouble. Honorable people do not continue to reward the dishonorable with ever-higher posts. Honorable people resign. 
And until honorable people are restored to Washington — not credentialed Ivy League lawyers with high name recognition steeped in cheap Marxism and fashionable anti-American contempt, but genuine patriots who understand that something has gone terribly wrong with America and needs to be redressed — there will be no justice for the victims of Benghazi.
Second, Paul Diamond writes about the erosion of religious freedom for Jews and Christians in the UK and USA:
The new liberal dogma says that a Jew or Christian is a bigot if they do not believe in the homosexual agenda. Consequently, a marriage counselor cannot discharge his functions correctly, a housing worker will discriminate against homosexual applicants, and a Christian law school will teach its lawyers to be bigots. Christians are told that their belief that marriage is between a man and woman is, in fact, not their true belief. Rather, they really believe that homosexuals are wicked sinners; and why, it is asked, should such beliefs be protected by the First Amendment?

Surprisingly, I am not pessimistic because I believe that this latest attempt to dismantle the rule of law for political purposes will ultimately fail. It will fail because the brutality that lawlessness engenders will create such a climate of insecurity that even the elites will feel endangered. As they seek to protect themselves, the privileged position of some groups in society (I would submit that homosexual and Muslim groups fit into this category) will disappear.

But the resulting damage may be lasting. The current brutality against Christians has the potential to develop into wider lawlessness and it is, simply, frightening. It is elite- and court-led; and in both the U.S. and UK, Congress and Parliament must re-assert their democratic authority.
Third, Janine Turner writes about the erosion of the separation of powers and the legislative branch in the United States:
Our founders knew firsthand how the lust for power corrupted human rights. They knew that, to quote James Madison, “men are not angels.” Thus, they created a government of checks and balances that would keep tyranny at bay. According to the Constitution, one branch of government can never usurp the other and no one branch can be autonomous.

There has been, and is, a faction amongst us that wants to change the fundamental structure of these checks — the progressives. The progressives don’t want a multi-tiered, self-checking and self-limiting government. They want an all-powerful, singular nexus of decision-making in the executive branch, free from checks and balances.

American progressives are savvy and cunning. They know that Americans will never willfully accept tyranny or a lustful tyrant. Thus, the progressives set forth, over one hundred years ago, to accomplish their goals in an underhanded manner – slowly, steadily, stealthily. Their mission is a progression away from three branches of government to one autonomous branch — in other words, tyranny/big government.

It is interesting to note how they have already managed to accomplish this and how they are continuing to do so with exactly the same tactics. Their mission is to eradicate the potency of the U.S. Congress, thus eliminating the utterly crucial check on executive power. They accomplish this by diminishing the reputation of the legislative branch and thus crippling its power and effectiveness. ...

Progressives had astonishing results in 1912 and 1913 with the 17th Amendment. Progressives managed to convince the state legislatures and the U.S senators that they were, themselves, corrupt. They convinced them to vote for their own demise. ...

They manipulated a masterful coup in the Senate, denying states’ rights, with a simple message – “The Senate is corrupted by special interest groups.” Sound familiar? It was simply stunning. Henceforth, the senators would no longer be appointed by the state legislators, but by the people. With this singular, monumental sweep of states’ rights, the Constitution, which they conveniently believe to be outdated, was thrown off-kilter.

Be aware: the progressive are not finished. They are enacting the same campaign today. Now instead of the Senate, the entire legislative branch is the problem. “The legislative branch prevents all good from taking place.” “The legislative branch is corrupt.” “The legislative branch is a bother.” “The legislative branch never gets anything done.” “The legislative branch is corrupted by special interest groups.” By beating down the legislative branch, the executive branch rises.

What is their goal? The progressives want the legislative branch to be beholden to the executive branch. ....
There are several correct answers to what is in common. Some require only a one-word answer: liberals, progressives, elitism, tyranny. Some are a little longer: lust for power, abandonment of values. But when it is all said and done, it is that our political, economic and cultural elite crave power so badly that they will not tolerate anything or anyone--God, the Constitution, freedom--stand in their way.

Sacrificing Africa ...

... to make liberals feel better about themselves. From Caleb Rossiter, writing at the Wall Street Journal:
Every year environmental groups celebrate a night when institutions in developed countries (including my own university) turn off their lights as a protest against fossil fuels. They say their goal is to get America and Europe to look from space like Africa: dark, because of minimal energy use.

But that is the opposite of what's desired by Africans I know. They want Africa at night to look like the developed world, with lights in every little village and with healthy people, living longer lives, sitting by those lights. Real years added to real lives should trump the minimal impact that African carbon emissions could have on a theoretical catastrophe.

... The left wants to stop industrialization—even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false. John Feffer, my colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in the Dec. 8, 2009, Huffington Post that "even if the mercury weren't rising" we should bring "the developing world into the postindustrial age in a sustainable manner." He sees the "climate crisis [as] precisely the giant lever with which we can, following Archimedes, move the world in a greener, more equitable direction."

I started to suspect that the climate-change data were dubious a decade ago while teaching statistics. Computer models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine the cause of the six-tenths of one degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperature from 1980 to 2000 could not statistically separate fossil-fueled and natural trends.

Then, as now, the computer models simply built in the assumption that fossil fuels are the culprit when temperatures rise, even though a similar warming took place from 1900 to 1940, before fossil fuels could have caused it. The IPCC also claims that the warming, whatever its cause, has slightly increased the length of droughts, the frequency of floods, the intensity of storms, and the rising of sea levels, projecting that these impacts will accelerate disastrously. Yet even the IPCC acknowledges that the average global temperature today remains unchanged since 2000, and did not rise one degree as the models predicted.

But it is as an Africanist, rather than a statistician, that I object most strongly to "climate justice." Where is the justice for Africans when universities divest from energy companies and thus weaken their ability to explore for resources in Africa? Where is the justice when the U.S. discourages World Bank funding for electricity-generation projects in Africa that involve fossil fuels, and when the European Union places a "global warming" tax on cargo flights importing perishable African goods? Even if the wildest claims about the current impact of fossil fuels on the environment and the models predicting the future impact all prove true and accurate, Africa should be exempted from global restraints as it seeks to modernize.
I don't know why people continue to be shocked that liberals/progressives would do things to hurt blacks or Africans. After all, the Democrats were the party of the KKK. And so-called "liberals" and "progressives" have always supported eugenics via abortion in black communities--i.e., a black holocaust. As I have written before, the leadership of the liberal/progressive movement are evil. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

Islamic "Trojan Horse" Strategy to Take Over UK Schools

Headteachers are warning that schools across Britain have been targeted in an alleged Islamist plot to take over classrooms.

The National Association of Head Teachers said it had ‘serious concerns’ about attempts to ‘alter the character’ of at least six schools.

It also warned that efforts to infiltrate classrooms were not limited to Birmingham and were likely to be affecting other major towns and cities.
 
The union said ‘concerted efforts’ had been made to infiltrate state schools and run them according to strict Islamic principles. 
While the body did not name the additional areas affected, there are concerns over schools in Bradford, Manchester and parts of East London, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said some teachers were being appointed because of their Muslim faith rather than their skills.

There was also evidence of ‘pressure’ being brought to bear on heads to adopt ‘certain philosophies and approaches’.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Birmingham, he said: ‘We ourselves have concerns about what has been going on in and around half a dozen of those schools.
 
‘There have been things going on inside our schools which would make some of us feel uncomfortable.’
Meanwhile, it has been claimed that dozens of teachers pushed out of schools by an alleged Islamist takeover plot are too afraid to speak out because of gagging orders.
Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood said at least ten teachers told him they were made to sign agreements offering cash in return for their silence.
The latest allegation of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot – whereby Muslim extremists infiltrate state schools and run them according to Islamic principles – was made last night as Ofsted announced inspections at a further three schools, bringing the total to 21. 
Birmingham City Council is also investigating 25 schools.

Blood Protein May Reverse Aging

From the Telegraph, a story about "vampire therapy":
Now scientists have found that young blood actually ‘recharges’ the brain, forms new blood vessels and improves memory and learning.

In parallel research, scientists at Harvard University also discovered that a ‘youth protein’ which circulates in the blood is responsible for keeping the brain and muscles young and strong.
 
The protein, known as ‘GDF11’, is present in the bloodstream in large quantities when we are young but peters out as we age. 
Although both the discoveries were made in mice, researchers are hoping to begin human trials in the next two to three years, in studies which could bring rapid improvements for human longevity and health. 
“This should give us all hope for a healthier future,” said Prof Doug Melton, of Harvard's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. 
“We all wonder why we were stronger and mentally more agile when young, and these two unusually exciting papers actually point to a possible answer. 
“There seems to be little question that, GDF11 has an amazing capacity to restore aging muscle and brain function.” 
Last year the team discovered that the protein could repair damaged hearts. But the new study showed that that raising the levels of the GDF11 protein in older mice improved the function of every organ in the body. 
Harvard stem cell biologist Prof Lee Rubin added: “We do think that, at least in principal, there will be a way to reverse some of the decline of aging with a single protein.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Viewpoint Discrimination--Against the Bible

You know, rather than teachers being taught all the latest PC nonsense, why don't they teach them the basics of First Amendment law as it applies to the educational setting. Breitbart reports:
Giovanni Rubeo is a fifth-grade student at the school, who had been given a Bible at church as a Christmas gift. It’s his favorite book, so he decided he’d like to read it during the time in class where students are allowed to read anything they choose. 
Swornia Thomas is Giovanni’s teacher. On April 8, Thomas told Giovanni he’s not allowed to read the Bible in her class and ordered him to put it away. Giovanni asked her to call his father, Paul Rubeo, about the incident. 
Thomas did so, leaving a voicemail that included, “I noticed that he [Giovanni] has a book—a religious book—in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.” Rubeo then contacted the school’s principal, Orinthia Dias, who brought in the school’s legal department. None of them are willing to acknowledge that Giovanni has a constitutional right to read the Bible.
The case law is so well established that a public school may not selectively discriminate based on religion that the teacher should not be entitled to qualified immunity.

Liberal Fascism Alert--Liberals Want to Re-write First Amendment

Virginia has called for a Constitutional Convention with the purpose of re-writing the First Amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. Similar to Democratic opposition to unions in the late 19th and early 20th century, this involves liberals fear of commoners banding together in mutual support--in this case, forming and donating to political action committees that can then aggregate the money to purchase advertising or undertake other political action. Supposedly it is to get money out of politics, but, in reality, the only money it will remove will be those of the small donor. The wealthy will still have their influence, of course, and the liberals will still have their biased media conglomerates to tell us what to think.

Cold War Era Satellite Images Reveal Lost Cities

From National Geographic. The photos from the 60s and 70s are important not only for revealing unknown sites, but also because they show many ancient cities and other construction sites prior to being overrun and destroyed by modern development and expansion.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Another Constitutional Challenge to ObamaCare (Updated)

And this once hinges on the conclusion that the penalty for not purchasing insurance is a tax. George Will writes:
In June 2012, a Supreme Court majority accepted a, shall we say, creative reading of the ACA by Chief Justice John Roberts. The court held that the penalty, which the ACA repeatedly calls a penalty, is really just a tax on the activity — actually, the nonactivity — of not purchasing insurance. The individual mandate is not, the court held, a command but merely the definition of a condition that can be taxed. The tax is mild enough to be semi-voluntary; individuals are free to choose whether or not to commit the inactivity that triggers the tax.

The “exaction” — Roberts’s word — “looks,” he laconically said, “like a tax in many respects.” It is collected by the IRS, and the proceeds go to the Treasury for the general operations of the federal government, not to fund a particular program. This surely makes the ACA a revenue measure.

Did it, however, originate in the House? Of course not.
The problem, for ObamaCare, is that the origination clause of the United States Constitution provides that: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.”

(H/t Instapundit)

Update (5/5/2014): Scott Johnson, writing at the Powerline Blog, takes the more cynical view that, notwithstanding the words of the Constitution, the courts will not invalidate the individual mandate this time around either.