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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hamas Killing Its Own People

We knew the Hamas rockets were crap, but the Washington Free Beacon reports that many of Hamas' rockets have fallen within Gaza. From the article:
Some 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel since the fighting between Israel and Hamas began three weeks ago. Of these, say army officers, about 300 have fallen inside the Gaza Strip. The army spokesman said shortfalls were responsible for explosions three days ago at a hospital and a refugee camp that took dozens of lives. Hamas has denied the accusation and blamed Israel for the blasts.
However, according to the report, during just the last couple of days, over 1/3 of Hamas' rockets have fallen in Gaza. The article suggests this is because Hamas had depleted most of their rocket reserves, and are having to fall back on more primitive or degraded munitions. I would be willing to bet that it is a deliberate choice by Hamas to kill their own people in order to curry international sympathy. Remember, these are people who love death more than life.

Party Split on Marriage

Via Alpha Game, polling data showing a marked increase in the number of Republicans and Democrats that won't marry someone of the opposite political party. Vox Day theorizes that this has less to do with party affiliation, and more to do with cultural factors. He suggests:
The Republicans are increasingly the party of White Christian America. The Democrats are increasingly the party of Brown and White Secular America. This supposed distaste for interparty marriage has little to do with politics and more to do with a distaste for interracial marriage and interreligious marriage.
I believe that there is more to this than religion and race. In 2002,  Charles Krauthammer observed: "To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil." That was 12 years ago. I think liberals have moved far enough to the left that conservatives have finally reached the point where they realize that liberals are both stupid and evil. Because marriage is a partnership, requiring shared values, but conservative and liberal values have diverged, it makes sense that marriage between the two would decline.

Newly Released FBI Documents Show Continued Evidence of Saudi Links to 9/11

This Miami Herald report from July 5, 2014, recounts that documents found shortly after 9/11 reveal a connection between the 9/11 terrorists and high level Saudis. From the article:
According to FBI records, authorities searched the dumpster and found “a self-printed manual on terrorism and Jihad, a map of the inside of an unnamed airport, a rudimentary last will and testament, a weight-to-fuel ratio calculation for a Cessna 172 aircraft, flight training information from the Flight Training Center in Venice [Fla.] and printed maps of Publix shopping centers in Tampa Bay.” 
The Flight Training Center is where 9/11 hijack pilot Ziad Jarrah, who was at the controls of United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in Shanksville, Pa., took flying lessons. 
This intriguing tale and at least one other are contained in a batch of partially redacted documents released this past week as part of ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation by the online news site BrowardBulldog.org. The suit, filed in 2012, seeks the FBI’s files from a once-secret investigation into a family of Sarasota Saudis who left the country abruptly about two weeks before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, leaving behind clothing, jewelry and cars. 
The main figures in the family were Abdulaziz al-Hijji, his wife, Anoud, and her father, Esam Ghazzawi, an advisor to a Saudi prince.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Colonial Sins and Confessions

From the Telegraph:
Intimate details about the private lives of the early American settlers have been uncovered by two historians who unearthed a treasure trove of church documents dating back to the 1700s. 
The records were buried away in colonial-era Congregational churches across the state of Massachusetts, and include a number of confessions made by members of the congregation, giving a fascinating glimpse into life at the time. 
They include one by a married couple, Joseph and Abigail Cheyney, from the town of Sturbridge, who “with shame, humiliation and sorrow,” admitted they had sex before their wedding day. 
Another parishioner, Sarah Blanchard, apologised for skipping a worship service while a third, Sarah Wood, said she was wrong to have criticised the baptism of infants. 
The historians, James Fenimore Cooper Jr, a professor at Oklahoma State University, and Margaret Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston, spent months travelling across Massachusetts persuading church leaders to hand over their records for safekeeping, amid fears that valuable documents were being lost or falling victim to damp and fires.

OMG--Water May Be More Important to Global Warming Than CO2 (Updated)

From VOA News:
When it comes to greenhouse gases that contribute most to global warming, most people think of substances such as carbon dioxide, methane or even hydrofluorocarbons.
But did you know that, for a while now, scientists have considered the vapor of the most important ingredient in sustaining life on Earth – water – as one of the most abundant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a key driver of global warming?
 Well, yes. I have a textbook written in the late 1940's/early 1950's that mentions it.
A new study led by scientists from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science confirmed that rising levels of water vapor in the troposphere – the layer of the atmosphere closest to the surface and rises to a height of between 5 to 20 km above Earth’s surface – will increasingly play an important role in climate change projections in the coming years. 
The Florida researchers said their new study is also the first to demonstrate that the increasing amount of atmospheric water vapor is being caused by human activities.
Interestingly, just yesterday I was wondering if we would see a story like this. I was watching a news story on CO2 emissions and the coal industry, and all of the file videos they were showing of "smoke stacks spewing" fumes were releasing steam, not smoke. (One of the photos was even of the cooling tower for a nuclear reactor).

Of course, the scientists concluded that the increased water vapor was due to increased evaporation due to increased atmospheric temperature due to human caused global warming. Got that? Increased water vapor was the result of global warming not the cause of global warming.

Well, better not breath because with each breath, you release water vapor into the atmosphere....

Update: A link to another article discussing water vapor and the global warming hypothesis. (Here).

How Europe is Bankrolling Al Qaeda

The New York Times has an article on how kidnappings and ransom payments are funding terrorism, with Europe leading the way in paying the ransoms. From the article:
Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe. 
While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.
In news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.
 
These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funneled the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.
... Yet the fact that Europe and its intermediaries continue to pay has set off a vicious cycle. 
“Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a 2012 speech. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.” 
And business is booming: While in 2003 the kidnappers received around $200,000 per hostage, now they are netting up to $10 million, money that the second in command of Al Qaeda’s central leadership recently described as accounting for as much as half of his operating revenue. 
“Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.”
Read it all.

New Left-Wing Secret Combination

Media Trackers reports on the discovery of a new secretive left-wing group similar to Journolist. From the article:
A low-profile Google Group used by over 1,000 state and national leftwing leaders and activists has been discovered thanks to Wisconsin’s open records law. A Media Trackers inquiry into the actions of a University of Wisconsin professor turned up records and communications from “Gamechanger Salon,” an online community that provides a forum for leftwing activists and leaders to share tactics, strategies and opinions. 
... Gamechanger Salon is comprised of “experienced change makers from different ‘worlds’ of the movement to share stories, honest reflections, interesting articles, and provocative ideas on how we build a stronger, more coordinated, more game-changing movement for the 21st Century” according to the policy manual. 
The group has the self-described goal of creating a “more coordinated” movement for liberals across the country. Among those included on the membership list are: 
Damon Silver, Policy Director for the AFL-CIO
Benjamin Joffe-Walk, Chief of Staff at Change.org
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK
Elizabeth Rose, Director of Communications at the Economic Policy Institute
Philip Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace until earlier this year
Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL
Raven Brooks, Executive Director of Netroots Nation
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Deirdre Schifeling, National Director Organizing & Electoral Campaigns for Planned Parenthood
 
... In addition to the prominent leaders and activists listed above, Gamechanger Salon also includes members of the leftwing “media” such as: Amanda Terkel, Senior Political Reporter and Politics Managing Editor at The Huffington Post, Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post and MSNBC contributor, Josh Dorner, Communications Director at ThinkProgress, and Angelo Carusone, Executive Vice President at Media Matters.
 Read the whole thing.

Updated (8/6/2014): More at EAG News.

UN Caught for Third Time Hiding Hamas Rockets in a School

(Story here). The UN needs to be declared an enemy combatant. On a related note, Hamas has located their military headquarters under the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Monday, July 28, 2014

More Mysterious Craters Found in Siberia


The Yamal crater is visible in this aerial view

From the Daily Mail:
New unexplained holes have appeared in Siberia following the mystery over a giant crater on the Yamal Peninsula. 
A second is in the same permafrost region of northern Russia, and a third on the Taymyr Peninsula, to the east, in Kransoyark region. Both were spotted by reindeer herders who almost fell in. 
... One theory is that the feature is a ‘pingo,’ reports the Sunday Morning Herald.
A pingo is a large chunk of ice that is located underground that can create a hole in the ground when it melts.
 
‘Certainly from the images I’ve seen it looks like a periglacial feature, perhaps a collapsed pingo,’ Dr Chris Fogwill of the University of New South Wales said. 
‘This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there’s been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there.’ 
Dr Plekhanov added the hole was most likely the result of a 'build-up of excessive pressure' underground, due to the region's changing temperatures. 
He said 80 per cent of the crater appeared to be made up of ice and that there were no traces of an explosion.  
The discovery eliminates the possibility that a meteorite had struck the region.
The holes are 98 ft, 49 ft, and 13 ft in diameter, respectively.

Officer Take Down Using Choke Hold

Ars Technica has a video of police using a choke hold on a suspect, Eric Garner, that resulted in Garner's death. A couple points. First, if the officer was attempting a choke hold, he was doing it wrong. Instead of putting Garner's neck into the crook of his arm and applying pressure (which cuts off the carotid arteries but doesn't damage the throat), the officer used his forearm as a bar across the throat, which not only doesn't work as effectively (witness the video) but can also cause more serious harm. (The primary reason why officers aren't allowed to use a nightstick to choke someone out).

Second, ignoring the fact that he was resisting an officer but merely looking at this as an attack, Garner did a couple things wrong, beginning with the fact that he stepped away from the wall, but then stood there, thus allowing the attacker to get behind him and initiate the hold. One of the common methods for breaking a choke hold is to grab the attacker's primary arm being used to perform the choke, step back with one leg (in this case, it would have been Garner's left leg) and put it behind the attacker's (in this case, left) leg, turn, and bend/bow to throw the attacker to the ground. Obviously Garner didn't attempt to do this, but the officer was either anticipating some sort of counter or simply trying to throw Garner to the ground, and so he moved his right leg back and to the left, pivoting to throw Garner off-balance. Garner waited too long to attempt a counter. It looks like Garner may have had an opportunity to use the plate glass window (basically throw himself backward or sideways through the window with the attacker leading the way), but didn't.

This video is also a good example of why you don't want to move to ground fighting when facing multiple attackers.

From a political point of view, this video is also a good reason why legislators shouldn't have such a blase attitude about creating new crimes. Eventually, if something is made a crime, no matter how trivial, big men with guns are going to have to enforce it, which means there is the possibility of a death or injury. And, seriously, is it worth the risk of someone being killed, as happened here, to prohibit the selling of single cigarettes? This video doesn't document a problem with police, but a problem with inane laws and ordinances.

Immigration and Cultural Change

Eugene Volokh reminds us that the consequence of allowing unlimited immigration is that it may change the cultural makeup in ways we won't like.  He notes as examples that the unlimited immigration of Europeans arguably changed the cultural makeup of North America in ways that the Indians probably did not want; and that the immigration of Jews to Israel changed the makeup of that little corner of the world.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Microsoft Lays Off 18,000 At The Same Time...

... the tech industry is claiming a shortage of skilled workers.

Islamic State Orders Genital Mutilation

The Daily Mail reports:
There was anger last night after it emerged militant group ISIS may have ordered compulsory female genital mutilation (FGM) for all women and girls in a region of Iraq now under its control. 
The extremist group has seized large swathes of the troubled country's northern regions and is now said to be imposing its hardline Sharia rules on the population. 
The United Nations expressed deep concern yesterday at reports all girls and women in and around city of Mosul are to being forced to undergo FGM procedures.
Western feminists silent.

Mass Killing in Philadelphia

From the L.A. Times:
A carjacked vehicle plowed into a crowd of pedestrians in Philadelphia on Friday, killing at least three people and leaving three others seriously injured, a police spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times.
Somehow, I doubt that this is going to get much national attention, let alone a call for stricter control of the sale and possession of cars.

China and Japan Refuse to Follow Obama's Energy Policy

Obama wants to increase energy prices to force social change. The Chinese and Japan aren't buying into the idea, according to this article from Bryan Preston at PJ Media.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

White Flags Over New York

U.S. flags flying over the Brooklyn Bridge were replaced early this morning by faded white versions. It's not clear what statement, if any, was intended. However, it is safe to say that all the security turned out to be a joke. And that is what has New York officials upset--they were made to look the fools.

Heading into a Jobless Future

This Washington Post article discusses a future where manufacturing and menial jobs will have disappeared--taken over robots. The article takes a positive note--that we are entering an era of abundance, where basic necessities will decline in price. But, as the article notes, it is likely to result in higher unemployment. Hardest hit may be China because it will be stuck with a proportionately older work force.

When manufacturing began to disappear from the American economy, we were told not to worry because it would be replaced with a service economy. That, too, is disappearing. So, the future will be wonderful for the elite, and bleak for the majority of the population. Expect to see renewed pushes to support population controls in order to get rid of the "surplus population" and various increased social controls to maintain stability.

Why Israel Needs to Finish Hamas Off Now

David P. Goldman writes that right now, for a brief period, Israel's "Iron Dome" defenses are effective in defending it against the unguided rockets launched by Hamas. However, he suggests that this advantage will be gone in a short time as Hamas is expected to begin using GPS guided missiles, which could overwhelm the "Iron Dome" defenses. Thus, the time to eliminate Hamas is now while Hamas has little ability to retaliate.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

U.N. Still Helping Hamas Hide Rockets

(Source)


The Times of Israel reports that for a second time, Hamas rockets have been found hidden in a U.N. operated school.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Unaccompanied Minors" is a Myth

Read this article from InSight Crime about the smuggling of children into the U.S. The key part:
"That's easy, in any city a child arrives and they [the other migrants] start telling each other: so and so arrived like this and without money. Things have gotten out of control; many polleros have taken advantage of this and are still charging $7,000. It's a great business, because to bring them [the kids] to the Mexican border with the United States, to Reynosa, for example, they are spending -- with everything included, even the tax paid to the Zetas, because the Zetas charge a fee whether the person is young or old -- around $2,000. Let's say that there at the border they pay around $500 to whoever brings them over. There's $2,500. They bring the kid to the other side. They leave him there, in the urban part of the city, and they prepare him well -- they tell him to say that he came alone, that he is looking for his mom or his dad. They [the kids] have to forget that they were accompanied by a coyote, they follow directions. There is always someone watching to make sure the kid speaks with the police -- even then he is not alone, there is always somebody watching to make sure they pick him up. Then he is in safe hands. As soon as the police have him, the coyote informs the family: 'He's in the hands of the law now; give it a little time.' Immediately, the authorities communicate with the mother; the child always carries with him names and telephones." 
"So the price hasn't dropped?" 
"Yes, there are people that are charging less, because now that it is a generalized practice, the families know that it is easier -- they are no longer willing to pay $7,000. My understanding is that some charge between $4,000 and $5,000. Once they're in Mexico, they've won the battle, and once they are in the United States, with the authorities picking up the kids, everything's in the bag. I have some friends who say that the minors are easy money. And that's true. The best thing that can happen is that a police officer from any department detains them.

Nuclear Winter? Again? Really?

This may be showing my age, but I remember the storm of media coverage of "nuclear winter" in the 1980's--a theory that a nuclear war would freeze the planet. Although not an author of the research paper, Carl Sagan prominently supported the conclusion. However, the theory was discredited because the researchers had made too many assumptions and short cuts to get their model to work, including getting rid of pesky things like day/night cycles, seasons, geographic features, and so on.

Today I saw in the Daily Mail another group of scientists pushing "nuclear winter." From the article:
The unnerving consequences were laid out in a paper called ‘Multidecadal global cooling and unprecedented ozone loss following a regional nuclear conflict.’

In it the researchers looked at the outcome of a ‘limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which each side detonates 50 15-kiloton weapons.’
 
They then used computer models to examine the impact on the planet and its environment - and it makes for grim reading. 
The immediate result of 100 nuclear weapons roughly the size of those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki being detonated would be the release of five megatons of black carbon into the atmosphere. 
Black carbon, not too dissimilar to soot, would block out the sun and can also be fatal to humans. 
Following a spell of black carbon rain, a deadly weather front that would devastate what remained of humanity following the nuclear war, the temperature of Earth would begin to drop. 
After a year the temperature would fall by 1°C (2°F), while after five it would be 1.5°C (3°F) cooler than it is now. 
About 20 years after the conflict it would warm again to just 0.5°C (1°F) below today’s temperature. 
Accompanying what the researchers call ‘the coldest average surface temperatures in the last 1,000 years’ would be a huge loss in ozone levels. 
They say that global ozone losses of 20 to 50 per cent would occur over populated areas, ‘levels unprecedented in human history’.

The drop in temperature would produce ‘killing frosts’ that reduce the world’s growing season by 10 to 40 days.
 
Meanwhile the eradication of up to half of the ozone would increase UV rays in some locations by as much as 80 per cent, raising the chance of developing skin cancer for large swathes of humanity. 
Combined with the global cooling, this ‘would put significant pressures on global food supplies and could trigger a global nuclear famine.’ 
The planet’s falling temperature would also decrease the amount of rainfall.
The article indicates that the scientists hope their paper will encourage countries to reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons from their arsenals.

Considering the political stance of the scientist involved, and inability of climate scientists to successfully model global climate with any accuracy, I have serious doubts about the conclusion offered up by these scientists. However, I'm even more skeptical when I consider that we had several times the number and power of nuclear weapons tests in the late 1950's and early 1960's without the consequences predicted in the paper. (1958 alone had over a 100 tests conducted, while 1962 had approximately 140 tests--and these were generally much more powerful weapons). Many of these weapons were much more powerful than the bombs used in the paper's hypothetical war. For instance, the paper assumes a war using 100 weapons of the size used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The yields varied, but we will assume 20 kT as an average, for a total yield of 2 MT for their hypothetical war. The Tsar Bomb--a single nuclear test conducted by the Soviet Union in 1961--had a yield of nearly 60 MT. That is, three times the total power of the weapons in the hypothetical war. And it was only one of many tests that year.

In other words, if more above-ground tests using more powerful weapons did not result in a global nuclear winter in the 1950's and 1960's, I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't happen with the more limited war envisioned by the scientists in the Daily Mail article.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

22 Shot in Chicagoland in Just 12 Hours

The Chicago Tribune reports that there have been 22 shootings over just a 12 hour period in Chicago. Although the story focuses on two teenage girls accidently hit by bullets, once you skip past those stories, the remainder all involve young men. The race of the victims is not mentioned, presumably because that it would merely paint this as yet another spate of violence between drug gangs. However, the race of the perpetrators and victims, gang affiliations, and so on, would be useful because it might show if Hispanic drug gangs were attempting to force their way into Chicago. That will probably become more obvious, though, when the city goes from simple shootings to beheadings.

The Tribune also has a map of homicides this year in Chicago, which shows how concentrated are most of the killings.

A few months ago, The Truth About Guns had linked to this article at Chicago Magazine on the distribution of gun violence within Chicago. A study was conducted of shootings (rather than just homicides) in general and links between the people involved. The reasoning for broadening the pool beyond homicides was that the researchers believed that death from a gunshot wound had a certain amount of fortuity that was not present in the case of looking at all shootings. Not surprisingly, the researchers discovered that a relatively small population was responsible for most of the violence. The key point from the article:
Papachristos constructs a social network—not a virtual one in the Facebook sense, but a real one of social connections between people—by looking at arrestees who have been arrested together. That turns out to be a lot of people in raw numbers, almost 170,000 people with a “co-offending tie” to one another, with an average age of 25.7 years, 78.6 percent male and 69.5 percent black. It’s also a large percentage of all the individuals arrested: 40 percent of all the individuals arrested during that period. 
Within the entire group, the largest component of that whole co-offender group has 107,740 people. 
Within the timeframe—from 2006 to 2010—70 percent of all shootings in Chicago, or about 7,500 out of over 10,000, are contained within all the co-offending networks. And 89 percent of those shootings are within the largest component. 
Or, to put another way: the rate of gunshot victimization (nonfatal + fatal) in Chicago is 62.1 per 100k. Within a co-offending network, it’s 740.5—more than 10 times higher.
“This finding has (at least) two implications for our understanding of non-fatal gunshot injuries,” the authors write. “First, the concentration of non-fatal gunshot injuries in networks such as these demonstrate that such incidents are more concentrated than previously thought, and even more concentrated than gun homicide by either demographic group or place. Our findings indicate that70 percent of all non-fatal shootings occur in networks comprising less than 6 percent of Chicago’s total population. This distribution of shootings within co-offending networks fundamentally changes how we assess the distribution of risk in Chicago.” (Emphasis theirs.)
It is interesting to compare this to another story from about a year ago which noted that the vast majority of homicides in Chicago were related to drug gangs:
Fewer than 2,000 utterly ruthless, well-armed bad guys may be causing a majority of Chicago's homicides. They're shooting and killing each other, motivated in part by profits from illegal drug sales, according to a veteran criminologist who has worked closely with the Chicago Police Department. 
When they began rounding up 41 leaders of a notorious gang last week that allegedly grossed $11 million a year running open-air heroin and cocaine markets on the West Side, it was hailed as a law enforcement landmark, the first use of a new Illinois law designed to target a small cadre of the most violent criminals. 
"There's probably 1,500 to 2,000 that are in a network of individuals that are continuously interacting in a negative way and at risk of shooting someone or being shot themselves," Professor Dennis P. Rosenbaum says. 
Though he sometimes speaks like the UIC college professor he is, Dennis Rosenbaum has worked closely with the Chicago Police to understand the city's bloody-minded drug gangs. Rising to rule a gang requires an utter ruthlessness, emulated by the wannabe's in gang-dominated neighborhoods, especially in warmer weather when more residents are outside, watching. 
"The smallest things can set this off," Rosenbaum says. "People can be disrespectful of someone else's girlfriend, because all these kids have going is their street credibility. And they will fight and die for that."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

ISIS Continues to Take Territory

The Islamic State (aka ISIS) continues to make substantial military gains. VOA News reports that ISIS forces killed 270 taking the Shaer gas field in the central province of Homs. Aljazeera indicates, however, that Syria is contemplating an attack to attempt to retake the gas field.

Meanwhile, turning back to Iraq, McClatchy reports:
Islamic State gunmen overran a former U.S. military base early Friday and killed or captured hundreds of Iraqi government troops who’d been trying to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, the worst military reversal Iraqi troops have suffered since the Islamist forces captured nearly half the country last month. 
The defeat brought to an end a three-week campaign by the government in Baghdad to recapture Tikrit, which fell to the Islamic State on June 11. Military spokesmen earlier this week had confidently announced a final push to recapture the city. 
Instead, Islamic State forces turned back the army’s thrust up the main highway Wednesday. Beginning late Thursday, the Islamist forces stormed Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base named for a pilot who disappeared during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and overwhelmed the troops there. 
Witnesses reached by phone, who asked not be identified for security reasons, said that by Friday morning the final pocket of government troops had collapsed, an ignominious end for a counteroffensive that had begun with a helicopter assault into Tikrit University but ended with troops trapped at Camp Speicher.
ISIS also continues to solidify its holdings by intimidating portions of the population that might provide resistance. Case in point, as the Telegraph relates:
Christian families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam. 
“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline set by Islamic State for them to submit or leave. 
The warning was read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers. 
“We offer [Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment... if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement read. 
It said Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who the group has now named Caliph Ibrahim, had ordered Christians who did not want to stay and live under those terms to “leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate”.
Mao Tse Tung formulated a three stage theory of revolutionary warfare. Those steps are:
1. Organization, consolidation and preservation of base areas,
usually in difficult and isolated terrain.
 
2. Progressive expansion by terror and attacks on isolated enemy units
to obtain arms, supplies and political support.
 
3. Decision, or destruction of the enemy in battle. 
What does this mean in detail? 
The revolutionary cadres begin their work in remote rural areas. It’s easier to hide there and governments tend to ignore remote areas or, even better, discriminate against their inhabitants. That serves to helps with recruiting. Cadres come to villages to live and work and socialize with the locals. Over time they become trusted. In that newly fertile ground they develop a program, the party line, and recruit followers. The government on the other hand has the constant task of rooting out and apprehending the revolutionary cadres. That was usually a losing battle for them. In remote areas the peasant population is small; they all know and keep tabs on one another, but you can still move among them as long as you make friends with them. By contrast, strangers immediately stand out, so it’s harder for the government to infiltrate, to get intelligence. The Communists did not always co-mingle with the locals in such a benign way, sometimes they coerced villagers, but the track record (in China, Vietnam and elsewhere) reveals a trend toward cooperation rather than intimidation as the primary characteristic of the relations between revolutionaries and peasants. At least at this early stage. That’s phase one. 
Next, the transition to phase two, guerrilla warfare, armed struggle. In guerrilla warfare, attacks are carefully planned for heightened effect, but usually not for military purposes per se. Instead phase two revolutionaries are interested in using military force for political purposes. What or who is the first target? This is low-intensity warfare at this point so the target will likely be an individual or a small group, a police chief for example, or a village chief, or maybe even a province chief or council. Kidnapping and assassination are the tools of the trade, not so much because they want to get rid of that person but rather to make a resounding point. To what effect? To demonstrate to the populace that the insurgents can get to the enemy, that their force is a real factor to be respected. It also induces fear in the ranks. The first attacks may do little physical damage to the enemy, but psychologically, fears of possible mayhem just around the corner get stoked. Suddenly, formerly comfortable officials begin to fear for their safety. They may then pull their forces further inward for personal protection, which usually made the villagers happy. 
Another primary reason behind these first attacks is to get attention. Basically, when people read about the attack in the newspaper or hear about it on the radio or by word of mouth, they’re going to be curious about what is happening. Even if they’ve never heard of the revolutionary movement they may start thinking about it and seek to learn more. Engaging in that initial act of violence, or terrorism, demonstrates to the people that the revolution is real, that its agents are here and they mean business. And they can win. For villagers already opposed to the government, or even for those who were neutral, this represented a development worth watching, and maybe hope for something new and better. 
From that initial purely political statement, progress toward the third and final stage is constantly evolving. In the third stage military objectives rise to the fore. Getting there involves the constant escalation of fear through violence. For example, an ambush of a patrol might net a weapons cache. Then a police station is overrun in the night, netting more weapons and ammunition, and perhaps information like names of informants. Then, finally, enough weapons, and money, are accumulated to encourage supporters to help. They begin to give information on government officials, and local families grow more willing to hide communist troops. Over time, more and more locals actually take up arms and join in the combat operations. Insurgent military operations become bigger and deadlier. Ultimately a regular military force emerges that can engage government forces on the field of battle. That’s the third phase. As we’ll see, the Vietnamese Communists put their own gloss on the theory and practice.
 ISIS finds itself at a dangerous time in its development. It has successfully grown its organization from a loose band of terrorist and guerrillas to one that fancies itself a nation-state. It's military actions are no longer the work of isolated bands of terrorists or guerrilla fighters, but is transitioning to formal military units fighting open battles toe-to-toe with enemies. Right now, the moral of the ISIS troops and supporters is high due to the incredible victories it has obtained. All of this is, however, its weakness.

Because ISIS has not suffered a serious setback, if one were to happen, it would be a severe psychological blow to the movement. Combined with the death of its leader, and the group would likely degenerate into warring factions.

Militarily, ISIS is openly fielding forces. It is acting as real army. But it lacks the training and experience to a modern military force, and certainly is lacking much of the equipment needed. However, it has just enough to defeat the demoralized Iraqi troops that it meets. Right here and right now, though, it would not be able to stand against a professional military force of any significance. Iraq can't succeed; but the U.S. could crush this nascent army with a sufficiently strong contingent. After living under ISIS for several months, its popularity among the population will be waning. However, this window will soon close. ISIS is already seeking to put into place a bureaucracy to handle day-to-day government matters. It has seized key gas and oil fields that will provide it with sources of income. It will be able to field an army of motivated soldiers whose training and experience will make it an equal to almost any in the Middle East.

Now is the time to strike. But it will be, unfortunately, the time Obama falters.  The Europeans will not intervene either. It is simpler for them to criticize Israel than to recognize that something far worse than Nazi Germany is metastasizing in the Middle-East.

How the Headlines Would Read if Liberals Had an Ounce of Integrity

Protest: Demonstrators march on Whitehall. 333 people in the Gaza strip have died from Israeli strikes
(Source)

Thousands rallied in London, calling for England to be declared a terrorist state for its bombing of innocent German civilians during WWII.

Protesters run by a fire barricade in Paris, on July 19, 2014.
(Source)
In Paris, protesters lit fires to protest the D-Day invasion that has left thousands of Germans dead.

Friday, July 18, 2014

UN Hiding Rockets for Hamas

The Times of Israel reports that 20 rockets were found in a school operated by the United Nations which was located in Gaza.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Collective Punishment" Against Palestinians is Justified

Israel has begun its ground offensive against Gaza. Reportedly, this is limited to locating and destroying terrorist supply tunnels. As usual, Israel is exercising too much restraint.

Obviously, others would disagree. Haaratz reports that Britain's deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has called Israel's response "disproportionate" to Gaza's blitz of rockets. He also objects to what he calls Israel's "collective punishment" of the Palestinians. Clegg also says that Israel has "made its point" and should stop military action against Gaza.

This term, "collective punishment", is all the rage among the Western hating liberals. Marjorie Cohn uses the term in her op-ed at the Huffington Post, calling Israel's actions illegal. An op-ed at Vox by Max Fisher also uses the term. Palestinian apologists are using the term. Even Catholic bishops in Israel, who should know better than to pander to Hamaz, are deriding Israel by calling its military measures unjustified collective punishment. I could cite more examples, but this should suffice.

What these liberals and apologists for terrorists call "collective punishment" is generally termed warfare. It is an unfortunate fact of life that when two nations go to war, civilians are killed. I don't remember from my studies that Winston Churchill directed British forces to attack only Nazis. After England bombed Berlin, no one told it that it had "made its point" and let Nazi Germany be.

The Palestinians claim they are a nation. They have representation at the U.N. They have their own elected government and police. If they want to be a nation, they need to learn to act like one. And that means that they be subject to warfare when they attack another nation. You see, Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. It is the ruling political part in Gaza--freely elected by the Palestinians. In other words, it is not Hamas that attacked Israel, but Gaza that attacked Israel. Elections have consequences, and one of those consequences is that your government may do something stupid and attack a more powerful nation.

Honduras' Extortion Demand

Reuters reports that Honduras is requesting a "mini-Marshal plan" to prevent children from heading to the U.S. as illegal aliens.
Honduran officials on Wednesday called for U.S. aid to Central America to reduce violence that has fueled a surge of child migration to the United States, with the foreign minister calling for a "mini-Marshall plan" to attack the broader underlying problems. 
Honduran President Juan Hernandez said Washington should help Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras fight gangs with a plan similar to U.S. anti-drug programs in Colombia and Mexico, as well as funds to lift growth in the impoverished region.
Except that these children are arriving because they believe they will be allowed to stay, not because of violence in their home country. (See also here). There is some indication that the drug cartels are also behind the surge, as they have taken over human smuggling/trafficking.

In short, this is less about dealing with a humanitarian crises than yet another way to squeeze more gold eggs from the American goose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

If I'm a Nativist am I a Native?

The public backlash against illegal immigration sure has liberals foaming at the mouth, as evidenced by this Salon article. However, what has struck me is the sudden use of the phrase "nativist" from the left-wingnut media and politicians. Are we no longer a nation of immigrants? Can I now call myself a Native American?

Clovis People Hunted Another Elephant Ancestor

From the Daily Mail:
An ancestor of the elephant once believed to have disappeared from North America before humans ever arrived there roamed the continent longer than previously thought – and was hunted by early man. 
Archaeologists have discovered artifacts of the prehistoric Clovis culture mingled with the bones of two gomphotheres – an ancient ancestor of the elephant – at an archaeological site in northwestern Mexico. 
The discovery suggests that the Clovis – the earliest widespread group of hunter-gatherers to inhabit North America – likely hunted and ate gomphotheres. 
The members of the Clovis culture were already well-known as hunters of the gomphotheres' cousins, mammoths and mastodons. 
Although humans were known to have hunted gomphotheres in Central America and South America, this is the first time a human-gomphothere connection has been made in North America, says archaeologist Vance Holliday of the University of Arizona, who co-authored a new paper on the findings, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 
... Gomphotheres were smaller than mammoths – about the same size as modern elephants. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The New Axis of Evil

From Politico:
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $250,000 to the super PAC supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) in the primary battle he won by a wide margin last month, a source familiar with the donation told POLITICO. 
The donation is set to be revealed in financial filings made public Tuesday by the West Main Street Values PAC, the source said. 
The donation is the second Bloomberg has made in recent months to a Republican incumbent facing tea party unrest. Last month, filings showed that Bloomberg donated $250,000 to a super PAC supporting Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in the rancorous primary with state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
So what is going on here? Obviously, Bloomberg doesn't just donate money because of a sense of civic duty. He wants (or will want) something. Since Bloomberg hates the private ownership of firearms, and Graham sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is not hard to imagine what favor Bloomberg will ask. Cochran is on the powerful Appropriations Committee, so Bloomberg's support of him is no big mystery either.

However, there may be something else going on here. Part of the Democratic elite helping part of the Republican elite against the Tea Party faction. What scares Republican and Democrat leadership alike about the Tea Party is that it is a populist movement seeking restoration of a balance of power between the individual, the State, and the Federal government, and is an enemy to crony-capitalism ("socialism" or "business as usual" as it is generally called). The leadership of both parties are scared of having their power and influence curtailed, and the billionaires are scared of having to make money by exercising business acumen instead of rigging the rules in their favor.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cloward-Piven and Immigration

Obama's Administration is clearly the most political in recent decades. Yet, the Administration is doubling down on amnesty for illegal aliens despite a growing backlash from the working class and black communities.
Since the immigration issue may hurt Democrats in the fall elections, why pursue it?

Ed Driscoll thinks it is part of the Administration's Cloward-Piven strategy. He notes:
“The Obama administration-driven calamity at this nation’s southern border is no naiveté-caused accident,” Tom Blumer wrote on June 24th at PJM. “Instead, it’s the latest manifestation of what clear-eyed observers must recognize is just one of many concerted attempts to overwhelm this nation’s institutions and its social, psychological and physical infrastructure for the apparent purpose of leaving it permanently weakened and fundamentally changed.”
Certainly we know that many systems are going to be strained. Many of the illegal aliens entering the country will want jobs, or at least government benefits, requiring valid U.S. identities--thus, identity theft, especially among children, will skyrocket. (See also this story). Social services and schools in some areas are going to be inundated with more children. We will see greater demand for emergency room services and other health care.

But what else? Well, I find a couple comments from Eric Holder this past weekend revealing. First, Holder has thrown down the race card yet again, and indicated that the DOJ will be challenging election laws in various states. In other words, the Administration is willing to risk some setbacks this fall in order to prepare the battlespace for 2016, when these illegal aliens will be voting.

Second, Holder has gone off into fantasy land again about "homegrown terrorist" threats. Well, homicides and other violent crime has been decreasing the past few decades, so why would Holder be so concerned about "homegrown terrorists" that he would be unable to sleep? "Homegrown terrorists," as we know from prior Homeland Security memos, is Newspeak for conservative groups. So he is just setting the stage, yet again, for any violence that could remotely be associated with the immigration issue to be linked by the media to the NRA, Tea Party groups, etc. Think of Holder's comments not so much as concerns as instructions to the MSM.

However, I would also like to point out another point of the immigration strategy. Right now, because of the influx of illegals and staffing issues, the cartels are moving sizable amounts of drugs and persons across the border. Gang members, whether teenage members (hidden among the "unaccompanied children") or those sneaking across the border, or going to start locating to various urban centers. Gang violence in Mexico and Central America is a level or two in magnitude above what we currently have in the U.S. Expect the gang violence to begin to get much worse, and to begin to emulate the type of violence we see in Latin America.

In some ways, this is the opposite flow of the "drug running" scandal. Under Gun Walker, guns were smuggled across the border for use by the drug cartels in hopes of increasing murders in Mexico and increase support for gun control laws. Now, drug cartel members are being smuggled into the U.S. to increase murders here in the U.S., which will probably result in increased support for gun control laws.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flexible Displays

From Yahoo News:
LG Display unveiled a paper thin, 18-inch television panel prototype that can be rolled up into the shape of a thin cylinder, making television portable. 
The panel has almost 1 million megapixels and can be rolled up into a cylinder with a 2.4-inch diameter without affecting its high-definition display. 
Instead of using "conventional plastic" for the backbone of the screen, the company said it used polyimide film. The material drastically reduced the screen's thickness and gave it the flexibility needed to roll it into a tight cylinder. 
Along with the flexible screen, LG showed off a transparent panel that has a significantly clearer picture quality than existing see-through LCD displays. 
LG Display said the technological advancement proves they can produce rollable television screens larger than 50 inches diagonally. In a statement, the company said it is confident it will produce a 60-inch Ultra HD, transparent rollable television by 2017.
I don't know if this will be as significant for televisions as it will be for mobile phones and tablets. Being able to extend or retract a screen to the size you need would be extremely handy--it would allow you to have the benefit of  larger screen when you need it without having to carry a bulkier phone or tablet. The 2.5 inch diameter of the tube needs to be reduced further, though.

Proof that the TSA Rules are B.S.

Glenn Reynolds likes to comment about global warming that he will believe its a crises when the people urging steps to control global warming act like its a crises. But hypocrisy is not just limited to global warming, and we see a lot of it when it comes to immigration. The latest slap-in-the-face, Breitbart reveals, is that illegal aliens are being allowed to ride commercial airlines without having to show a photo-ID. You and I are not so lucky. The TSA requires from us one of the following:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS "Trusted Traveler" cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians)
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Border Crossing Card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver's license
  • U.S. driver's licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) for the sole purpose of identification.
  • Native American Tribal Photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV Card
  • An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)
  • Non-US/Canadian citizens are not required to carry their passports if they have documents issued by the U.S. government such as Permanent Resident Cards. Those who do not should be carrying their passports while visiting the U.S.

  • However, according to the Breitbart article, the TSA is allowing illegals to fly merely by showing their I-862 (Notice to Appear) forms given by the Border Patrol to illegals--essentially a Notice to Appear in court. This is not a photo-ID, but merely a form printed on regular copy paper, with no watermarks or security features. The equivalent for you or I would be using a traffic ticket as a form of identification.

    Obviously, if the requirement to show a government issued photo-ID to board a plane was a necessary security measure, this exception would never have been made. That there is this exception merely shows that TSA screening is useless kabuki theater. 

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Allen & Company Conference

    A bevy of media tycoons are getting together at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. The New York Times' DealBook column indicates that the attendees include some big names:
    Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller and Harvey Weinstein are among those expected at Allen & Company’s annual conference.... 
    ... Brian Roberts of Comcast and Randall Stephenson of AT&T.
    ...David Zaslav, is a regular attendee of the conference – is said to have held talks about a combination with Scripps Networks.
    ... Time Warner’s chief, Jeffrey Bewkes, is also a regular at the Allen & Company conference. ...
    Plenty of other top executives have been invited as well. Timothy D. Cook of Apple is again on the list, and if he attends, he will do so after having struck Apple’s biggest-ever acquisition, the $3 billion takeover of Beats Electronics. 
    And Yahoo, which has made a big push into content under the tenure of Marissa Mayer, may be on the hunt for more media partnerships. Ms. Mayer is on the list and may be in attendance. 
    Meanwhile, tech company executives – once a relative minority at the conference – are expected to make a strong showing. On the invite list are Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg; Intel’s Brian Krzanich; eBay’s John Donahoe; and Martin Lau, the president of Tencent, a leader of the Chinese Internet industry. 
    Some of the invitees will arrive born aloft on recent successes. Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder, recently raised funds that value his company at an astonishing $10 billion, while Pinterest’s chief, Ben Silbermann, got new capital at a $5 billion valuation. Nick Woodman of the exceptionally popular camera maker GoPro recently led the company’s hugely successful initial public offering. 
    Still others are hoping to claim big achievements soon. Jack Ma, a co-founder of the Internet e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, is on the invitee list, though it is unclear whether he will attend. And Renaud Laplanche of Lending Club, a titan of the peer-to-peer lending industry, is working on taking his company public later this year. 
    Also on the list:
    – The Google triumvirate of Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric E. Schmidt, coming after the Internet giant continues to expand, including through acquisitions like Nest Labs.
    – Jay Lee, the heir apparent at Samsung, and Gregory Lee, the head of the Korean electronics giant’s American arm.
    – Les Moonves of CBS and Philippe Dauman of Viacom.
    – Brian McAndrews, the chief executive of Pandora Media.
    – Wes Edens, a co-founder of the investment firm Fortress and a new co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.
    – Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, whose predecessor, David Stern, has been a frequent attendee; Roger Goodell of the National Football League; Bud Selig of Major League Baseball; and Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League.
     It reminds me of this quote from Adam Smith: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

    "The Big Bounce"

    ... instead of the "Big Bang." From the Daily Mail:
    It was the discovery that shook the world of physics - back in March scientists using the Bicep2 telescope in Antarctica found evidence for the period after the Big Bang. 
    Since that discovery, however, questions have arisen not only on its validity, but also its implications for science as a whole. 
    And now if might force us to reconsider how the universe formed, with some suggesting the cosmos didn’t start with a Big Bang but rather a ‘Big Bounce’. 
    ... The Big Bounce theory states that our universe didn’t necessarily begin from a singularity, but rather ‘rebounded’ from the collapse of a previous universe. 
    And evidence for this apparently exists in the data from the Bicep2 experiment. 
    ... The theory relies upon something known as loop quantum gravity (LGQ), which is a way of unifying quantum mechanics and general relavity, itself a manifestation of gravity’s effect on the universe. 
    In basic terms it states the universe can be seen like a fabric of ‘woven’ loop that gives space itself an atomic structure, like matter. 
    Under LQG the gravity would become repulse as the universe became more dense, sort of like how a spring becomes harder to compress as it is squashed. 
    So, if the universe did collapse, it would eventually expand again when it reached a particular size. 
    This process of expanding is known as inflation, evidence for which was found by Bicep2.
    In this model there would be no Big Bang as we know it, with the universe starting as an infitiely dense singularity, but there would have been a moment the universe expanded from a small size, itself a Big Bang of sorts.
     
    This would solve the question of what came before the Big Bang, as it would simply have been the universe contracting before reaching its smallest possible size, and then expanding again.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    NYT Warns of Tuberculosis

    The New York Times warns of the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis. 
    Tuberculosis rates have declined in the United States in the last decade. In 2012, there were around 10,000 cases, and of those, only 83 were resistant to all of the most commonly used tuberculosis drugs — 44 fewer than in 2011. So far we have been lucky. The low numbers hide the precarious nature of the nation’s public health defense, and how vulnerable we would be to an epidemic. 
    The problem is that responsibility for tuberculosis control is divided among 2,684 state, local and tribal health departments. That infrastructure is politically and legally fragmented, underfunded and disproportionately strained in many poor communities.
    Patients with infectious tuberculosis, caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs, need medication regularly administered over many months. Local public health workers provide the medication and observe that it is taken by the patient, requiring as many as five visits each week. If treatment is interrupted, or if the drugs are not working, patients have a much higher chance of developing (and spreading) drug-resistant tuberculosis. At the same time, health workers must track down and test anyone who had come in close contact with patients before the disease was diagnosed, to be certain no one else has been infected.
     
    All this is made much more difficult by the patchwork of jurisdictions and the lack of coordination among health departments, which can easily lose track of patients who travel or relocate to another county or state.
    Even the CDC recognizes that the primary source of TB in developed countries are immigrants from poorer countries.
    Migration from low/middle income countries with high tuberculosis (TB) incidence increasingly accounts for most TB cases in high-income countries with low TB incidence; the greatest risk for active TB is within the first few years of arrival. Screening for active pulmonary TB when documented immigrants enter a new country has found ≈3.5 cases per 1,000 documented immigrants. The prevalence of smear-negative cases of TB reported for US-bound immigrants and refugees was 9.6 cases per 1,000 persons.
     (End notes omitted).

    So it is less than comforting to see reports indicating that the recent waive of illegal aliens are carrying various diseases, including TB. (See here). And the problem may be worse than publicly acknowledged.
    However, at least a half dozen anonymous sources, including nurses and health care providers who worked at Lackland, allege that the government is covering up what they believe to be a very serious health threat. 
    Several of my sources tell me that tuberculosis has become a dangerous issue at both the border and the camps. 
    "The amount of tuberculosis is astonishing," one health care provider told me. "The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick. The tuberculosis is definitely there." 
    Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, M.D. says state health officials have seen only three cases of tuberculosis, the Associated Press reports. One of my sources with close ties to the Texas HHS tells me all three cases were reported in Austin. 
    However, nurses at Lackland in San Antonio, said they know of at least four teenagers in their camp who have tuberculosis. 
    "The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick," the source told me. "The tuberculosis is definitely there." 
    My source said there are children showing classic tuberculosis symptoms -- spitting up blood, a constant cough and chest pain.
    Fortunately we have ObamaCare (sarc.).

    Kurds Warn Baghdad Against Interfering with Vote

    From VOA News:
    Kurdish leaders cautioned Baghdad they will order their Peshmerga fighters to retaliate if Iraqi security forces launch any strikes on Kurdish-controlled territory. 
    The warning came after a weekend air raid on a town south of Kirkuk that left four people dead, including a 12-year-old. 
    Tensions flared between semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government following an announcement late last month by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani threatening to hold an independence vote, opening the door to a breakup of war-wracked Iraq. 
    The referendum is being planned by the Kurds, who have long dreamed of forming their own independent state, in the face of opposition from the Iraqi government, which says it would be unlawful, and despite the disapproval of the Obama administration.

    U.S. Gun Statistics

    Zero Hedge has an article examining gun statistics for the United States. For some reason, the author assumes gun ownership as bad. Thus, that the number of households owning guns has fallen over recent decades is "good", that the number of guns per capita has increased is "bad". I don't agree with that sentiment, and the facts of lower crimes certainly beg the question of whether that distinction is correct. In any event, the author also notes that the majority of violent crimes are committed by a very small number of repeat offenders. Also, I would take note that comparing U.S. homicide rates to those of other countries is not as straightforward as it seems, since when and how a death is included as a homicide varies.

    Finally, compare these two graphs:





    What immediately strikes me is that, overall, nations with higher rates of gun ownership have lower homicide rates.

    Iraq Confirms ISIS Seized Chemical Weapons

    More on those troublesome WMDs that never existed. From BBC News:
    Isis-led Sunni rebels are in control of a disused chemical weapons factory, Iraqi officials have confirmed. 
    In a letter to the UN, Iraq said it would be unable to keep to obligations to destroy its chemical weapons. 
    The Muthanna complex northwest of Baghdad houses remnants of rockets filled with sarin and other deadly nerve agents. 
    The UN and US say the munitions are degraded and the rebels will be unable to make usable chemical arms from them. 
    In the letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Iraq's UN Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said the rebels took over the complex on 11 June, after disarming soldiers who guarded the site. 
    The document stated that Muthanna's surveillance system showed that there was "looting of some equipment and appliances" at the factory, about 70km (45 miles) north-west of the Iraqi capital. 
    As a result of the takeover, the letter stated that Iraq was unable "to fulfil its obligations to destroy chemical weapons". 
    However, it added that the government would resume its commitments "as soon as the security situation has improved and control of the facility has been regained". 
    It is believed that some 2,500 rockets filled with nerve agents - including sarin and mustard gas - are stored at Muthanna. 
    The US said nearly three weeks ago that the militants had taken the chemical factory,...
    Notwithstanding the assurance that the chemical weapons are harmless, this 2004 AP report indicates that even the degraded chemical weapons could be dangerous:
     Nerve agents like sarin can cause convulsions, paralysis and respiratory failure. Their potency degrades over time, but "even with degradation, the weapons may be dangerous even if there's half as much nerve agent now as before," said British chemical weapons expert Richard Guthrie. 
    Guthrie, of Sweden's Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said weakened sarin might be useless against military units in the field, but still be a threat to unprotected civilians in confined spaces.
    Testimony from Gen. Michael Maples (then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency) also indicated that the chemical weapons, although degraded, remained dangerous and potentially deadly. Maples colleague, Col. John Chu, also testified that the degraded chemicals would still be deadly.

    While that's reassuring, the agent remaining in the weapons would be very valuable to terrorists and insurgents, Maples said. "We're talking chemical agents here that could be packaged in a different format and have a great effect," he said, referencing the sarin-gas attack on a Japanese subway in the mid-1990s. 
    This is true even considering any degradation of the chemical agents that may have occurred, Chu said. It's not known exactly how sarin breaks down, but no matter how degraded the agent is, it's still toxic. 
    "Regardless of (how much material in the weapon is actually chemical agent), any remaining agent is toxic," he said. "Anything above zero (percent agent) would prove to be toxic, and if you were exposed to it long enough, lethal."

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    More Evidence of Interbreeding Between Hominids

    From the Daily Mail:
    Re-examination of a 100,000-year-old human skull found 35 years ago in Northern China suggests they were closer than thought in physiology to Neanderthals. 
    A study has revealed the surprising presence of an inner-ear formation long thought to occur only in Neanderthals. 
    And it lends further credence to the theory that Neanderthals were wiped out through interbreeding with other humans.

    Study co-author Erik Trinkaus, PhD, a physical anthropology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said the discovery 'places into question' how humans from the Pleistocene period (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) dispersed.
     
    'It suggests, instead, that the later phases of human evolution were more of a labyrinth of biology and peoples than simple lines on maps would suggest,' he said.
    Genesis 6:2?

    Monday, July 7, 2014

    Feds Bringing In Riot Police to Deal With Protestors

    Breitbart reports:
    As illegal immigrants continue to spill across the U.S.-Mexico border, federal authorities are attempting to relocate the migrants from South Texas to housing facilities in states across the nation. One such facility is located in Murrieta, California, where a large group of protesters recently blocked a bus full of migrants from arriving. The protesters remain there, adamant that illegal immigrants don't get dumped in their town. But soon the concerned citizens may be forced to step down--Breitbart Texas has learned that federal agents plan to arrive in Murrieta on Monday with riot gear to ensure that another busload makes it to the housing facility. 

    Top 10 Most Powerful Volcanic Explosions

    This map plots the most explosive volcanic eruptions of the last 2,000 years, based on the research and using date estimates

    From the Daily Mail:

    Topping the list was the eruption at Samalas, Indonesia in 1257, followed by the Kuwae event of 1452, and Tambora, also in Indonesia,  in 1815.  
    Although the study plots earlier events, the researchers don't know exactly what these explosions were.  
    Based on the timeline, however, it's possible to estimate what these events may have been.  
    For example, the fourth most powerful eruption took place in around 674 AD, which could have been the Pago event in Bismarck or the eastern Alaskan eruption in Mount Churchill believed to have take place around 700 AD. 
    Fifth and sixth place occurred between 531 to 566 AD and could be the Rabaul Caldera explosions in Papua New Guinea that is thought to have took place around 535 onwards.  
    The seventh most powerful explosion happened shortly after Samalas, and may have been Quilatoa in the Andes in 1280.  
    Based on the 450 AD date of the eighth place event suggests it was Ilopango in Central America, ninth appears to have been the Grímsvötn and Laki eruptions in Iceland around 1785.  
    While tenth place happened shortly before Samalas and could have been an earlier eruption of Mount Rinjani, Indonesia.

    Feds and Sheriff Vow to Go After Bundy

    From the Daily Mail:
    Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie today said Bundy crossed the line when he allowed states' rights supporters, including self-proclaimed militia members, onto his property to aim guns at police. 
    'If you step over that line, there are consequences to those actions,' Gillespie told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 'And I believe they stepped over that line. No doubt about it. They need to be held accountable for it.' 
    Bureau spokeswoman Celia Boddington, in a statement released Saturday to The Associated Press, agreed, saying the agency continues to pursue the matter 'aggressively through the legal system.' 
    'There is an ongoing investigation and we are working diligently to ensure that those who broke the law are held accountable,' she said, declining to elaborate.
    The FBI declined comment Saturday on its investigation. Bundy did not respond to a request for comment.

    Sunday, July 6, 2014

    The Declaration of Independence (Updated)

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. 
    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. 
    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. 
    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
     He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.  
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. 
    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. 
    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. 
    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. 
    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. 
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. 
    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. 
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. 
    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: 
    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: 
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: 
    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: 
    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:  
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: 
     For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: 
    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: 
    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. 
    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. 
    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.  
    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. 
    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 
     He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. 
    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. 
    Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. 
    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
    Two legal scholars discuss the Declaration of Independence: Randy Barnett at the Washington Post; and Jerry Bower at Forbes.

    Barnett provides an overview of the Declaration and its importance for understanding the relationship between citizens and government. He writes:
    The Declaration of Independence used to be read aloud at public gathering every Fourth of July. Today, while all Americans have heard of it, all too few have read more than its second sentence.  Yet the Declaration shows the natural rights foundation of the American Revolution, and provides important information about what makes a constitution or government legitimate. It also raises the question of how these fundamental rights are reconciled with the idea of “the consent of the governed” for which the Declaration is also famous.
     Later, the Declaration also assumes increasing importance in the struggle to abolish slavery.  It is a foundational document of the Nineteenth Century abolitionists and was much relied upon by Abraham Lincoln.  It had to be explained away by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott. Eventually, it was repudiated by some defenders of slavery in the South because of its inconsistency with that institution.
     Barnett points out that much of the Declaration is a bill of indictment (a criminal complaint) against the British Crown. Barnett explains:
    But to justify a revolution, it was not thought to be enough that officials of the government of England, the Parliament, or even the sovereign himself had violated the rights of the people. No government is perfect; all governments violate rights. This was well known. So the Americans had to allege more than mere violations of rights. They had to allege nothing short of a criminal conspiracy to violate their rights systematically. Hence, the famous reference to “a long train of abuses and usurpations” and the list that follows. In some cases, these specific complaints account for provisions eventually included in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
     The rest of the document sets out the relationship between rights, governments and citizens.
    The assumption of natural rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence can be summed up by the following proposition:  “first comes rights, then comes government.”  According to this view: (1) the rights of individuals do not originate with any government, but preexist its formation;  (2) The protection of these rights is the first duty of government; and (3) Even after government is formed, these rights provide a standard by which its performance is measured and, in extreme cases, its systemic failure to protect rights — or its systematice violation of rights — can justify its alteration or abolition; (4) At least some of these rights are so fundamental that they are “inalienable,” meaning they are so intimately connected to one’s nature as a human being that they cannot be transferred to another even if one consents to do so.

    Bower, writing at Forbes, focuses on  the Declarations' statement that there are times when a citizen has a right, or obligation, to dissolve the bands between him/her and a government. Bower explains:


    This implies something very important: No governmental official can deny the right of the people to dissolve the political bands which tie them to a tyrannical government, without at the same time denying the Declaration and, by extension, the Constitution on which his own power is based. If he says, “The Declaration no longer applies; you must obey my authority no matter what.” We can rightly reply, “If the Declaration no longer applies, then the government of which you are a part no longer possesses legitimacy; which means you have no authority in the first place and therefore have no right to demand that we obey.” 
    To determine whether the framers and their principles would cause us once again to break from a central political authority one must first get into the head space of the founders. Their way of thinking, though alien to modern political philosophy (and so much the worse for modern political philosophy), is clear and cogent: 
    There are certain ideas which are self-evidently true. One of those ideas is that we are created without legal primacy or inferiority with regard to one another. Another idea, which is just obviously true to people whose rational faculties are operating properly, is that the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of a prosperous life (which is what the word ‘happiness’ meant in 1776) are not alienable, that is they cannot have a lien placed on them by any other persons, not even representatives of the state.

    Not only is government denied the authority to put a lien on and repossess those rights, but it is further required to protect those rights. And in fact, the protecting of those rights is the only reason that government should exist in the first place! And not only is it necessary for government to protect these rights, but its use of power to do so is still only just if it also involves the consent of the people whose freedom and property are being protected. Further (and this is shocking, even to modern ears), when governments move from protecting those rights to injuring those rights, the people are allowed to erase the authority of the government.
     
    So, are we there yet? That question is in the air, although I don’t think I’ve heard it put so explicitly in terms of the context of the Fourth of July, 1776. ...
    Some people want to banish this conversation from polite company, but doing so does not ban the conversation from occurring; it just bans polite conversationalists from adding their influence to the debate. The greatest beneficiaries of this approach are groups at the fringe who live to incite people to violence. 
    No amount of banning or inciting can change the facts. 238 years ago the principles of the Declaration found that the central government had lost the right to rule and called on the people to withdraw allegiance to it. Is that the case now? Even the most ardent believer in the American experiment (and I am a very ardent one) has to acknowledge that the verdict of history is that no state remains committed to liberty forever, which means that such a time will come again. The question is whether we are there now.  Tell me what you think, and then I’ll tell you what I think.
    I look forward to reading what he thinks.

    Update (4/3/2015): Bower's article is no longer available at Forbes, but you can find it at Townhall.