Thursday, March 05, 2015

Snobber

It's a Tinder for snobs:
The app requires users to have at least a six-figure salary–and even matches users based on their favorite high-end designers.

“It works a lot like Tinder, except this is Tinder minus the poor people,” said Luxy spokesman Darren Shuster, according to the local CBS News affiliate in San Francisco.

Men must make at least $250,000 annually–which must be verified through their tax records–in order to join. As for women? They simply need to be attractive.
Life on the other side of the App...

Pillow Talk

Your pillow loves you:
I wasn’t even aware that “anime hug pillows” were a thing. But sure enough, the Japanese are there to show me how little I know about love and relationships. Called “dakimakura,” the full-sized pillows offer comfort and solace to those who would otherwise sleep alone. Hardcore pillow enthusiasts can even pick up a copy of “Hobby Pillow” magazine, where one can learn how to wash the dakimakura (I won’t ask), and read up about “Fabric Choice: Your Most Important Decision.”

My head was still reeling from the all the heartbreak-healing potential, when I came across the latest iteration of the dakimakura — the aforementioned Ita-Supo.

The talking girlfriend pillow’s developer, Koichi Uchimura, told RocketNews24 how the idea came to him: “When we’d sleep in the same bed, I’d start to think, ‘I wish she could talk,’ so I wanted to make that a reality.”

But, as with all world-changing innovations, Uchimura’s idea soon took off and morphed into something else altogether.

“If you don’t rub her, she won’t make any sounds,” Uchimura explains in the pillow’s instructional video. “You have to rub her.”

Indeed. Sensors inside the pillow measure the force of your groping, so if you’re too harsh, Rina Makuraba (you didn’t ask her name before you took her to bed?) will respond with “Hey, hands off!” or, “Hey, that hurts!” But get it just right and you’ll be rewarded with the whisperings of sweet nothings into your ear: “What’s gonna happen if I start to love you more than I already do?”
Hell hath no fury like a pillow scorned...

The Racism Menu

Mother Jones declares meals to be racist:
“Dogmatic adherence to mealtimes is anti-science, racist, and might actually be making you sick,” Butler’s article screams in its subhead. “Here is her reasoning,” Katherine Timpf responds at National Review...
...

Meanwhile, in her own efforts at reprimitivization, a Social Justice Warrior asks “Cui bono?” when it comes employing that quaint form of communication formerly known as the English language. Or as Patricia L. Dickson quips at the American Thinker in response, “Proper English Grammar Is Now Racist.”

You won’t be surprised to learn that “grammar snobbery comes down to an intersection of multiple privileges,” which include, “Educational Privilege, Class Privilege, Race Privilege, Native Language Privilege, and Ability Privilege.” All of which boils down to — of course! — raaaaaacism.
Time for dinner...but make sure you don't call it that first...

Knife Nuts

North Korea is, of course, happy that an American ambassador was attacked:
“The stupidity and isolation that comes from that country doesn’t deserve a response,” Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) told CNN.

Annual joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea began Monday and run through March 13. Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, and Great Britain are also participating in the exercise, according to Combined Forces Command.

Lippert became ambassador in Seoul last fall. He used to be chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and is close to President Obama, whom he advised on foreign policy in his first presidential campaign.

“I think that there will be more security around both the Lipperts in the future. But I — knowing Mark, he is going to do everything possible to be still outgoing and where people can see him. He walks usually from his residence to the embassy. He doesn’t go in a car or flotilla of cars. I think he tries to be as open as possible. Of course, the Koreans themselves want him to have more security,” Leahy said.

“But I think people have to realize every one of our ambassadors, they go to represent the United States, of course they face certain threats, but they do that because they’re loyal Americans and they want America well-represented. Mark is probably the epitome of that. I testified at his confirmation hearing saying if we want to send the face of America, here’s the man to do it with, and we have. And I understand the South Koreans are very upset by this. And I applaud their sentiment toward him. Right now we just want him to get better. And I — there will be a balance on security. There has to be. The most important thing is for American ambassadors to be able to be with the people of the country to show the face of America.”
Unfortunately, stupidity and North Korea go hand in hand...

Blogging In The Years: 1985

Considering what New York City winters can be like, this might be a good thing:
Beginning in a decade or two, scientists expect the warming of the atmosphere to melt the polar icecaps, raising the level of the seas, flooding coastal areas, eroding the shores and sending salt water far into fresh-water estuaries. Storm patterns will change, drying out some areas, swamping others and generally throwing agriculture into turmoil. Federal climate experts have suggested that within a century the greenhouse effect could turn New York City into something with the climate of Daytona Beach, Fla.

But the new view of the greenhouse effect, as much as the old, highlights the difficulty of finding practical weapons against what remains an uncertain demon.

So far, the greenhouse effect has not been clearly felt. In the generations since scientists first theorized that increased carbon dioxide would alter the earth's temperature balance by trapping heat in the atmosphere, no one has been able to measure a significant warming. Scientists have explanations for that, and they believe their temperature curves will soon soar off the scale. But for now the greenhouse effect remains part of a hypothetical, if not so distant, future.
I suppose we'll find out if you can wear suntan lotion in Manhattan in January sooner or later...

Rat Trap

Better them than people:
Watched over by men and women clutching bananas and the small clickers used to train puppies, dozens of African giant pouched rats shuttle across taped-off alleyways trying to catch the lingering scent of TNT from some of the 1,500 deactivated landmines that have been sown in the red earth.

Most scamper back and forth with an apparent mix of delight and concentration, as if they know that each time they find a mine and communicate their discovery with a fit of scratching, they will be rewarded with a click and a mouthful of fruit.

One or two, perhaps still sleepy – or irked at being yanked from their warm wood shavings, dropped into cages and put in the back of the “ratbus” for another day’s drills – look less enthusiastic, dawdling in their harnesses along the rope line held between two trainers.
Well, if you knew you were sniffing out land mines, you might want to dawdle, too...

Blogging In The Years: 1972

Walter Cronkite says it's cold out there:

Communist Kitsch

What's the inside of Fidel Castro's house like?
All sorts of styles co-exist in the lilac-tainted den: white wicker chairs, desks chairs and even a rocking chair. Then there is the wooden horse carvings and all sorts of very detailed bric-a-brac.

Long-time critics of Fidel and his brother Raul Castro couldn’t resist slamming his decorating style.

Which is what led to “tacky.”

“It’s tacky,” said Miami radio host Ninoska Perez to the Miami Herald. “All those colors, blue and green and orange and a different blue — it’s just tacky, dictator-tacky.”

Joe Fava, who has a trained eye in such things, opted to take a more diplomatic approach, perhaps in the spirit of the new diplomatic direction of U.S.-Cuba relations.

“Let’s be kind and call it ‘eclectic,’” said Joe Fava, who owns Miami’s Fava Design Group.
I suppose it beats getting shot for criticizing the decor...

For The Dog Who Has Everything

The ultimate dog house?
The Dream Doghouse was six weeks in creation and comes with two indoor living areas—one for "rest and relaxation", the other for "dining and entertainment"—as well as an outside astroturfed area. Features include a "doggy" treadmill, a hot-tub spa, a "push-to-woof" call bell, bespoke wallpaper and framed portraits of family and friends, a skylight and a dog-operated snack dispenser.

"The Samsung Dream Doghouse looks sleek and modern, featuring the kind of tech the discerning dog of the future will need," Andy Griffiths, president of Samsung Electronics U.K. and Ireland, said in a news release on Wednesday. "From dogs who have social media profiles, to owners who use video calling to check on their pet while away, technology is fast becoming an integral part of everyday life."
Is it a thing when your dog has a nicer home than you?

Elephants Off Parade

Ringling Brothers drops its pachyderms:
Executives from Feld Entertainment, Ringling's parent company, said the decision to end the circus's century-old tradition of showcasing elephants was difficult and debated at length. Elephants have often been featured on Ringling's posters over the decades. The decision is being announced Thursday.

"There's been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers," said Alana Feld, the company's executive vice president. "A lot of people aren't comfortable with us touring with our elephants."

Within two hours of the announcement, animal rights groups took credit for the decision, saying that the pressure put on the circus ultimately led to Feld's decision.

"For 35 years PETA has protested Ringling Bros.' cruelty to elephants," Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement. "We know extreme abuse to these majestic animals occurs every single day, so if Ringling is really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to pop the champagne corks, and rejoice. ... If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it NOW."
Oh, the horror of watching animals perform...

Walk A Mile In Their Burqas

Afghan men march for their women:
The men marched under a leaden sky, with the bright blue burqas falling over their heads down to muddy sneakers and boots.
The demonstrators, associated with a group called Afghan Peace Volunteers, said they organized the march ahead of International Women's Day on March 8.
"Our authorities will be celebrating International Women's Day in big hotels, but we wanted to take it to the streets," said activist Basir, 29, who uses one name.
"One of the best ways to understand how women feel is to walk around and wear a burqa."
The burqa covers the entire body, with a mesh fabric window to see through. Though a symbol of Taliban treatment of women, it remains common in many parts of Afghanistan.
The march by about 20 men drew a mixed reaction.
Traffic policeman Javed Haidari, 24, looked bemused and slightly annoyed.
"What's the point of this?" he asked. "All of the women in my family wear burqas. I wouldn't let them go out without one."
I think that was the point...

No Questions, Please

Hillary Clinton doesn't want to be bothered:
Organizers of the March 23 Toner Prize Celebration, which is named after the late New York Times reporter Robin Toner, told the Center for Public Integrity the event would be open to reporters. However, the keynote speaker, Clinton, does not plan to take their inquiries.

Business Insider reached out to Clinton's office to confirm the report. A Clinton spokesman referred the question back to the event's organizers.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, is embroiled in a controversy surrounding her exclusive use of personal email addresses while she served as secretary of state. According to The New York Times, this may have violated federal guidelines and could have left state secrets vulnerable on an unsecure server. Both Clinton's email issue and her alleged avoidance of the press have fueled criticism she is insufficiently transparent.
Actually, some would say they can see right through her...

False Angels

Are we soon to witness the end of the app era?
"Small individual investors are putting their money into apps with no chance of getting their money back," the Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" investor told CNBC's "Closing Bell."

On Wednesday, Cuban wrote a blog post claiming that today's private equity-driven technology bubble is worse than the one that burst 15 years ago.

"Back then the companies the general public was investing in were public companies. They may have been horrible companies, but being public meant that investors had liquidity to sell their stocks," he wrote.....

Cuban believes that angel investors and other private investors make more perilous plays than stock traders 15 years ago. Those investments lack the liquidity that a stock investment would have, he said.
Get-rich quick schemes usually aren't a sound investment...

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Weasels In The Sky

Why is a baby weasel riding a woodpecker?
This fearless little flier appears to be gently nuzzling the neck of his winged steed, it is more than likely trying to gnaw through a spinal cord. Even the tiniest of weasels—Mustela nivalis, or “the least weasel,” weighs in at an average of five ounces—are bloodthirsty carnivores. And their preferred method of attack is a devastating bite to the neck, severing the jugular vein; after which it will unceremoniously drag the carcass back to its den. Like a tiny jaguar.
You're in trouble if your lunch decides to take off:
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Blogging In The Years: 2000

Hillary Clinton apparently doesn't do the email thing:

Bug Patrol

The rise of the roaches?
Built by engineers in Texas, the robotic insect fuses a live cockroach with a miniature computer that is wired into the animal’s nervous system. At the push of a button, a human operator can control the beast. Or at least which way it scuttles.

Hong Liang, who led the research at Texas A&M University, said the controllable insect could carry tiny video cameras, microphones and other sensors. With those on board, it could gather information from places where humans would rather not be: collapsed buildings, broken sewers, and the kitchens in student house shares.

“Insects can do things a robot cannot. They can go into small places, sense the environment, and if there’s movement, from a predator say, they can escape much better than a system designed by a human,” Liang told the Guardian. “We wanted to find ways to work with them.”
The X-Files might have beaten them to it...

Occupation By Insanity

In Russia, propaganda uses you:
In a pair of videos that have become online sensations, a group whose mantra loosely translates as “anti-Western creative activity” has distinguished itself as a master of the totally paranoid, totally outrageous genre of postmodern propaganda. It’s a style that abandons all facts, wholeheartedly embraces conspiracy theories, and trafficks in the ludicrous.
...

But this defense of Russian occupation isn’t even the oddly named artistic collective’s greatest work. In September, the group released a nutty video presenting the war in Ukraine as a ruse orchestrated by the United States to weaken Europe and Russia — all for the sake of boosting America in its competition with China. The downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 is presented as a CIA operation. War, the video frantically argues, will save the American treasury — just as World War II rescued the U.S. economy from the great depression. At one point, a shirtless Putin rides into a cityscape atop a bear shooting lasers from its eyes.
There's a laser-shooting bear in the woods...

Facebook Time

Dumb criminals and social media don't mix-or do they?
While it can't be confirmed that the man is in fact suspect Andrew Dale Marcum, the account has been active for some time, with a cover photo of a tattoo with the name "Marcum" on a man's back post in 2014.

On Tuesday night, the sheriff's office posted another message, this one noting that Marcum had turned himself in.

"Andrew Dale Marcum will be off Facebook temporarily, because there is no social media access in the Butler County Jail. He's turned himself in," the message read. "Thanks to our Facebook and Twitter friends for helping turn up the heat."
The long arm of the Like?

The Doctor Is Out

Ben Carson will no longer discuss the matter:
“I also believe that our Constitution protects everybody, regardless of their beliefs, and that includes people who are gay,” Mr. Carson continued. “I have no problem with them doing whatever they want to do. I’m just not willing to change the definition of marriage for anybody, because once you do that, you have to change it for everyone else who comes along. Why would we want to do that? We have something that’s worked for thousands of years to create a nurturing environment for raising children. And I think that’s where we ought to leave it.”

He added: “I simply have decided I’m not going to really talk about that issue anymore, because every time I gain momentum, the liberal press says, ‘let’s talk about gay rights.’ I’m just not going to fall for that anymore.”
Smart man, and it might have even been a smarter move not to say anything in the first place...

The Lost Marshals

Whatever happened to the Air Marshals?
While some marshals appear to have jumped at the chance to join other federal law enforcement agencies, others have left due to a belief that the agency repeatedly failed to protect them in the line of duty. Vasquez says that the agency neglected to properly conceal marshals’ identities on domestic and international trips.

“Everything they did set us up to get murdered,” he says. “That was the biggest thing: not trying to help us be covert at all. The biggest thing is we’re carrying a gun that is too damn big to be concealed.” On some international flights, he says, marshals are even required to board the plane first, which exposes them to the other passengers.

Other marshals are stuck in untenable position: Afraid to leave without the assurance of another job, they are also afraid to stay due to the agency’s repeated failure to protect them. One current marshal, whose name has been withheld due to a fear of retaliation, says the marshal service is a “dead-end law enforcement agency.”
Aren't most Federal agencies?

Mail Call

And the Emailgate hits just keep on coming:
The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which first discovered Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail based on a home server in its inquiry into a fatal 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, is asking for all e-mails related to the attack from all Clintonemail.com accounts and any other staff members’ personal accounts.

The subpoenas are expected to go out to the State Department later Wednesday. The move escalates the panel’s conflict with Clinton and could complicate her expected run for president.
You don't say...

The Final Verdict

Darren Wilson, not guilty:
“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the report said. At the same time, it concluded that the witnesses who claimed that Mr. Brown was surrendering were not credible.

“Some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witnesses’ own prior statements with no explanation,” the report said.

“Although some witnesses state that Brown held his hands up at shoulder level with his palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe Brown then dropping his hands and ‘charging’ at Wilson,” it added.

“Those witness accounts stating that Brown never moved back toward Wilson could not be relied upon in a prosecution because their accounts cannot be reconciled with the DNA bloodstain evidence and other credible witness accounts.”
More here. So, Mr. Holder, about those "high expectations..."

After Obamacare

What is the Obama administration going to do if the Supreme Court undoes Obamacare? Not a whole lot:
There are no contingency plans in place if the court invalidates the Affordable Care Act subsidies that 7.5 million people in 34 states are receiving, administration officials said. No one is strategizing with governors or insurance company executives or lawmakers. There is no public relations plan to reassure people who might suddenly have to pay more for insurance.
....

The strategy echoes the administration’s refusal through most of 2012 to acknowledge any planning for the effect of across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, insisting that the draconian cuts would never come to pass. (They did.) Also in 2012, the White House and its allies said there were no plans for the Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to the health law’s individual mandate. (The court upheld the mandate.)
Thus ends the Great Experiment?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Dragon's Keys

But government control of the Internet in America is OK:
In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he was concerned about Beijing's plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security "backdoors" in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access.

"This is something that I’ve raised directly with President Xi," Obama said. "We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States."
I think Mr. Obama is just jealous...

Mr. Netanyahu Goes To Washington

Of course the usual suspects's heads explode:
Benjamin Netanyahu only made one mistake in another stellar performance in front of Congress today. The Israeli PM neglected to give an initial shout-out to Nancy Pelosi as he did to Harry Reid, causing the now House minority leader to walk off in a snit and call his speech “insulting.” Oh, well, even the most seasoned politicians like Bibi blow it sometimes.

But you know he did a good job because some desperate Democratic backbencher from Kentucky named John Yarmuth got all incensed in his post-speech statement (no, he didn’t attend), accusing Bibi of being like a kid at Disneyland trying to get everything he wants, including extra ice cream.
Coming from a Congresscritter, that's pretty childish. But then, so were the reactions to his visit.

Raiders Of The Lost City

What was lost, is now found:
A team of American and Honduran archaeologists, aided by the bushcraft and survival skills of former British SAS soldiers, has just emerged from one of the most remote locations on Earth with news of their stunning discovery.
The expedition was seeking the site of the legendary "White City", also known as the "City of the Monkey God", a goal for Western explorers since the days of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century.
The city, believed to be one of many lost in the Mosquitia jungle, was home to an unknown people that thrived a thousand years ago but then vanished without trace – until now.
Unlike the Maya, so little is known of this pre-Columbian culture that it does not even have a name.
Paging Indiana Jones...

The General Was Indiscreet

Petraeus pleads guilty:
The plea deal completes a spectacular fall for Mr. Petraeus, a retired four-star general who was once discussed as a possible candidate for vice president or even president. He led the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the architect of a counterinsurgency strategy that at one time seemed a model for future warfare.

But the deal also ends two years of uncertainty and allows Mr. Petraeus to focus on his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm and a worldwide speaker on national security issues. Even while under investigation, he has advised the White House on Iraq and terrorism issues.

The mistress, Paula Broadwell, is a former Army Reserve officer who had an affair with Mr. Petraeus in 2011, when she was interviewing him for a biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”
It certainly was...

In From The Cold

Does Edward Snowden have a country, after all?
'I won't keep it secret that he... wants to return back home. And we are doing everything possible now to solve this issue,' said his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena while speaking at a news conference about a book he had written on Snowden.

'There is a group of U.S. lawyers, there is also a group of German lawyers and I'm dealing with it on the Russian side.'

Moscow granted Snowden asylum in 2013, and he has been given a three-year residence permit in Russia.

This at a time when relations between the two countries are already strained.

The United States wants Snowden to stand trial for leaking extensive secrets of electronic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency, but Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite him.

He has been charged with theft of government property and two counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act.

And while the government is eager to have Snowden see his day in court, public support for the 31-year-old may be at an all time high.
At least he has a better chance of staying alive than if he were a Russian critic...

Let It Die

Don't save Obamacare:
The notion that Obamacare will suddenly become a liability for Republicans and people will be clamoring to save it after years of steady disapproval is a common talking point in the media these days, but it doesn’t exactly mesh with reality. If it turns out that the law was poorly written, amateurish, unenforceable, lawlessly enacted, and now directly hurting poor people, the one sure-fire way Republicans could lose the upper hand is by putting their fingerprints on the legislation.

What is likely is that over those transitional 18 months, Obamacare would only further metastasize. Democrats would never pass a bill that would offer market relief, so it’s unlikely that those using tax credits today would be able to find cheaper insurance in 2017, anyway. An extension without broader reforms would not change anything.
If it's too broken, don't try to fix it...

Mail Call

Government mail, or no government mail?
"This is a very big deal," Brianna Keilar said to host Chris Cuomo. "And you said she may have broken laws or rules here, Chris, well a lot of experts say that she did by using only a personal account while she was secretary of state. This is a huge development, especially as Hillary Clinton is just perhaps weeks from declaring her candidacy for president."

"So her spokesperson says that she, while using this personal account, was adhering to the spirit and the letter of the law, but consider this: President Obama for instance he has a government email account. This is for a couple of reasons. Because it's secure and also for the preservation of historic records. She used only her personal account, and that means she and her aides have tremendous discretion when it comes to the preservation or handing over of documents for certain things, say Benghazi or other issues where documents may be needed."
What did Hillary mail, and when did she mail it?

Raiders Of The Lost Remake

Is this the best fan film ever?
Shooting for the film began in 1982, when Strompolos, Zala and Lamb were only 12 years old, and continued over the next seven summers It was made on a shoe-string budget of around $5000, greatly contrasting with the original’s $18 million budget. It was shot out of sequence, so due to its long filming period many actors randomly appear at different ages throughout the course of the film. As Raiders of the Lost Ark was not available on any home media format when they began filming, they were forced to collect all kinds of material about the film, including magazine articles, photographs, and even an illicit recording of the film’s audio captured during a re-release screening of the original film in 1982.

In 2014, members of the cast raised money on KickStarter so they could re-unite and film the one scene they were not able to re-create as teenagers, due to the danger of large spinning airplane propellers.
It was an epic thirty years in the making:

Safe Zone

Where to go in case of a Zombie outbreak:
In most films or books, "if there is a zombie outbreak, it is usually assumed to affect all areas at the same time, and some months after the outbreak you're left with small pockets of survivors," explains Alemi. "But in our attempt to model zombies somewhat realistically, it doesn't seem like this is how it would actually go down."

Cities would fall quickly, but it would take weeks for zombies to penetrate into less densely populated areas, and months to reach the northern mountain-time zone.

"Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down--there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate," he elaborates. "I'd love to see a fictional account where most of New York City falls in a day, but upstate New York has a month or so to prepare."
Take note, Rick Grimes...

Sharktastic

You know you'll want to see it:
Launching in July, Sharknado 3 will be set in Washington, D.C., this time and, per Syfy, will "cause mass destruction in the nation's capital" before it roars down the Eastern Seaboard.

Entrepreneur/Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban of Shark Tank will play the president, while conservative commentator/author Coulter will play the vp.

They join a rapidly growing list of guest stars set to cameo in the third film, including Bo Derek as May, the mother to star Tara Reid's April; Jerry Springer, appearing as Mr. White, a manic tourist; 'N Sync's Chris Kirkpatrick as a pool lifeguard; and Chris Jericho, who will play Bruce, a roller-coaster ride operator.
Mass destruction? The sharks who already live in town are doing that already...

The Blue Pill

The time Kanye West met Steve McQueen?
“There’s a Bible saying, ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper’. Recently I’ve been doing interviews and I’ve had to go back to this verse because I don’t think there’s a living celebrity with more weapons formed against them, but I also don’t think there’s one more prosperous. So what weapons have prospered? The smoke and mirrors of other opinions.

What I said [to McQueen] was The Matrix is like the Bible of the post-information age… I compared it like when the hundred guys come at Neo, those are opinions, that’s perception, that’s tradition. Attacking people from every which angle possible. If you have a focus wide and master senseis like Laurence Fishburne and you have a squad behind you, you literally can put the world in slow motion.”
It must be nice to live in your own simulated reality...

Reds

The opposition will wither away:

Monday, March 02, 2015

Executive Taxation

Taxation by decree?
Sanders sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Friday identifying a number of executive actions he believes the IRS could take, without any input from Congress, that would close loopholes currently used by corporations. In the past, IRS lawyers have been hesitant to use executive actions to raise significant amounts of revenue, but that same calculation has change in other federal agencies since Obama became president.

Obama's preferred option would be for Congress to pass a corporate tax hike that would fund liberal infrastructure projects like mass transit. But if Congress fails to do as Obama wishes, just as Congress has failed to pass the immigration reforms that Obama prefers, Obama could take actions unilaterally instead.
Taxation, with or without representation...

The One With Freedom

Freedom through "Friends?"
Over the past few years, Kang’s organization has become the largest in a movement of political groups who routinely smuggle data into North Korea. NKSC alone annually injects around 3,000 USB drives filled with foreign movies, music, and ebooks. Kang’s goal, as wildly optimistic as it may sound, is nothing less than the overthrow of the North Korean government. He believes that the Kim dynasty’s three-generation stranglehold on the North Korean people—and its draconian restriction on almost any information about the world beyond its borders—will ultimately be broken not by drone strikes or caravans of Humvees but by a gradual, guerrilla invasion of thumb drives filled with bootleg episodes of Friends and Judd Apatow comedies.

Kang likens the USB sticks to the red pill from The Matrix: a mind-altering treatment that has the power to shatter a world of illusions. “When North Koreans watch Desperate Housewives, they see that Americans aren’t all war-loving imperialists,” Kang says. “They’re just people having affairs or whatever. They see the leisure, the freedom. They realize that this isn’t the enemy; it’s what they want for themselves. It cancels out everything they’ve been told. And when that happens, it starts a revolution in their mind.”
Or at least a craving for Mad Libs...

The End Of Obamacare As They Know It

The NY Times wants you to panic over the apparent impending end of Obamacare:
Anyone who can afford insurance and doesn’t sign up will face a tax penalty. Taken together, those provisions help people with limited means afford insurance premiums, and they serve to discourage people from waiting until they’re already sick to buy insurance.

Upset that balance, and the policy structure will become broken.

If the Supreme Court rules that the tax credits can only be awarded in certain states, insurance will become immediately unaffordable for many people getting the subsidies. About 87 percent of people in the affected states qualify for some kind of subsidy, and, in some cases, the subsidy covers the entire cost of the insurance premium. The ruling will also effectively knock out the mandate, since the law says that no one can be punished for failing to have insurance if none is affordable.
Unless you can be punished for not buying any if you don't want to...

Accidents Never Happen

The night Debbie Harry met Ted Bundy:
“It was two or three in the morning and I couldn’t find a cab. A car kept coming round and offering me a ride, so I accepted. Once in the car I noticed there were no door handles on the inside, which made me wary. I don’t know how, but I managed to put my hand through the window and open the door from the outside.”

The driver swerved to try to stop her escaping, but that gave her the momentum to throw herself out of the moving car. She thought no more of it until years later, when she saw the driver on the news. It was Ted Bundy, the serial killer who eventually confessed to murdering at least 30 women. “I always say my instincts saved me.”
She got away, one way or another...

Where The Grass Grows

Legalized pot comes to D.C.:
While adults can now legally possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana — about a large sandwich bag’s worth – it’s still against the law to buy or sell it and smoke in public, according to city officials.

“There are no store fronts where people who are 21 and older can just walk in and buy a bag of marijuana, unless you’re a medical marijuana patient,” said Eidinger, who’s has spent the last 15 years campaigning for legal pot in his hometown.

For now, the only legal way to get weed is to grow it. Under the law, District residents are allowed up to six plants.

“And they just can’t sell it,” Eidinger said. “As soon as you start deriving income, you’re violating the initiative.”
But since hippies don't believe in capitalism, they probably wouldn't mind sharing...

The Rack

So who resigns for this one?
On Sunday night, an unnamed suspect stepped over a bike rack situated outside the White House fence.

The bike racks were installed last year following a high-profile fence-jumping incident that involved an Army veteran armed with a knife.

Early Monday morning, another person attempted to walk through a gate while a construction crew were leaving.

According to NBC, both men were taken into custody, and the Secret Service has given the all-clear at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The agency has been tight-lipped about the two breaches, which are now under investigation. The suspects have not been named.
Who watches the bike riders?

The Sacrifice

Losing your manhood for God?
In January, MailOnline reported how Singh, the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda organisation, had hit back at the allegations. At a press conference for his new film he said: “Such allegations disturb me, when I am doing good for humanity. Therefore me and my legal advisor are going to move the court challenging the allegations.”

The alleged castrations were said to be mainly carried out at a hospital run by the DSS in Singh’s ancestral village Gurusar Modia, in the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan.

The DSS also owns factories, markets, farms, restaurants, hotels and runs schools and orphanages, according to Latterly Magazine.

Singh – who has more than 87,000 Twitter followers but is not a follower of anyone – describes himself on a social media bio as a “spiritual Saint/philanthropist/versatile singer/allrounder sportsperson/film director/art director/music director/script writer/lyricist/autobiographer/DOP”.
At least he's a well-rounded lunatic...

Fire Burger

That is one hot burger:
The Hellfire Burger clocks in around 1,000,000 Scoville units and is packed with some of the spiciest peppers on the planet.

Loren Gingerich, owner of Xtreme Smokehouse and Grill in Washington, Iowa, created the burger as a lark, but it's become a popular item that's attracting brave diners from around the country.

“I thought I’d get one [order] a week, maybe a month,” said Gingerich. But there are so many people who want to brave the heat, he’s making four or more a day.

First, he infuses Ghost Peppers, one of the hottest peppers in the world, and spicy chili pepper extract into the raw burger patty.

Then it's grilled and topped with a slice of cheddar cheese.

Then he spoons a thick layer of his fresh pepper relish, made up of habanero, jalapeno, and serrano peppers (seeds included) onto the burger’s tomato, lettuce, and onion. Then he pours on a hearty ring of his special Hellfire sauce. Everything is then put on toasted buns.

Finally, Gingerich adds a splash of grain alcohol and lights it on fire -- for an extra kick.

You have to be at least 18 years old to try it and sign a waiver and diners get a pair of goggles and gloves for extra protection.
Be sure to notify your next of kin...

Generation Last

Generation X faces its existential crisis:
The Greatest Generation had Pearl, the boomers had JFK. September 11, 2001, belongs to all of us, but history bequeaths it to the millennials.

Applied mythos for Gen X doesn’t focus on any history-making date.

Their crisis moment is like Palahniuk’s depression, which moves from functioning to acute. They came from broken homes, the first, true Children of Divorce.

Tyler Durden again, “a generation raised by women.”

Divorce and the ascendancy of feminist theory combined toxically in the era’s primordial soup; norms which boomers only dipped their toes into, Gen-Xers became immersed.

As we move towards a near future as threatening as any that contemporary observers have seen, what is the result of the experiment?
The meaning of our so-called life?

The Player

It's Wayne Brady versus Bill Maher:
So, that means it’s a diss to Obama to be called me because he wants a brother-brother, or what he perceives. Just because you f*** black hookers, just because you have that particular black experience. … Now, I’m not saying I’m Billy Badass, but if Bill Maher has his perception of what’s black wrapped up, I would gladly slap the shit out of Bill Maher in the middle of the street, and then I want to see what Bill Maher would do.
Cry?

Witness To The Execution

The girlfriend of Boris Nemstov speaks out:
"I am in a very difficult psychological condition and I cannot talk about this any more now. I feel bad ... I saw no one. I don't know where he came from, he was behind my back," she said of the killer or killers.
....

Duritskaya -- who has been staying at a friend's apartment in Moscow -- said she may not be able to attend Nemtsov’s funeral Tuesday, as she’s been under constant guard since the murder. "I have every right to leave the territory of the Russian Federation. I am not a suspect. I am a witness who gave full testimony and did everything possible to assist the investigation," she said.

She says she wants to go home to Ukraine to see her mother, but fears authorities will not allow it. "They are physically not allowing me to go anywhere without them," Duritskaya said, referring to law enforcement officials. "They have explained to me that this is for security reasons."
Until they decide otherwise...

You're Not Fired

If you want your government job, you can keep your government job:
At the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), red tape is preventing the removal of a top level employee accused of viewing porn two to six hours a day while at work, since 2010. Even though investigators found 7,000 pornographic files on his computer and even caught him watching porn, he remains on the payroll.

At a Congressional hearing, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy was asked why she hadn’t fired the employee and said, “I actually have to work through the administrative process, as you know.”

The administrative process meant to prevent against politically motivated firings is the civil servant protection system. The rules give employees the right to appeal a termination, a process that can take up two years.
It's great job security...

Hotel Havana

Paris Hilton, heroine of capitalism?
In March 1958, under the Batista regime, Conrad Hilton opened the Habana Hilton, a 25-floor tower with more than 500 rooms and a casino, that was largest hotel in Latin America at the time. It was designed by the same US architect as the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

The following year Castro set up his provisional headquarters in the building for several months. According to a history of the hotel his office was in suite 2324. The hotel was nationalised and became the Hotel Habana Libre.

Paris Hilton posted a photograph on the internet of herself in front of the building. She said: "Posing in front of the original 'Habana Hilton Hotel' that my great grandfather Conrad opened here in 1958."The heiress also commented "Cuba baby!" and "There's some beautiful architecture here in Cuba."
Aside from hers, I assume...

Who's Smiling Now?

This is not your ancestors' Buddhism:
“The money and power swirling around some Thai temples and monks makes them immune to criticism,” said Sulak Sivaraksa, one of Thailand’s pre-eminent Buddhist scholars. “This is why we need to reform the Sangha and start afresh.” The Sangha, a coterie of 20 elderly monks, has traditionally evaded public scrutiny due to its opaque workings and the reverence of millions of Buddhists.

But the latest fraud allegation has unleashed an avalanche of public criticism. Many Thai Buddhists feel those elders are incapable of supervising the behaviour of 300,000 monks in a rapidly modernising nation where worldly temptations are everywhere and temples are often flush with cash. “The Sangha governs but there is nobody that governs them,” said Mr Issara, who is calling for a boycott of the council.

Mr Issara, who played a prominent role in protests last year that helped to overthrow the government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, said Thais should no longer listen to decrees handed down by the Sangha. He wants the government to check the accounts of all temples and seize assets from those suspected of mishandling donations. He is also calling for the state to restructure the Sangha.
It does sound like they've forgotten the master's teachings...

Facebook Envy

Does Facebook breed contempt?
A recent study conducted by researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Bradley University and the University of Missouri Columbia found that heavy Facebook users can experience envy — which can ultimately lead to extreme sadness.

The researchers surveyed 736 college students and found that, basically, if you quietly stalk your friends on Facebook and then realize that your life doesn’t measure up to theirs, you feel bad about yourself.

“If Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship — things that cause envy among users — use of the site can lead to feelings of depression,” said Margaret Duffy, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
If you want to use it as a social measuring stick, then yes, it can be a reminder that your life sucks...

In Her Shadow

Does Bill Clinton's official portrait hold a reminder of the past?
Pennsylvania artist Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News that he included a shadow of a blue dress in the 2006 portrait that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. It’s an apparent reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, with Shanks adding that the 42nd president is “probably the most famous liar of all time.”

“If you look at the left-hand side of it, there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things,” the painter said.

“It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.”
The shadow knows...

The Coming

Hillary's official announcement could come soon:
Clinton aides have spoken of the earlier timetable in private meetings, according to people engaged in recent discussions about the presumed Democratic front-runner’s emerging 2016 campaign. Many within her camp have advocated her staying out of the fray until the summer.

Jumping in sooner would help the Democratic field take shape, reassuring party leaders and donors that the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is running. A super PAC loyal to Mrs. Clinton has faced hesitation from donors who don’t want to make big pledges until she is a candidate. Such concerns would evaporate after she announces.
Let the coronation begin...

Sunday, March 01, 2015

You Gotta Have Post-Apocalyptic Faith

When all else fails, go to church?
In the real world, churches tend to not only survive tragedy — and even persecution — they rise to the occasion and thrive. But if we go the way of Europe and continue down the road of becoming a post-Christian nation, our future looks terribly bleak in the event of a long-term catastrophic event in the United States. We could indeed expect to experience anarchy and the collapse of our government and our communities.

I highly recommend Carafano’s book. It’s packed full of great practical advice about disaster preparedness — how much water you should store, what to do in a wildfire, how to protect yourself from a dirty bomb. I realized even before I finished reading the introduction that our family is woefully unprepared for a disaster and we will use the book to create a plan so that we are not caught off guard in the event of an emergency.

But I think the best advice in the book is worth repeating: “Being connected to a faith-based organization could well be critical for staying alive when nature or men do their worst.”
Keep the faith, and keep out the zombies...

Reporters, Investigate Thyself

A political reporter ruminates, sort of, on why people don't like those in his profession:
The public’s esteem for us has been abysmal for a good long while.

And if we’re honest, we’ve brought much of it on ourselves. We play petty games and barrel down pointless roads.

There are bad habits we should surrender not merely for Lent but forever, and there are tweaks we’d be wise to implement as we move forward with the 2016 election.
Like, for example, not trying to find something that isn't there to begin with?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Euro, Europa

Whose Euro is it, anyway?
At the euro’s launch in 2002, the world witnessed the unprecedented formation of a new currency without a state. But while the introduction of the euro centralized monetary policy, it left most fiscal policy in the hands of national governments. The rapid acceptance of the euro as a viable currency and the deeper financial integration of the Eurozone that followed were greeted as stepping-stones toward greater prosperity across the European Union. Observers viewed Europe’s emerging large current account deficits, particularly those of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain (PIIGS) as a validation of the gains associated with capital flowing from the center of the EU to its periphery, and a strong counter to the arguments about the limited benefits of importing foreign savings as a means of financing domestic growth.

The honeymoon period for the euro ended in 2010, however, as the unfolding crisis revealed the dangers inherent in the monetary union. Germany’s persistent current account surplus was putting intolerable pressure on the Eurozone periphery and creating a standoff between EU creditor and debtor countries. Germany’s economic and political decisions were creating instability within the EU, much in the same way German military power once did.

This should hardly have been a surprise. Germany is the largest country in the EU by population, GDP, creditor capacity, and among net contributors to the EU budget (16 billion euros). In addition, while 60 percent of German exports go to the Eurozone, Germany’s international economic reach outstrips all other EU member states: 27 percent of all EU exports come from Germany, several times the amount of France, Italy, the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands, and Spain. Today Berlin accounts for about 25 percent of China’s total trade with Europe and is the most influential European player in China. A decade after its launch, the euro remains a currency without a state, but dominated by Germany.

This reality has become the subject of a lively debate across the EU and within Germany itself.
Europe wanted its own currency. They forgot that somebody has to back it...

Windy City Junk

As goes Detroit:
Chicago's finances are already sagging under an unfunded pension liability Moody's has pegged at $32 billion and that is equal to eight times the city's operating revenue. The city has a $300 million structural deficit in its $3.53 billion operating budget and is required by an Illinois law to boost the 2016 contribution to its police and fire pension funds by $550 million.
Cost-saving reforms for the city's other two pension funds, which face insolvency in a matter of years, are being challenged in court by labor unions and retirees.
State funding due Chicago would drop by $210 million between July 1 and the end of 2016 under a plan proposed by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.
Given all the financial pressures, both Moody's and Standard & Poor's, which affirmed the city's A-plus rating, warned on Friday that Chicago's credit ratings have room to sink.
Like the Titanic...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Blind Agency's Bluff

The blind working for the blind:
Stephen Manning, the deputy chief information officer for strategy and modernization at the IRS, submitted an affidavit in the True the Vote vs. IRS litigation regarding the persons and procedures used to attempt to recover Lois Lerner’s hard drive containing emails pertaining to Tea Party targeting.

The affidavit can be read here. Paragraph 14 describes the educational background of the person searching for data on Lois Lerner’s hard drive:

“According to the Specialist, prior to joining the Internal Revenue Service … training was completed through Lions World Services for the Blind.”

Sources familiar with the litigation confirm to me that the government confirmed that the IRS employee searching for the lost data was legally blind.
Literally see no evil...

The Stalin Method

I'm sure there's nothing suspicious here:
A police spokesman on the scene said Nemtsov had been shot at from a passing white car that fled the scene. The woman was being interviewed by police.

Mikhail Kasyanov, a fellow opposition leader, told reporters at the bridge: “That a leader of the opposition could be shot beside the walls of the Kremlin is beyond imagination. There can be only one version: that he was shot for telling the truth.”

Kasyanov, a former prime minister under Putin, called Nemtsov a “fighter for the truth”.

Nemtsov had been quoted as saying he was concerned that the president might want him dead over his opposition to the conflict in Ukraine. Sunday’s opposition march is intended as a protest against the war in east Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels have seized a swathe of territory.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Russian news agencies that the president had expressed his condolences and ordered the security agencies to investigate. He said Putin had called it a “brutal murder”.
Which he had absolutely nothing to do with...

Degree Of Uncertainty

Not surprisingly:
Architecture and social science are fascinating subjects, but they are no quick ticket to employment. According to a new report from Georgetown University on college majors, unemployment and earnings, recent grads with degrees in these two fields had unemployment rates of 10 percent — higher even than the arts (9.5 percent). While the percent of unemployed architects and social scientists falls significantly for advanced degree holders, it still tends to be higher than in other fields.
Real jobs require real degrees...

Wrong Answer

When science gets it wrong:
When a researcher gets proved wrong, that means the scientific method is working. Scientists make progress by re-doing each other’s experiments—replicating them to see if they can get the same result. More often than not, they can’t. “Failure to reproduce is a good thing,” says Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch. “It happens a lot more than we know about.” That could be because the research was outright fraudulent, like Wakefield’s. But there are plenty of other ways to get a bum result—as the Public Libary of Science’s new collection of negative results, launched this week, will highlight in excruciating detail.

You might have a particularly loosey-goosey postdoc doing your pipetting. You might have picked a weird patient population that shows a one-time spike in drug efficacy. Or you might have just gotten a weird statistical fluke. No matter how an experiment got screwed up, “negative results can be extremely exciting and useful—sometimes even more useful than positive results,” says John Ioannidis, a biologist at Stanford who published a now-famous paper suggesting that most scientific studies are wrong.

The problem with science isn’t that scientists can be wrong: It’s that when they’re proven wrong, it’s way too hard for people to find out.
Especially when some scientists don't want to admit they were wrong...

The Magic Dress

Explaining the dress that melted the Internet:
Light enters the eye through the lens—different wavelengths corresponding to different colors. The light hits the retina in the back of the eye where pigments fire up neural connections to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes those signals into an image. Critically, though, that first burst of light is made of whatever wavelengths are illuminating the world, reflecting off whatever you’re looking at. Without you having to worry about it, your brain figures out what color light is bouncing off the thing your eyes are looking at, and essentially subtracts that color from the “real” color of the object. “Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” says Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington. “But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Neitz sees white-and-gold.)
It's all how you look at things (besides, it's clearly gold and blue.)

Lost And Found

So that's where they went:
The IRS’s inspector general confirmed Thursday it is conducting a criminal investigation into how Lois G. Lerner’s emails disappeared, saying it took only two weeks for investigators to find hundreds of tapes the agency’s chief had told Congress were irretrievably destroyed.

Investigators have already scoured 744 backup tapes and gleaned 32,774 unique emails, but just two weeks ago they found an additional 424 tapes that could contain even more Lerner emails, Deputy Inspector General Timothy P. Camus told the House Oversight Committee in a rare late-night hearing meant to look into the status of the investigation.

“There is potential criminal activity,” Mr. Camus said.

He said they have also discovered the hard drives from the IRS’s email servers, but said because the drives are out of synch it’s not clear whether they will be able to recover anything from them.

“To date we have found 32,744 unique emails that were backed up from Lois Lerner’s email box. We are in the process of comparing these emails to what the IRS has already produced to Congress to determine if we did in fact recover any new emails,” Mr. Camus said.
I guess the dog didn't eat all of her homework after all...

Holder Goes Home

Eric Holder's final case:
“We have done independent, thorough investigations in all of the matters that we have examined, and we have brought record numbers of cases against police departments around this country,” he said. “I don’t think anybody would be able to look at this Justice Department over the last six years and say that we’ve been anything other than aggressive in trying to root out inappropriate police conduct while, at the same time, trying to establish — or reestablish — bonds of trust between communities of color and people in law enforcement.”

Throughout much his tenure, Holder has been a frequent target of criticism by Republicans in Congress, leading to some pointed confrontations. He was voted in contempt of Congress by House Republicans in 2012, and has sometimes felt disrespected during Capitol Hill appearances. He refused to dismiss the notion that some of the hostility was related to his race, but acknowledged that “it’s hard to say — you know, hard to look into people’s minds, you know, their hearts.”
Or maybe it was just because you weren't that good of an Attorney General, sir...

You Are, And Always Have Been, Our Friend

RIP Leonard Nimoy:
Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1977, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995.

In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

“Star Trek,” which had its premiere on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Mr. Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’ ” — an often earnest, sometimes campy show that employed the distant future (as well as some primitive special effects by today’s standards) to take on social issues of the 1960s.

His stardom would endure. Though the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cultlike following — the conference-holding, costume-wearing Trekkies, or Trekkers (the designation Mr. Nimoy preferred) — coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.
Of all the souls I've encountered...but you know the rest. RIP.