Wednesday, November 26, 2014

E-Scam

Vape 'em if you've got 'em:
“Despite the propaganda and spin from the anti smokers, it is good to see that independent research has backed up the anecdotal knowledge that electronic cigarettes are not a gateway to tobacco.”
He added that the research by the Office of National Statistics was “not unique as other studies have confirmed the particularly low take up amongst non smokers.”
In a swipe at those protesting against e-cigarettes, he said that “If the health lobby are so keen to reduce the harm of smoking then electronic cigarettes which have a quit rate of 20 percent after one year as opposed to using the Pharmaceutical industry’s nicotine patches, gum and drugs at 5 percent, then ‘vaping’ must be encouraged as much as possible.”
“The government should never ban vaping indoors and private enterprise should also embrace electronic cigarettes too.”
They're not real cigarettes, and neither is the hype surrounding them.

The Scary Science

What hath research wrought?
“Whilst it is clear that temperatures could be reduced during deployment, the potential for misstep is considerable,” Dr. Matthew Watson with the University of Bristol told the Daily Mail Online. “By identifying risks, we hope to contribute to the evidence base around geoengineering that will determine whether deployment, in the face of the threat of climate change, has the capacity to do more good than harm.”

Still, he told the U.K. publication that it would be “unethical” not to try to mitigate climate change if such technology such technology were available and ever needed.

“If we ever deploy these technologies it will be the closest indication yet that we’ve failed as planetary stewards,” Watson said, according to the Daily Mail.
So...why do it?

Little Boss Man

Being a Union boss has its perks:
NEA, the nation’s largest labor union, has lost 272,014 members since 2009. The union paid Van Roekel $2.2 million from 2010-2014.

Losing more than a quarter of a million members didn’t keep Van Roekel from getting a huge raise this year, and taking millions of dollars from workers didn’t prevent Van Roekel from being praised by union advocates in a series of videos recorded for an NEA meeting in July.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees president Lee Saunders called Van Roekel “a force for unity in the labor movement, and for protecting all public services — helping bring NEA, AFSCME, AFT and SEIU together in an unprecedented partnership to face our challenges.”
failure is its own reward in the Union...

The Bright Lights Of Havana

Broadway comes to Cuba?
The production, about a group of struggling artists in New York, will feature a cast of 15 Cuban actors.

It will be led by Cuban-American director Andy Senor Jr, who made his professional debut as Angel in the original show on Broadway.

Nederlander Entertainment, one of the biggest theatre producers in the US, will produce the show in conjunction with Cuba's National Council of Performing Arts at Havana's Bertolt Brecht Theatre.

Founder Robert Nederlander Jr said he was honoured to be a "bridge between the Cuban cultural and Broadway communities".
In Cuba, everyone is a struggling artist whether they want to be or not...

Take This Job-Please

Who wants to be a Defense Secretary? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
You’ll be working for a president who once declared that he was elected to end wars but who now finds himself stuck, reluctantly, in a new one in Iraq and a prolonged one in Afghanistan — and who badly wants to finish up both in two years, though that’s probably impossible. He’s also a president who won’t listen much to you, since he apparently has little intention of altering the White House’s tight grip on the national security apparatus, which was the bane not only of Hagel but his two Pentagon predecessors, Leon Panetta and Bob Gates.
....

“The Obama administration is now in the market for their fourth secretary of defense,” said House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). “When the president goes through three secretaries, he should ask, ‘Is it them, or is it me?’”
I think the would-be applicants know the answer...

Our Mistake

Passing Obamacare was a mistake, says...Chuck Schumer?
“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem – health care reform,” Schumer said.

“The plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed,” he added. “But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs — not for changes in their health care.”
Is it too late for a do-over?

Ready for Trouble

Is ready for Hillary really ready?
If Ready for Hillary decides to continue operating after Clinton announces, it can do so in two ways—by remaining an independent Super PAC or by becoming Clinton’s officially designated campaign committee.

Legal experts say the second option is not viable if Ready for Hillary has already received donations from unions, corporations, or individuals that go beyond Federal Election Commission limits on campaign contributions.

To continue operating independently, Ready for Hillary would need to change its name to remove direct references to the candidate. The FEC also prohibits any coordination between Super PACs and an official campaign.
The contributions stop here?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's Just Talk

Eh, just ignore him:
Though it went entirely unnoticed in the Western press, all major Russian news outlets – RIA Novosti, Sputnik, RT, and others – were only too happy to report on what US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in private: “Just ignore Obama’s statements.”

According to Mr. Lavrov, John Kerry advised him not to pay too much attention to the US President’s harsh rhetoric directed toward his state. As recently as September, during his speech to the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, Mr. Obama puzzled and shocked Mr. Lavrov by placing “Russian aggression in Europe” in second place among the world’s threats, behind only the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, resigning to third place the “brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq.” “Aggressive Russia” again was included in Mr. Obama’s world top-danger list during November’s G20 Summit in Australia.

According to a translation commissioned by the Observer, Mr. Kerry advised Mr. Lavrov to “just ignore Obama’s statements.”
Everyone else pretty much already does anyway...

Setting The Standard

Does the law need a depravity standard?
“In criminal courts today, the decision to charge a case as heinous, atrocious, cruel, depraved or vile rests with the prosecuting authority but, [only] because the law does not include a standard to what constitutes an evil crime. That decision is either visceral, or one that may be driven by political considerations, bias, or sensationalism,” Welner – who’s given expert testimony in such cases as Andrea Yates’ drowning of her five children in their bathtub, and the prosecution of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell – said in an interview with FoxNews.com

“A Depravity Standard that is rooted in specific hallmarks of intent, actions, attitude and victimology keeps prosecutors accountable to fully investigate a crime for these unique qualities so that evidence informs decision making.”

According to Welner, the Depravity Standard would complement the principle of legal precedent, which exists in varying capacities throughout the United States to standardize the application of justice.
Better law through standardization?

Charting The Charts

The science of charts:
What makes simple charts so persuasive? It isn’t because they make the information more memorable — 30 minutes after reading about the drug trials, those who saw the charts were not much more likely to recall the results than those who had just read the description. Rather, the researchers conjecture, charts offer the veneer of science. And indeed, the tendency to find the charts more persuasive was strongest among those who agreed with the statement “I believe in science.”
Simplicity sells...

Eurocracy

Pope Francis takes on the EU:
Using words that could equally be addressed to multinational corporations or powerful EU institutions such as the European Central Bank, Pope Francis described democracy as being at risk from “unseen empires”.
“The true strength of our democracies – understood as expressions of the political will of the people – must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires,” he said.
“This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today.”
Unfortunately, modern Europe may not be up to facing the challenge it created...

Go Big

Chuck Schumer's solution for Democratic woes is:
“That same underlying expectation that government should help make life easier for the middle class is as strong as it’s ever been, setting the stage for a Democratic victory in 2016 if, and only if, we can convince people that government can work and help restore the middle class to prosperity,” Schumer said. “And we’re in a much better position to do this than Republicans, because when economic conditions are declining for the middle class, the electorate instinctively turns to Democrats.”

“But in order to win in 2016, Democrats must embrace government,” he added. “Not run away from it.”
Embrace the suck?

Dying On The Vine

Chuck Hagel, punching bag:
The Times observed that Hagel had been, to apply an apt metaphor, a good soldier for the president. He pursued the mission of shirking the Pentagon’s budget without issuing the complaints his predecessors had, and dove into the work of extricating thousands of Americans soldiers from the battlefields of Afghanistan. Unmentioned in this piece were the occasions in which Hagel was tasked to clean up after the president like, for example, when Obama stepped on a rhetorical landmine by suggesting American policy toward ISIS was to “shrink” it and make it “manageable.” He was not perfect, but Hagel’s acumen likely shielded his boss from a significant amount of criticism over the course of his tenure.

Having outlived his usefulness to this White House, though, Hagel can apparently be unceremoniously discarded in virtually the same way one would an overripe kumquat. Speaking to The Times on the condition of anonymity, an administration official revealed that Obama believed that it had no choice but to jettison a Cabinet official in the wake of the 2014 midterms, “so he went for the low-hanging fruit.”
Meanwhile, rotting vegetables apparently get to stay...

Split Screen Personality

President Obama literally gets pushed to the sidelines by events:
Obama was who he usually was: reasonable, professorial, trying to present both sides of the controversy over Brown's death. None of it came as a surprise; presidents stand for law and order—and this president, mindful as always of his unique place in history, walked the line tighter than most. "We are a nation built on the rule of the law," Obama said. "We need to accept this was a decision that was the grand jury's to make."

The police, he said, "put their lives on the line for us every single day."

If anything, Obama tried to stay too above the fray, perhaps not giving enough heed to the anger raging in African-American communities in Missouri and elsewhere. At one point, Obama seemed to dismiss the violent protests as just cable-news-driven sensationalism, saying the tumult would "make for good TV."

But in truth, there was little that Obama, or anyone in his position, could do. The tension had been building for days—and few on the streets were paying any attention to the president. Just minutes after he spoke, there were unconfirmed reports of tear gas being used, of police cars being turned over and burned. That was followed by looting. Obama had tried to strike a hopeful, encouraging chord, but it felt almost too optimistic—and was all but drowned out by the din.
Out of control? Or just out of touch? Or both?

After The Fire

Amid the anger, a positive response:
Natalie Dubose, owner of Natalie’s Cakes and More on on 100 South Florissant Road in Ferguson, had her store looted last night, then appeared on a local Fox affiliate hours later after what must have been a torturous, sleepless night, and could not possibly have been any more lovely and demonstrative of her obviously exceptional spirit. I simply could not have made such an appearance without expressing rage; Natalie is instead primarily concerned that she may not get her Thanksgiving orders out on time to what must be a loyal group of customers.

Al Sharpton could not be reached for comment.
No doubt because he was too busy elsewhere...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Top Jobs

Well, this explains a few things:
Fewer than 4,900 career civil servants were fired in fiscal year 2013 out of 1.4 million — about one out of every every 300 employees — according to Office of Personnel Management data.

The figures were 5,700 in 2010, 5,500 in 2011, and 5,200 in 2012. Only partial data was available for fiscal 2014, but it was on track for 4,800, the lowest in recent memory.

There are also about 7,700 senior executives in the federal government, who are held to a higher standard than those in the General Schedule rank and file.

But only five in the Senior Executive Service were fired in 2012, seven in 2013 and none in the first half of 2014.
Incompetence floats to the top, and stays there...

Trucks Unleashed

It's a truck, jumping over a race car:

The F1 car used was Lotus’ racer from the 2013 season, and the truck was from Renault, which supplies the engines for the Lotus F1 Team. Interestingly, the man behind the wheel of the truck was Mike Ryan, the same stuntman responsible for the famous truck/motorcycle chase scene in Terminator 2.

Kindly Collective

Where kindness counts?
People who are individualist see status as a sign of competence but not warmth, whereas people who are collectivist associate warmth but not competence with status. Failing to recognize these cultural differences can create conflict and disappointment if, for instance, you and your superior are using different metrics to judge your performance.

“This stream of research is rooted in my observations about differences in politicians in Latin America and the U.S.,” Torelli says. In the U.S., candidates often run on their business chops—Mitt Romney and Michael Bloomberg fit this mold. But in Latin America, he observes, “populist leaders are often idealized as selfless benefactors who genuinely care for the well-being of their people—think Salvador Allende or Hugo Chávez.”
Well, if incompetence was a virtue, he was hard to beat...

No Charges

The verdict is in:

Executive Taxes

So, what if a future president decides to use executive power to, say, lower taxes?
“The vast majority of folks understand that they need to pay taxes, and when we conduct an audit, for example, we are selecting those folks who are most likely to be cheating,” said Obama. “We’re not going after millions and millions of people who everybody knows are here and were taking advantage of low wages as they’re mowing lawns or cleaning out bedpans, and looking the other way.”

“So you don’t think it’d be legitimate for a future president to make that argument?” Stephanopoulos said.

Obama: “With respect to taxes? Absolutely not.”
Bad precedent begets bad responses...

Turkey Trot

I guess he's part of the War on Women now:
"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing," Erdogan said. "It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. Their constitution is different."

Erdogan added: "Motherhood is the highest position ... You cannot explain this to feminists. They don't accept motherhood. They have no such concern."

Lawyer and women's rights activist Hulya Gulbahar said Erdogan's comments were in violation of Turkey's constitution, Turkish laws and international conventions on gender equality and didn't help efforts to stem high incidences of violence against women in Turkey.

"Such comments by state officials which disregard equality between men and women play an important role in the rise of violence against women," Gulbahar said. "Such comments aim to make women's presence in public life — from politics to arts, from science to sports — debatable."
So now you can't debate? Granted, Erdogen isn't the best person to start one...

The Quarrymen

Wind power and Loch Ness don't mix:
Approximately 22,000,000 cubic feet of stone will need to be quarried from the surrounding area to build the wind farm, used both in the construction of access roads and hard-standing at the base of the turbines, and also to build the heavy platforms required to support the turbines.
The figure is taken from SSE’s own calculations. In 2012, when 83 turbines were planned – roughly 20 percent more than is currently being considered, the company stated that 28 million cubic feet would be required.
But the John Muir Trust points out that even the revised figure would consist of nearly enough stone to build nine Berlin Walls. The Trust calculated that the wall, at 69 miles long, 13 feet high and six inches thick, used about 2 million cubic feet in its construction. If the stone which will go into the Stronelairg wind farm were used to construct an identical wall, it would be 600 miles long.
“Most people will be staggered to discover the sheer scale of the quarrying involved in building a mega-wind farm on the scale of Stronelairg,” said Brooks.
And the detrimental environmental impacts don’t stop there. “All of this disruption will take place on a site which consists of more than 70% wet blanket peatland — Scotland’s miniature version of the rainforest — which locks in 20 times as much carbon per acre as the average woodland. A serious strategy to cut greenhouse gases would include protection of Scotland’s natural carbon storehouses,” Brooks added.
And that's not counting what Nessie would think...

I'm Only An Executive Order

How a President gets to become a King:

Hagel Out

Chuck Hagel is stepping down:
The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that the defense secretary initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.

But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary. His removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government’s early response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Even before the announcement of Mr. Hagel’s removal, Obama officials were speculating on his possible replacement. At the top of the list are Michèle A. Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense; Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and a former officer with the Army’s 82nd Airborne; and Ashton B. Carter, a former deputy secretary of defense.
Wanted: One Secretary of Defense. Experience helpful but not necessary...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Non-Renewable Future

The future isn't fixed on renewables:
Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn't feasible. Merely generating the relatively small proportion of our energy that we consume today in the form of electricity is already an insuperably difficult task for renewables: generating huge amounts more on top to carry out the tasks we do today using fossil-fuelled heat isn't even vaguely plausible.

Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms - and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on.
All of that energy has to come from somewhere...

Social Media Goes To Court

Is it free speech, or something more?
The issue is whether Elonis should be prosecuted for what he says was simply blowing off steam — “therapeutic efforts to address traumatic events,” as his brief to the court says — because what matters is not his intent but whether any reasonable person targeted in the rants would regard them as menacing warnings.

Parties on both sides of the groundbreaking case are asking the court to consider the unique qualities of social media. In this rapidly evolving realm of communication, only the occasional emoticon may signal whether a writer is engaging in satire or black humor, exercising poetic license, or delivering the kind of grim warnings that have presaged school shootings and other acts of mass violence.

Elonis, who has served prison time for his Facebook posts, and some of his supporters say the court must look beyond incendiary content to discern the writer’s intent.

“Internet users may give vent to emotions on which they have no intention of acting, memorializing expressions of momentary anger or exasperation that once were communicated face-to-face among friends and dissipated harmlessly,” said a brief filed on Elonis’s behalf by the Student Press Law Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the writers organization PEN.
To vent or not to vent?

Power To Truth

Why you can't take powerful protesters seriously:
One of the most fascinating conceits of our ruling powerful elites — be they in entertainment, politics, governance, jurisprudence or news reporting — is the often repeated assertion of being some kind of underdog ‘speaking truth to power.’ This comes with the concomitant illusion that anyone opposing them is paid by powerful interests. Never mind that the ones making the accusation are usually in positions of power and receive recognition all out of proportion to their achievements.
You can't fight the man if you are the man...

The Others

If not Hillary, who?
After Hillary Clinton, we have … um … Jim Webb, who I bet you can’t even remember what office he held, and outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who couldn’t even get his own lieutenant governor elected as his handpicked successor in a blue state. If anything happens to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee will effectively be taking out LeBron James to send in Pee-wee Herman.

But how big a problem is this? You don’t need a dozen good people on the bench, just one or two who could make a plausible run for the presidency. And those people tend not to emerge when there’s not much of a realistic shot at winning — for example, when you’ve got a high-profile candidate with great name recognition, primary experience and most of your party’s donor base sitting in their back pocket. Once Hillary wins or loses, other people will presumably start grooming themselves for a serious run, rather than make an idealistic attempt to pull the party leftward in the primaries or a long audition for the VP slot.

I’ve seen this argument made by smart people who know more about politics than I do, and part of me is convinced. But the other part of me wonders where those candidates are going to come from if Democrats remain confined to the deep-blue parts of the map. Those places are more populous, but less numerous, than the red states — which means fewer governors and congressmen to choose from. Especially because a few blue states have shown a penchant for electing Republican moderates to rein in their liberal legislatures.
Inevitability can ultimately be a drag...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

North Korean Staycation

What does it say when even North Korea doesn't want you?
“I was trying to stay in the country,” said Miller. “They wanted me to leave. The very first night they said, ‘We want you to leave on the next flight.’ But I refused. I just did not leave.”

In April, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA announced that an American citizen had been detained at Pyongyang airport after apparently attempting to claim asylum. In a dictatorship without any independent media, which is known for its furious anti-US vitriol, verifiable facts were difficult to come by. But according to Miller’s account, North Korea’s version of events had been largely accurate.

On his flight from China to Pyongyang, Miller had intentionally damaged his tourist visa. Fifteen days later, after a series of run-ins with Pyongyang authorities, he was removed from his tourist hotel and detained.

The general consensus among North Korea analysts was that Pyongyang would welcome the chance to use Miller as a pawn in its diplomatic wrangling with the US, as it continues to defy international sanctions against its nuclear programme, and widespread criticism of the regime’s human rights abuses. But Miller says it was only after much persuasion on his part that authorities finally took him in.

Finally, at a show trial in September, he was sentenced to six years of hard labour for entering the country illegally and committing “hostile acts” against the state – a charge he now describes as both true and false.
Well, he almost got what he wanted...

Geek Revolt

Way to tick off your base, guys:
The International Game Developers' Association branded some 10,425 Twitter accounts, including those of journalists, as harassment "offenders" in a humiliatingly ill-conceived attempt to provide a "blocking tool" to its members.
The blocking tool, which has been widely mocked online for its lack of sophistication and "blanket ban" approach, was assembled by Randi Harper, a persistent online agitator. The tool prevents users from seeing not only the tweets of users Harper has decided are implicated in harassment, but also many accounts who simply follow those users, by blocking a list of thousands of users with the use of an automated "bot."
So indiscriminately has the block list been compiled that the IGDA's own staff appear on it. Roberto Rosario, chair of the IGDA in Puerto Rico, is named on the list. In an acutely embarrassing moment for the Association, Rosario, who is not a GamerGate supporter, publicly threatened to resign unless his name was removed or the bot was disavowed.
He later told Breitbart: "It's ridiculous, an insult, its anti-ethical, probably criminal and just plain false. I've been fighting for freedom, openness, anti-censorship and equality. A simple Google search of my name will reveal all the projects I've headed or collaborated on. The facts are there, clear as day."
And just who are these offenders?
The block list endorsed by the IGDA contains a number of eyebrow-raising inclusions. Alex Wilhelm, a reporter at TechCrunch, the UK Twitter account for publisher Penguin, Guardian journalists, actor Taye Diggs, feminist critics and your present correspondent are all present on the list.
But perhaps the most absurd Twitter account on the list is the official account of KFC. That's right: Kentucky Fried Chicken was, at least for a while, according to a prominent international video games industry body and thanks to the hysteria of so-called social justice warriors such as Randi Harper, one of the worst harassers of women on the internet.
This is what happens when "social justice" has a hissy fit...

Google Gulliver

Why don't Europeans like Google?
Actually breaking up Google would go a hell of a lot further. The idea had been floated earlier this year by a top German official, but who would have thought anyone would take it seriously.

And here's the thing: as far as I can tell, there isn't any real reason for trying to break up Google, other than the fact that it's very big and very not European.

There's no discussion about any actual harm... just the fact that some people don't like the fact that the company is so big (and not European).
Say what you will about Google, but in America these would be seen by many as a positive...

Afghan Extension

We're leaving...oh, wait. We're not leaving?
In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.
But wasn't that the point of leaving?

Suits On The Ground

Never let civil unrest go to waste:
The attorneys are arriving in Ferguson as talks between protest groups and police have stalled over a refusal by officials to rule out the use of riot gear, tear gas and militarized equipment if demonstrations turn violent should a grand jury decide not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, protest leaders say.

Wilson, who is white, shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in a Ferguson street on August 9. The death sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests, and hundreds of arrests. The grand jury decision on whether to indict Wilson is imminent and police fear another wave of violence if he is not charged. Tensions in Ferguson and the St. Louis area are running high.

The lawyers, some from as far afield as New York and California, have responded to calls from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and protest groups in Ferguson to monitor police behavior in the wake of the grand jury decision. They will also take an aggressive legal posture, the attorneys said, filing quick fire lawsuits to fight potentially shoddy jail conditions, onerous bail bonds and civil rights abuses.
How far can you travel on flat feet?

A Dog's Life

The world of dogfighting goes on:
Despite being banned in all 50 states and the momentum generated by the Vick case, the ancient blood sport is thriving in the underground, with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake on big matches, police detectives and prosecutors said.

State laws still require no minimum mandatory jail time, so while arrests and convictions can be disruptive to dogfighting rings for a short while, the practice continues to flourish.

"Unfortunately, in our courts today, animal welfare is not given the attention and seriousness that it deserves," said Cyrus Zomorodian, the Jacksonville-based animal cruelty prosecutor who tried Coleman's case. "We constantly fight for more court time, resources and attention."
Animals aren't always just in the arena...

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Green Gas Of Home

Going green causes global warming?
Scientists have found that corn, rice, wheat and soybean are the four leading crops that account for maximum CO2 release in the atmosphere of Northern Hemisphere. Crops act as sponge for CO2 and it could be said that the sponge effect has become bigger because of the advancements in agricultural techniques, leading to more production. There is a sharp rise in demand of food production because of growing population across the world, which means that the levels of CO2 will only increase in coming years.

Researchers have also showed that agricultural production is likely to account for 25% surge in the seasonal carbon cycle. And corn will play a leading role.

"This study shows the power of modeling and data mining in addressing potential sources contributing to seasonal changes in carbon dioxide. It points to the role of basic research in finding answers to complex problems", said Liz Blood, program director for the National Science Foundation's Macro Systems Biology Program, which funded the research.
Blame it on the vegans?

Laser Time

Who wants a death ray in their watch?
Because the laser is so powerful, the battery on the watch will only last between 5 and 10 minutes. But that’s 5 minutes of awesome laser arson.

Which has got to be better than being able to read your emails or check stock reports on a tiny screen. Sorry, Apple.

So far, Patrick's watch is a limited edition of one, which he says took around 40 hours to make.
So far, no calls from James Bond...

Lost And Found

Lois Lerner's missing emails have magically been recovered:
The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) informed congressional staffers from several committees on Friday that the emails were found among hundreds of “disaster recovery tapes” that were used to back up the IRS email system.

“They just said it took them several weeks and some forensic effort to get these emails off these tapes,” a congressional aide told the Washington Examiner.

Committees in the House and Senate are seeking the emails, which they believe could show Lerner was working in concert with Obama administration officials to target conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status before the 2012 presidential election.
Amazing what a little incentive will do...

Missed Target

No, she wasn't paranoid:
A Department of Justice document dump to government watchdog Judicial Watch, made public yesterday, shows former DOJ Spokeswoman and Holder Flack Tracy Schmaler talking to the White House about "out of control" investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson. Attkisson was covering Operation Fast and Furious for CBS News at the time.

An email was sent by Schmaler to White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz on October 4, 2011 and shows she planned to call Attkisson's editor and longtime CBS anchor Bob Scheiffer to get a handle on her reporting.

Emails also show Schultz responding to Schmaler with, "Good. Her [Attkisson] piece was really bad for the AG.”
That's what happens when a journalist actually does her job...

Beard Ball

Fear the beard:
Quarterbacks play better with beards, and we have the data to prove it.
West Coast Shaving performed an original research project that looked at every roster photo in the NFL from 2014 to note the different hairstyles and facial hair combinations.
The first part of their analysis took a look at the most popular haircuts and broke it down into five distinct categories: Short Hair/Buzz Cut, Medium Hair, Dreadlocks, Long Hair and Bald.
The New England Patriots sit atop the AFC with an 8-2 record, and research shows they also lead the league in medium haircuts — by almost 5 percentage points!
Beard power?

Good Neighbors

Canadians pay respect:

Welcome To The Poorhouse

Where the jobs aren't:
The official U.S. unemployment rate has indeed fallen steadily during the past few years, but the economic recovery has created the fewest jobs relative to the previous employment peak of any prior recovery. The labor-force participation rate recently touched a 36-year low of 62.7%. The number of Americans not in the labor force set a record high of 92.6 million in September. Part-time work and long-term unemployment are still well above levels from before the financial crisis.

Worse, middle-class incomes continue to fall during the recovery, losing even more ground than during the December 2007 to June 2009 recession. The number in poverty has also continued to soar, to about 50 million Americans. That is the highest level in the more than 50 years that the U.S. Census has been tracking poverty. Income inequality has risen more in the past few years than at any recent time.
Welcome to America. Good luck finding work...

What Next?

So, how will Republicans respond to President Obama's rule? Do even they know?
The many disparate ideas leave Republicans without any clear course of action after the president moves forward. And neither will most of them be present in Washington since Congress has recessed.
Many lawmakers have gone home, others to fundraising events, like several near Boca Raton, FL, where the Republican Governors Association convened a meeting this week. This afternoon, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is participating in a panel discussion and reception at the Hoover Institute with former Bush Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice.
I'm sure they'll come up with something...and then what?

Fat Force

Are we too fat to fight?
“I am very concerned about the reduced number of men and women who can meet all of the qualifications required to serve in our armed forces,” said retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Steven Tomaszeski.
Now, retired admirals from Maryland are releasing a report, citing obesity as the number one reason young adults can’t serve in the military.
“Nearly one quarter, 25 percent of all Americans ages 17-24 are too overweight to serve. Obesity is not only affecting those who can qualify for military service, it is also creating challenges for our active duty military,” Tomaszeski said.
Maybe there is a place for Michelle Obama's lunch program after all...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

'Droid Rage

Rise of the androids:
Unable, for now, to use some of the advanced artificial intelligence (AI), face and voice recognition systems that some Japanese robots coming on the market now use, Asuna relies on a camera rigged behind her that is relayed to a remote human controller to give her life.

This so-called tele-presence enables Asuna to come alive, taking on the operator’s personality.

A fully independent version of the geminoid is expected in 10 years using all the above technologies to make her virtually indistinguishable from humans says Mr. Takeshi Mita, CEO of A-Lab in Tokyo, the company working with Prof. Ishiguro to make Asuna and her kind commercial.

'We already have 20 year's experience making androids in the lab. So in 10 years we will marry AI and life like geminoids in perfection,' he told MailOnline.

'We had been focusing on perfecting her skin, facial expressions, and so on, so for now Asuna is really just a head. Now we are working on her arms and torso to give very natural, fluid body language.'
They are evolving...

Property Values

As she should be:
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch, who Obama seeks to elevate to U.S. attorney general, replacing Eric Holder, announced in January that her office collected more than $904 million in criminal and civil actions in fiscal year 2013. While the policy generates funds used for other law enforcement efforts and offsets the burden on taxpayers, liberals and conservatives alike have questioned asset forfeiture as “an abuse of due process.” Experts say Lynch will likely have to defend the practice she once touted.

“It’s definitely a subject likely to come up and she’ll be pressed on it,” said Tim Lynch, director of Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice. “I don’t know what she’s going to say, but I would expect her — as someone who’s going to assume leadership of the entire Justice Department — to come to the defense of these existing practices and I would be surprised if she struck a chord that’s different from that. The Department of Justice likes things exactly the way they are, so I assume she’s going to defend the status quo.”
They need to keep the gravy train going...

Classical Cruz

Ted Cruz quotes Cicero:
“When, President Obama, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end to that unbridled audacity of yours swaggering about as it does now?” Cruz asked.
Cruz continued reading the Cicero selection, citing Obama for dictating “by his pen and his phone.”
“He won't even come into the Senate,” Cruz continued. “He will not take part in the public deliberations. He ignores every individual among us.”
Hopefully he won't suffer Cicero's fate...

Jay Walking

Why did Jay Leno cave?
"We are clearly disappointed by Jay Leno's decision not to perform at the 2015 SHOT Show State of the Industry Dinner. He unilaterally cancelled his promised appearance due to pressure from the anti-gun lobby, which included false statements about our industry and its commitment to genuine firearms safety, which we attempted to personally correct with him, but to no avail. We are not deterred by their publicity seeking nor are we unfamiliar with the bullying political tactics of the gun control groups that seem to have as little respect for the First Amendment as they continually demonstrate with regard to the Second Amendment," NSSF released in a statement late last night. "We are proud of the many programs that we run that meaningfully contribute to public safety including our long standing Project ChildSafe and Don't Lie for the Other Guy initiatives in addition to our members everyday work in compliance with comprehensive federal and state laws. We will not allow the lawful commerce in firearms nor our industry to be demonized and we will continue to speak out for the Second Amendment rights of the millions of law-abiding citizens who are our customers. Despite Mr. Leno's cancellation, we look forward to having our biggest and best State of the Industry Dinner to date with a performer that respects the contributions of our industry and the customers it supports."
A record number of people attended the 2014 SHOT Show and pumped $73 million into the local Las Vegas economy over the course of just a few days. In partnership with the PGA the annual NSSF charity golf event, Birdies for the Brave, raised $100,000 for military homefront groups.
Charity-and courage-begins at home...

Happiness Isn't

Are we unhappy people?
According to the site, "The HPI uses the Ecological Footprint promoted by the environmental charity WWF as a measure of resource consumption. It is a per capita measure of the amount of land required to sustain a country’s consumption patterns, measured in terms of global hectares (g ha), which represent a hectare of land with average productive biocapacity."
In fact, the HPI claims that economic activity is particularly untrustworthy. Nations that are richer than others apparently aren't happier, according to the index.
Oddly, the HPI doesn't seem to measure "human rights abuses," no matter how they might be measured. This must explain why China is rated at the 60th happiest country despite the fact that it is also one of the biggest human rights abusers in the world.
Another oddity of this measurement of "happy" nations is that Venezuela comes in at 9th place.
Yet, a recent New York Times article noted that Venezuela is more dangerous than Iraq.
"In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela," the Times wrote in 2010, "there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000."
Only the dead are happy?

Final Wrap

RIP Mike Nichols:
His 1966 film directing debut "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" unforgettably captured the vicious yet sparkling and sly dialogue of Edward Albee's play, as a couple (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) torment each other over deep-seated guilt and resentment.

Nichols, who won directing Emmys for his works "Angels in America" and "Wit," said he liked stories about the real lives of real people and that humor inevitably pervades even the bleakest of such tales.

"I have never understood people dividing things into dramas and comedies," Nichols said in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press. "There are more laughs in 'Hamlet' than many Broadway comedies."

He was a wealthy, educated man who often mocked those just like him, never more memorably than in "The Graduate," which shot Dustin Hoffman to fame in the 1967 story of an earnest young man rebelling against his elders' expectations. Nichols himself would say that he identified with Hoffman's awkward, perpetually flustered Benjamin Braddock.

At the time, Nichols was "just trying to make a nice little movie," he recalled in 2005 at a retrospective screening of "The Graduate." ''It wasn't until when I saw it all put together that I realized this was something remarkable."
Some film themes are eternal, and now, so is Mr. Nichols...

Fannie And Freddie Were Owned

I'm sure everything will be just fine:
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt said on Wednesday that he did not see the government relinquishing control of housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac anytime soon, even as the Democratic chairman of a Senate committee urged him to pursue that course.

Watt told the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee at a hearing that “conservatorship cannot, should not be a permanent state,” but added that “it is the role of Congress to define what a future state is.” Fannie and Freddie were placed under conservatorship, or government ownership, by the FHFA in 2008 after taxpayers were forced to bail out the companies with $188 billion in the wake of the mortgage meltdown.
On the other hand, maybe this is a fitting punishment...

The Afghan Con

The military got scammed:
The ransom payment was first disclosed by Rep. Duncan Hunter in a Nov. 5 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Mr. Hunter stated in the letter that Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) made the payment covertly as part of a release deal. But the money was stolen by the Afghan intermediary claiming to represent the Haqqani terrorist network.

“Given the significance of this matter, as well as the fact that Pentagon officials have denied that a payment was even considered — and you also said you were unaware of any such attempt — I ask you to immediately inquire with JSOC to determine the specific order of events,” said Mr. Hunter, California Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Hunter also asked Mr. Hagel whether ransom payments are being considered for other captives.
No one likes to admit they've been conned...