Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mind Games

Are you ready for a mind meld?
The technology was developed as part of a collaboration between the University of Barcelona in Spain, Axilum Robotics in France, Harvard Medical School and Starlab Barcelona in Spain.

According to the researchers, this is the first time humans have sent a message ‘almost directly’ into each other’s brains.

‘We anticipate that computers in the not-so-distant future will interact directly with the human brain in a fluent manner, supporting both computer- and brain-to-brain communication routinely,’ they wrote.
Or you could just get married for the same result...

The Ice Stays

Whatever happened to the great arctic meltdown?
For years, many have been claiming that the Arctic is in an ‘irrevocable death spiral’, with imminent ice-free summers bound to trigger further disasters. These include gigantic releases of methane into the atmosphere from frozen Arctic deposits, and accelerated global warming caused by the fact that heat from the sun will no longer be reflected back by the ice into space.

Judith Curry, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said last night: ‘The Arctic sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed.’

Those who just a few years ago were warning of ice-free summers by 2014 included US Secretary of State John Kerry, who made the same bogus prediction in 2009, while Mr Gore has repeated it numerous times – notably in a speech to world leaders at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, in an effort to persuade them to agree a new emissions treaty.

Mr Gore – whose office yesterday failed to respond to a request for comment – insisted then: ‘There is a 75 per cent chance that the entire polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.’
Can those who donated to him get their money back?

Safety Zone

New plan for the midterms: Keep Obama away from possible losing states:
The White House is putting the finishing touches on a post-Labor Day schedule that will send the president to states where he’s still popular, such as: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California, Obama officials and Democratic operatives said this week.

But in the red states that will determine control of the Senate, Obama will remain scarce. That means no personal campaign visits to states like Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana and North Carolina. He may do some targeted outreach through robocalls, digital ads and conference calls, but the campaign plan is clear: Stay away from candidates he’s already hurting.

Obama’s no-fly zone for certain Senate campaigns reflects the deep concern among Democrats about his drag on the national ticket. Obama can’t seem to get his poll numbers out of the low 40s, he’s struggled through an endless stream of foreign policy crises, and he’s the last person that many candidates want to be forced to defend on the campaign trail.
Lame ducks need not apply...

Tenured Tension

Jerry Brown wants teachers to be able to stick around:
The appeal was filed late Friday and argues that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rulf Treu’s final ruling lacks detail and fails to provide the legal basis for his decision.

Treu issued the final ruling Thursday, after tentatively ruling in June that tenure protections for California teachers violate the state constitution, depriving some of the state's 6.2 million students of a quality education, specifically minorities and those from low-income families.

The lawsuit, Vergara v. California, was brought by Beatriz Vergara and eight other students who said they were saddled with teachers who let classrooms get out of control, came to school unprepared and in some cases told them they'd never make anything of themselves.

Teachers and their lawyers argue the laws protect teachers from getting fired on a whim. They also argue the system preserved academic freedom and helps attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn't pay well.
But what about the untalented, which seem to be in abundance?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Campfire Tips

The government-seriously-wants you to stay safe while...roasting marshmallows:
“First, let’s talk safety,” the article says. “Never start a campfire when there are fire restrictions in place. The restrictions are put in place for your safety and for the safety of others.”

It also warns that children should be given a stern talking-to before any of the “fun” begins.

“Some experts advocate a 10-foot rule between young children and a campfire,” it reads. “For more information about campfire safety, let Smokey Bear guide you.”

Finally, the article gets down to “marshmallow basics,” and starts by recommending the use of a roasting stick “of at least 30 inches.” That’s two and a half feet, or about half as long or more as the children roasting the marshmallows.

The article doesn’t recommend a maximum length for a roasting stick.
How about the length of a stick for hitting government "safety experts" over the head with?

Messy Media

Um, okay:
“And the truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy. In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through. The good news is that American leadership has never been more necessary, and there’s really no competition out there for the ideas and the values that can create the sort of order that we need in this world.”
But does he have a strategy for that?

No Riders

Hoboken doesn't like Uber:
Marcus Enriquez was actually thrown out of an Uber car by a Hoboken police officer. He said he was hailing an Uber outside of the Hoboken taxi stand when a cop knocked on the window, kicked him out of the car and ticketed the Uber driver.

“It was late on a Tuesday night, I was with my fiancé, we were coming back from band practice in Queens and we called an Uber car from over here in front of the Starbucks and we got in the car no problem, pulled to the end of the block and all of a sudden a Hoboken cop is knocking on the window, he said ‘everybody get out of the car' so we're like ‘what's going on are we being arrested? What's this about?' And the driver was like ‘I'm from Uber, I'm from Uber' and the cop was like, ‘yes I know get everybody out of the car, you guys are in an illegal cab',” he said.

According to Hoboken's municipal code regarding taxis, it is unlawful for a non-licensed taxicab to pick up passengers inside of Hoboken and fines can be as high as $1,000 or more.

Enriquez explained why Uber cars are more convenient than yellow-cabs.

“The Uber's don't have meters so you're not exactly sure how much it's going to be unless you've taken them before. With Uber you have your own car; it shows up, you get home, no problem. It's just a better service,” he said.
Which is probably why they're against it...

Responsibility Without Strategy

It's all about the job, or something:



But hey-Obama is a military genius, you know...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who Killed My Cheese?

French cheese falls victim to bureaucracy:
...90% of the producers have either gone to the wall or are in the hands of the dairy giants. This is thanks to a mixture of draconian health measures in Brussels, designed to come down hard on raw milk products, and hostile buyouts by those who want to corner the market.

Unpasteurised milk, which gives a unique earth-and-fruit flavour, has been gradually marginalised on false public health pretexts after intense lobbying by the food processing industry, to the detriment of the consumer but the incalculable advantage of those producing cheese made with pasteurised milk. The latter will last up to a month on the supermarket shelf, while many made with raw milk – such as fresh goat’s cheese – are unlikely to be edible after more than 10 days.
The war for cheese is over, and unfortunately the French have lost...

Budget Breakers

Ordinary people do what Congress can't:
PR professional and creator Tom Carroll is testing the concept of politics reality TV with a lead-off “reality film” called “Big Bad Budget.” Carroll distributed it to public television stations over the summer, and hopes it'll be the first in a series.

He claims the show could “rewrite the rules of American politics” -- despite the fact that all the decisions would, of course, be hypothetical.

Here's the set-up: Carroll and his team took eight ordinary people from Albuquerque, N.M., and challenged them to balance the federal budget in a single weekend. The group, made up of four Republicans, three Democrats and one Democrat-leaning independent, was forced to fight it out until they came up with a way to solve Washington's biggest head-scratcher.

Spoiler alert: the group was able to balance the budget.
Washington is probably already too much like a reality show for them to try this in real life...

Rise Of The War Machines

Fear the killer robots:
Angela Kane, the UN’s high representative for disarmament, said governments should be more open about programmes to develop the technology and she favoured a pre-emptive ban before it was too late.

She said: “Any weapon of war is terrible, and if you can launch this without human intervention, I think it’s even worse. It compounds the problem and dehumanises it in a way.

“It becomes a faceless war and I think that’s really terrible and so to my mind I think it should be outlawed. The decision is really in the hands of the states who have the capability to develop them."
I for one welcome our Terminator overlords...

Life Of Illusion

Take the blue pill:
The holographic principle — a property of particle physics’ string theory — proposes that information about a region of space can be ascertained by the information on the surface that surrounds it — much like you can determine, say, currents in water by the eddies on the surface.

But does this actually mean that our universe is an optical illusion created by light diffraction? Fermilab has just switched on a machine that may help a team of researchers figure it out: the Holometer, the most sensitive instrument ever built to measure the quantum jitter of space.
Or we could just ask the white mice...

Taxes On The Job

How Obamacare taxes people out of the workforce:
Some liberals have argued that it’s a good thing that Obamacare reduces labor force participation: People shouldn’t be “locked” into jobs they hate because it’s the only way they can get health insurance. But CBO has never said that reducing job lock is the main way Obamacare reduces employment. It has consistently pointed out that the structure of Obamacare’s subsidies acts as an implicit tax on work, and thus causes people to work less.
If you do have a job, can you afford to keep it?

California Stealin'

Or, another reason why California is going down the tubes:
The California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) provides temporary cash assistance, welfare-to-work, and other services to eligible low-income families with children. This analysis examines the program’s benefit overpayment trends to determine how frequently beneficiaries and the program’s administration cause errors, as well as how costly those errors are.
While individual errors may seem insignificant, taken together, they prove costly to the system, taxpayers, and the thousands of additional cases they could have funded instead.
For the better part of a decade, just as unemployment was rising and more families sought benefits, California’s social services absorbed cuts as the state diverted limited funds elsewhere. We found that those deep budget cuts had very real unintended consequences: costly administrative errors and a systematic lack of oversight at CalWORKs.
Do you miss Arnold yet?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Maryland Mess

Maryland's Obamacare exchange is under investigation for possible fraud:
The exchange is now being revamped but Harris says there’s a growing federal investigation into the millions of taxpayer dollars already spent on the website.
He says the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General is issuing subpoenas for fraud.
“There were invoices literally for hundreds of dollars an hour in charges with no reason for the invoices, no specific work done and these were approved by the executive director,” Harris said.
A representative of the Inspector’s Office tells WJZ he can’t confirm any investigation. The office is non-political, independent, and looks into waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Of which Obamacare offers more than enough to go around...

A Bear Of A Tale

A panda gets caught faking it:
Pandas thought to be pregnant receive 24-hour care, more food, and live in an air-conditioned single room.

Wu Kongju, who works at the centre, told Xinhua: “They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life.”

It is thought Ai Hin may have experienced a “phantom pregnancy”.
The Chinese news agency says that bears have been known to display signs of being pregnant after becoming aware of the preferential treatment.
Hell hath no fury like a panda scorned...

Enter The Thetans

Whatever works?
"The Way to Happiness" program was written by Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard. A nonreligious moral code, it describes 21 different principles, including "Don't Be Promiscuous," "Be Temperate," and the always-hard-to-remember "Do Not Murder." Scientologist Monika Biddle introduced the council to the book during an Aug. 22 meeting, saying it could really curb the high rates of crime and poverty.

"The moral fiber of our community is so decayed it will take years" to change, Councilwoman Monica Galloway told MLive.com."We need to sow [values] into these children [because these] are things they are not getting."
This is what politicians in Flint actually believe...

Green End-Run

If you can't get a treaty, go around one:
Lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming.

“There’s a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse,” said Laurence Tubiana, the French ambassador for climate change to the United Nations. “There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate.”

American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.

Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.

“There’s some legal and political magic to this,” said Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. “They’re trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold” in the Senate.
Constitution? What Constitution?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Define Irony

This is good:
A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.

The disciplinary arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals has recommended that Takisha McGee, a section manager in the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, lose her law license over the charge, which stems from a personal injury case she worked about a year before she joined the tax agency.
....

The case could pose a credibility issue for the IRS, whose professional conduct office is the watchdog charged with ensuring all tax professionals “adhere to professional standards and follow the law.”

Despite that duty, the office has dispatched Ms. McGee to lecture professionals about the importance of maintaining high ethical standards.
Or not...

Ghost Of The Machine

At The Times, the sounds of tech past:
To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.
....

Whether journalists on The Times feel a similar sense of nostalgia is unclear. George Brock, a former Times journalist, and professor of journalism at City University, London, said the sound was unlikely to rekindle memories among current staff.

“Typewriters disappeared from newsrooms in the late 1980s. There will be very few people there who remember the noise of massed bands of typewriters in the newsroom,” he said. “They will have to find out whether a crescendo of noise will make reporters work better or faster.”
Quality is another matter...

Here We Go Again

It's deja vu:
Another federal government-run website created under ObamaCare is suffering the same symptoms as the troubled federal health care exchange -- grappling with delays, data problems and other hiccups as the deadline to take it public nears.

At issue is a database known as the Open Payments website. It was created under the Affordable Care Act to shed light on the financial ties between doctors and pharmaceutical companies as well as device manufacturers.

The transparency initiative is supposed to include detailed information about drug payments made by doctors as well as the value of gifts and services given by drug makers. Such items can include everything from meals to swanky retreats.

The database project, though, is dealing with a minefield of technical problems and confusion over the data. The problems led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to shut down what is currently a private site for 11 days earlier this month.
We're all stuck in the loop:

Print's Extinction Event

RIP, printed press:
Print newspapers are going to die; at this point they’re living off coupons, on the print side, and old people, on the readership side. Newspaper circulation has fallen only a little bit among readers older than 65, but it has started low and fallen lower among the under-35 demographic. It doesn’t seem reasonable at this point to believe that those folks will ever pick up the newspaper habit. So as the readers die, and the advertising fades, the newspapers, too, will die one by one. The magazines, which already look anorexic compared with their earlier ad-stuffed selves, will undoubtedly follow.
Egon was right:

Down Time

In his defense of President Obama's golf schedule, former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton is forced to eat some crow:
I don’t remember, but I assume that I was one of the many Democrats who gleefully took shots at President George W. Bush for the time he spent at Crawford—and if so I regret it. Presidents are better for having time out of Washington, even better for time away with their families.

Whether you’re a partisan or a cynical reporter who has been making the same critique about presidential vacations for decades, I assume you probably agree that human beings function better when they get a little time away. I wouldn’t want my surgeon to be some woman who hasn’t had a break in 4 years.
The problem is, Obama's own break seems to have lasted almost that long...

Ramblin' Man

It's Harry Reid's greatest hits:

The Accidental War

Russia now says it was just a mistake:
"The soldiers really did participate in a patrol of a section of the Russian-Ukrainian border, crossed it by accident on an unmarked section, and as far as we understand showed no resistance to the armed forces of Ukraine when they were detained," a source in Russia's defence ministry told the RIA Novosti agency.
That might be possible, but unlikely:
More often, though, supposedly "accidental" incidents are the product of border disputes and political tensions. In 2010, the Internet was titillated by the story of how a mistake in Google Maps led Nicaraguan forces to move into a piece of land controlled by neighboring Costa Rica. But that detachment remained, and it took concerted regional diplomatic talks for the two countries to come to an agreement over the disputed territory.
Unfortunately, accidents by design are harder to manage...

Looking For Emails

They're there somewhere:
Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. The DOJ attorneys also acknowledged that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is investigating this back-up system.

We obviously disagree that disclosing the emails as required would be onerous, and plan to raise this new development with Judge Sullivan.
The dog didn't eat the homework, after all...

Repeat Climate Change Criminals

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology gets busted in a big lie:
Last year, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology made headlines in the liberal media by claiming that 2013 was Australia's hottest year on record. This prompted Australia's alarmist-in-chief Tim Flannery - an English literature graduate who later went on to earn his scientific credentials with a PhD in palaeontology, digging up ancient kangaroo bones - to observe that global warming in Australia was "like climate change on steroids."
But we now know, thanks to research by Australian scientist Jennifer Marohasy, that the hysteria this story generated was based on fabrications and lies.
Though the Bureau of Meteorology has insisted its data adjustments are "robust", it has been unable to come up with a credible explanation as to why it translated real-world data showing a cooling trend into homogenized data showing a warming trend.
She wrote:
“Repetition is a propaganda technique. The deletion of information from records, and the use of exaggeration and half-truths, are others. The Bureau of Meteorology uses all these techniques, while wilfully ignoring evidence that contradicts its own propaganda.’’
This is a global problem. Earlier this year, Breitbart reported that similarly dishonest adjustments had been made to temperature records by NASA and NOAA. Similarly implicated are the UK temperature records of the Met Office Hadley Centre and at Phil "Climategate" Jones's disgraced Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
The Ministry of Climate Change needs to keep its lies coordinated...

Pot Pop

Pot cola has arrived:
The drinks, called Legal, come in cherry, lemon and pomegranate flavours but are all infused with 10mg of liquid cannabis. The drinks cost around $10 (£6).

They are being marketed as a gentler alternative to smoking that could be attractive to those still wary about cannabis.

"It's much more approachable, as opposed to 'Hey, mom and dad, do you want a joint?'" said Adam Stites, the founder of Mirth Provisions.

But the Washington-based company has not forgotten its more traditional stoner market. The Lemon Ginger flavoured drink is presented with the tagline: "Couch, meet butt".

It promises the drink is "so ridiculously relaxing that you may find yourself becoming one with your furniture".
Don't couch potatoes do that already?

Ready Donor One

It's GOP, the game:
The game, called "Mission Majority," is programmed to look like an 8-bit-era video game and features an elephant named Giopi (sounds like "GOP") as a playable character. The player runs and jumps, collecting "keys" to Republican victory and vanquishing bad guys like "taxers" and "mudslingers." A successfully destroyed baddie emits an embarrassing audio clip from Democrats like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mark Pryor, and Bruce Braley.
But can you play as an establishment Republican or a Tea Party candidate?

None Of The Above, New York Edition

Why the New York Times has rejected Mario Cuomo:
The worst moment of all came when Mr. Cuomo blocked the progress of the independent commission he set up to investigate corruption after the panel began to look into issues that may have reflected badly on him and his political supporters. As The Times reported in July, Mr. Cuomo’s closest aides pushed back every time the commission began looking at the governor’s own questionable practices, including a committee set up to support his agenda, which became Albany’s biggest lobbying spender and did not disclose its donors. Now a United States attorney is pursuing the questions the commission raised, including the ones the governor wanted dropped.
That was bad form, Governor. Even Boss Tweed was at least an honest crook...

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Four-Year Hotel

Colleges are actually making income inequality worse:
Over the decades, college officials have used their nonprofit status to build an unsustainable business model more akin to hoteliers, one that real estate mogul Donald Trump would envy. And all on the backs of taxpayers, students and their families.

Schools across the U.S. offer practical degrees, useful in the corporate or public sector, like engineering, software design, or accounting. But even the most prestigious colleges no longer offer a solid liberal arts education. Instead, many schools charge nosebleed tuition for degrees built on useless courses about, say, the cultural efficacy of soap operas, or sex and gender in society, that don’t lead to work in the real world and exacerbate income inequality.
And yet, they encourage protests against what they create...

The Obama Connection

Can Obama reconnect before it's too late?
“The president is in a tough spot, and a lot of the problems aren’t of his own making,” said one Democratic strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the leader of the party. “That said, voters hold him responsible for what happens on his watch. After Ebola, ISIL, Ferguson and earthquakes, people start wondering if locusts are next.” ISIL stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now known as the Islamic State.

The question for Obama and the Democratic candidates and consultants whose fate at the ballot box in November is inextricably linked to his is what, if anything, can be done to turn around this story line of a president increasingly unable — or unwilling — to steer the country (and the world) in the direction he wants it to go.
Most people don't want to be steered in that direction, it seems. Even so, there's something to be said for having a President who at least acts like he still wants to be President.

Tomorrow's Library Today

The digital library has arrived:
A bookless library is a rarity among U.S. colleges but reflects the high-tech ambitions of the university in Lakeland, Florida. Rising along a drab stretch of highway between Tampa and Orlando, Florida Polytechnic envisions building a technology corridor in the image of Silicon Valley.

Without stacks to organize, librarians staffing the main reference desk, which is called a success desk, will steer students to tutoring resources and train them in managing digital materials.

While the library is not paperless, students are discouraged from using its printers too much, Miller said. They can buy traditional textbooks in the bookstore, or digital texts when available.

Old-fashioned books can be requested on loan from libraries at Florida's 11 other public universities.
But there's still no talking...

King Of The North

Burger King may leave the USA:
The really interesting part to the story however is not the pure fact that an American burger giant is buying up a Canadian national treasure (Wendy’s has previously owned Tim Horton’s for some time), but rather that Canadian corporate tax rates are favorable relative to American corporate tax rates enough to justify a “tax inversion”. A tax inversion occurs when an American company merges with a foreign one and, in the process, reincorporates abroad, effectively entering the foreign country’s tax domicile. An American company that merges with a Canadian target company for share consideration can avoid U.S. residency for tax purposes as long as the shareholders of the Canadian target end up owning at least 20% of the shares of the new parent immediately after the acquisition.

Canada’s corporate tax rate in Ontario of 26.5% (the federal rate of 15% plus Ontario’s provincial corporate tax rate of 11.5%) is considerably favorable to the American corporate tax rate of 35% thanks in large part to the conservative Canadian government led by Stephen Harper. The Harper government lowered the federal tax rate to 15% in 2012 down originally from 28% since it took office in 2006.
Lowering the taxes that the American government won't do...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Control Comfort Zone

Why rituals matter to some people:
Why do people recycle and buy organic foods? According to Marijn Meijers and Bastiaan Rutjens, a couple of social scientists at the University of Amsterdam, they do it to realize a sense of personal control stemming from their fear that disorder is increasing in the world. Technological optimists, meanwhile, are more likely to eschew the comfort of such rituals.
....

A popular new psychological model, compensatory control theory, argues that people are highly motivated to perceive the world as meaningful, orderly, and structured. When people perceive the world as being less orderly, Meijers and Rutjens explain, they strive to compensate for the anxiety and stress this produces. Often this entails attempting to achieve personal or external control. With personal control, Meijers and Rutjens write, “it is the feeling that people are able to influence their environment that provides them with the notion of an orderly and navigable world.” With external control, “it is the feeling that an external source (e.g. an intervening God or a powerful government) exerts influence over their environments and the world in general that provides similar perceptions of an orderly world.”
The illusion of control is still an illusion...

Plastic For Profit

Thieves are going after little plastic pieces:
Lego’s popularity is soaring after years of crisis saw the Danish family business turned over to new management. Tie-ins with movies, such as Star Wars and Harry Potter, have helped it connect with a new generation of young builders and quadruple its revenues in less than a decade.
Expensive specialist kits include Tower Bridge or the Ewok village, from Return of the Jedi, which retail for $249.
But that’s nothing compared with how prices can rise for unopened, discontinued lines, such as a 2,899-piece Statue of Liberty, released in 2000, which now sells for $10,000.
With that has come a lucrative online trade – and black market.
Just one word, Ben:

No Joke

On the lack of jokes in the Obama era:
“Our job is, whoever is in power, we’re opposed,” “SNL” chief Lorne Michaels told The New York Times in 2008. Agreed. And so they’ve been doing their job badly. Says who? Says . . . Downey.
Now that he has retired from the show and gained a little perspective, Downey comments in “Live from New York,” “I have to say, and even [Al] Franken agrees with me — I’ve talked to him about this — that the last couple seasons of the show were the only two in the show’s history where we were totally like every other comedy show: basically, an arm of the Hollywood Democratic establishment. . . . We just stopped doing anything which could even be misinterpreted as a criticism of Obama.”
From the freedom to offend, to the decision to defend...

Blogging In The Years: 1814

The British help themselves to dinner in Washington:
When the detachment sent out to destroy Mr. Madison's house entered his dining parlor, they found a dinner table spread and covers laid for forty guests. Several kinds of wine, in handsome cut glass decanters, were cooling on the sideboard; plate holders stood by the fireplace, filled with dishes and plates; knives, forks, and spoons were arranged for immediate use; in short, everything was ready for the entertainment of a ceremonious party. Such were the arrangements in the dining room, whilst in the kitchen were others answerable to them in every respect. Spits, loaded with joints of various sorts, turned before the fire; pots, saucepans, and other culinary utensils stood upon the grate; and all the other requisites for an elegant and substantial repast were exactly in a state which indicated that they had been lately and precipitately abandoned.

You will readily imagine that these preparations were beheld by a party of hungry soldiers with no indifferent eye. An elegant dinner, even though considerably overdressed, was a luxury to which few of them, at least for some time back, had been accustomed, and which, after the dangers and fatigues of the day, appeared peculiarly inviting. They sat down to it, therefore, not indeed in the most orderly manner, but with countenances which would not have disgraced a party of aldermen at a civic feast, and, having satisfied their appetites with fewer complaints than would have probably escaped their rival gourmands, and partaken pretty freely of the wines, they finished by setting fire to the house which had so liberally entertained them.
The heroine of the hour appears to be Mrs. Madison:
Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and in a very bad humor with me, because I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out. It is done! and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping.
So the Capitol has been set ablaze (although at least one building was spared.) The Presidential palace, afterward:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Reform Wars

Teacher's unions aren't happy that the status quo has been challenged-by President Obama?
Rather than fight openly against Obama’s education policies, they have identified a series of proxy enemies like Michelle Rhee or Campbell Brown. The National Education Association recently passed a resolution demanding the resignation of Education Secretary Arne Duncan — another union target — as if Duncan were some rogue figure who was enacting massive reform measures behind Obama’s back.

They need to do this because Obama remains a highly popular figure among the union rank-and-file. Asking teachers to choose between Obama and the union line runs the risk that many teachers will decide the union is wrong. The main premise of the unions’ pushback is that supporters of education reform are disloyal to Obama or the Democratic Party. (See, for instance, this anti–Campbell Brown propaganda sheet.) But these attacks make sense only if we ignore the fact that Obama himself is the actual cause of their problems.
Or, maybe, they themselves are...

Looking For A Few Good Wages

A group of unemployed, in search of a recovery:
The ten activists, most of whom were unemployed and seeking jobs, were sent as emissaries for a coalition of advocacy groups that has launched an unusual campaign from the left to press the U.S. central bank to keep monetary policy easy.

The coalition, consisting of more than 70 organizations, released an open letter to Fed officials earlier this week urging them to hold off on interest rate hikes until wages were rising more swiftly.

While small in number, the activists managed to get a great deal of face time with senior officials. On Thursday, they spoke with the host of the conference, Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Esther George, for two hours.
Obama was too busy golfing...

Taken On Faith

Another day, another exemption:
Effective immediately, the U.S. will start allowing faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals to notify the government — rather than their insurers — that they object to birth control on religious grounds.

A previous accommodation offered by the Obama administration allowed those nonprofits to avoid paying for birth control by sending their insurers a document called Form 700, which transfers responsibility for paying for birth control from the employer to the insurer. But Roman Catholic bishops and other religious plaintiffs argued just submitting that form was like signing a permission slip to engage in evil.

In a related move, the administration announced plans to allow for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Inc. to start using Form 700. The Supreme Court ruled in June that the government can’t force companies like Hobby Lobby to pay for birth control, sending the administration scrambling for a way to ensure their employees can still get birth control one way or another at no added cost.
But is it just more of the same?

Cookie Monsters

No cookie for you:
The federal government’s edict to provide healthier foods and cut fats and cholesterol put an end of the sale of the traditional Elyria pink cookie — a buttery sweet treat with pink icing.

The pink cookie has been a favorite for four decades. The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram reports the treat gained a cult following through the years and was once named the “Best Cafeteria Cookie” by Cleveland magazine.
Michelle must be happy...

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Lion Queen

Call her the Lion Singer:
Kopenstonsky was hiking a trail near Down Valley Park in Placerville, Colorado on Monday when she encountered a mountain lion. According to a report by the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, the lion stalked the hiker for about 20 minutes, during which it would often jump forward and crouch whenever Kopenstonsky attempted to move backwards. She told deputies that when she first saw the animal, she picked up a large branch and attempted to look big. That did not seem to faze the cat, so Kopenstonsky said she did the next thing that came to her mind.

“I don’t know why, I just started singing opera really loud,” Koestonsky later told KUSA. “It kind of put its ears down and just kept looking at me, and it sort of backed away. Then, it came around the bushes an came towards me again and crouched about 10 feet away.”
Opera has that effect on some people, as well...

Lesson Plan

Those who couldn't do, teach:
Granholm was a rising star in the Democratic Party when she was elected Michigan's first female governor in 2002. She served two terms during a tenure that saw her approval ratings plummet as she weathered factory-closings, a crippling recession, auto industry bailouts and the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

“She presided over the most substantial decline in the state’s economic fortunes perhaps in the state’s history,” said economist Michael LaFaive, of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, adding that Granholm’s lectures should be "interesting."

Granholm is teaching at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. She made $84,300 teaching a course last year called “Governing During Tough Times,” according to a public database on the Sacramento Bee website. As a Berkeley lecturer in 2011 and 2012 Granholm's salary for each year was more than $150,000.
So she does know how to make money-for herself, at least...

No Myth

It's the end of an era:
"I guess you guys are finding out the news right about now. After a decade of the MythBusters, we are no longer with the show," Kari said in a series of tweets. "Thank you to all the fans who have supported us. The show is taking a new direction. It was an amazing run. I learned so much about myself and the world. I love you all @MythBusters. I am sad for an ending but there will be exciting new adventures for us."

When asked by FOX411 the reason the three would not be returning next season, a representative for the show failed to elaborate what new direction the show was planning.

"Kari, Tory and Grant have been an incredibly important part of 'MythBusters' for over a decade," a senior publicist with Discovery told FOX411 in an email. "From explosions to car crashes to even more explosions, this trio has helped shape 'MythBusters' into the Emmy-nominated series it is today. Everyone at Discovery wants to thank them for their tireless work busting almost 1000 myths, and we wish them all the best on their future endeavors."
It was fun making science fun while it lasted...

Box Life

Get ready for the Box:
Based on the U.K. show of the same name, Sex Box follows real couples whose relationships are on the rocks. The couples have sex in a soundproof box and immediately afterward, address their issues with a panel of experts for a series of emotionally honest conversations about intimacy.

"Sex Box is one of the most unique and compelling show concepts we’ve ever seen, and we can’t wait to bring it to WE tv,” WE tv president Marc Juris said. “Our featured couples will get a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while our viewers will get the kind of bold, break-through-the-clutter programming they increasingly associate with WE tv.”
People who live in glass boxes, etc...

Foul Ball

Game called on account of...Obamacare?
The staffing issues that hamstrung the grounds crew Tuesday during a mad dash with the tarp under a sudden rainstorm were created in part by a wide-ranging reorganization last winter of game-day personnel, job descriptions and work limits designed to keep the seasonal workers – including much of the grounds crew – under 130 hours per month, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge.

That’s the full-time worker definition under “Obamacare,” which requires employer-provided healthcare benefits for “big businesses” such as a major league team.
Three strikes and your employees are out?

Board Games

It's come to this:
The Washington Post editorial board said Friday it will stop using the word “Redskins” when referring to Washington’s football team, joining a growing list of other commentators who have renounced the term because they believe it disparages Native Americans.

In a statement, the board said, “While we wait for the NFL to catch up with thoughtful opinion and common decency we have decided not to use the slur ourselves except when it is essential for clarity or effect.”

The editorial board is separate from the news-gathering side of the organization, which executive editor Marty Baron said will continue to use the team’s moniker.

“The Post’s newsroom and the editorial page operate independently of each other,” Baron said. “Standard operating policy in the newsroom has been to use the names that established institutions choose for themselves. That remains our policy, as we continue to vigorously cover controversy over the team’s name and avoid any advocacy role on this subject.”
Except that of political correctness...

Brazilian Barack

Meet the South American Obama:
He is black, like the US president, and running for Congress in elections on October 5 for the ruling Workers Party.
His real name is Claudio Henrique dos Anjos and a court has allowed the 45-year-old to run in the election with ballots that read “Barack Obama.”
On his website, he goes by the longer name Claudio Henrique Barack Obama.
On Tuesday he formally presented his candidacy, and in the short time alloted him on television, he launched the terse slogan “Vote for Barack Obama!”
Given how the real one's fortunes have been faring, he might want to reconsider...

Finger Shopping

Shopping in the socialist paradise:
President Nicolas Maduro says a mandatory fingerprinting system is being implemented at grocery stores to combat food shortages. He calls it an "anti-fraud system" like the fingerprint scan the country uses for voting.

In announcing the plan late Wednesday, Maduro did not say when the system would take effect, but other administration officials suggested it could be in place by December or January.

The move was met with skepticism. Critics said the new system is tantamount to rationing and constitutes a breach of privacy. Others simply wondered if anything short of a systemic overhaul of the economy could help the socialist South American country's chronically bare shelves.
Like, say, a free-market system?

Have You Heard This One

You stay classy, Harry:

Space Weeds

There are those who believe that life here began out there:
Vladimir Solovyev, the official in charge of Russia’s ISS segment, told the news agency Itar-Tass that tiny plankton and microscopic organisms had been discovered on the spacecraft's exterior, describing the finds as “absolutely unique”.

However, the truthfulness of Solovyev's claim is unclear, with Nasa refusing to confirm the story. “As far as we're concerned, we haven't heard any official reports from our Roscosmos colleagues that they've found sea plankton," Nasa spokesperson Dan Huot told Space.com.

Huot confirmed that Russian cosmonauts had been taking samples from the windows on their side of the ISS, but clarified that they'd only been looking for “residues that can build up on the visually sensitive elements".

“I don't know where all the sea plankton talk is coming from,” Huot added.
Shades of The Andromeda Strain...

The Isolationist

Howard Kurtz notes President Obama's growing self-exile:
I’ve been saying for a year now that the president’s liberal media allies have soured on him. It started with the ObamaCare debacle and continued through his seeming passivity or slow reaction time in the wake of the VA scandal, the Bowe Bergdahl mess, the military collapse in Iraq and so on. At this point they’re basically Waiting for Hillary.

What is striking now is a growing sense, fairly or unfairly, that Obama is not capable of rising to the occasion, that he just doesn’t like politics, that he’s disengaged, that despite his soaring rhetoric in 2008 he has a passion deficit.

All the criticism about him playing golf and being at Martha’s Vineyard is kind of a code for his supposedly being unplugged from the job.
Early retirement can have its drawbacks...

The Metal Murderers

A robot shall not harm a human being, except:
Future generations could be exterminated by Terminator-style robots unless machines are taught the value of human life.

This is the stark warning made by Amsterdam-based engineer Nell Watson, who believes droids could kill humans out of both malice and kindness.

Teaching machines to be kind is not enough, she says, as robots could decide that the greatest compassion to humans as a race is to get rid of everyone to end suffering.

'The most important work of our lifetime is to ensure that machines are capable of understanding human value,' she said at the recent 'Conference by Media Evolution' in Sweden.

'It is those values that will ensure machines don't end up killing us out of kindness.'
It's for your own good, meatbags!

Clown Shoes

Putin goes after the real enemy:
Russian authorities extended their scrutiny of McDonald's to several regions on Friday, carrying out inspections at a number of restaurants run by the U.S. fast-food chain, amid a standoff with the West over Ukraine.

The inspections are viewed by many businessmen as retaliation for Western sanctions against Russia because of its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, and they fear the retribution could spread to other symbols of Western capitalism.

A spokeswoman for the country's food safety agency, Rospotrebnadzor, said the inspections were not related to the standoff.

"The checks are not politically motivated," she said.

The agency also said it had no plans to close down the company's business in the Republic of Tatarstan, two days after the agency shut three McDonald's branches in Moscow. Checks in Tatarstan were announced on Thursday.
In Russia, Big Mac eats you...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Radioactive

Well, I feel safer now:
The number of accused and the duration of cheating are greater than was known when the Navy announced in February that it had discovered cheating on qualification exams by an estimated 20 to 30 sailors seeking to be certified as instructors at the nuclear training unit at Charleston, South Carolina. Students there are trained in nuclear reactor operations to prepare for service on any of the Navy’s 83 nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.

Neither the instructors nor the students are involved in handling nuclear weapons.

After further investigation the Navy determined that 78 enlisted sailors were implicated. Although the cheating is believed to have been confined to a single unit at Charleston and apparently was not known to commanding officers, the misconduct had been happening since at least 2007, according to Adm. John M. Richardson, director of naval reactors. The exact start of the cheating was not pinpointed.

“There was never any question” that the reactors were being operated safely, he said in an AP interview, yet the cheating was a stunning violation of Navy ethics.
Everything is under control...

Stay Out of The Web

Northern Illinois University literally doesn't want its students going there:
The internet is a dangerous place, and we wouldn’t want students inadvertently coming across something controversial, now would we?

Students who attempt to visit an unauthorized site through the campus network are redirected to a creepy “Web Page Access Warning.” The “warning” is that the students are about to go somewhere that probably violates NIU internet policy. One student reported the policy to Reddit after he received a warning for trying to access the Westboro Bapist Church’s Wikipedia page. That’s right, its Wikipedia page.

NIU cites “common sense, decency, ethical use, civility, and security,” as its various rationales for the policy. Yes, a public institution of higher learning believes that it is just common sense—and ethical—to dissuade students from visiting websites deemed harmful by administrators.
Danger, freedom of expression ahead...

Top Goons

How the Teamsters behave in Boston:
Angry that the show had not signed a Teamsters contract and that the production hired local PA’s to drive cast and crew vehicles, the dozen or so picketers from Boston’s Teamsters Local 25 kept at it for hours, raining down racist, sexist and homophobic threats and slurs as staffers came to and left the set that summer day. Jenn Levy, Bravo’s SVP Production, wasn’t spared. Arriving at the restaurant in her black SUV, she soon found herself running a gauntlet of vitriol. “She got of her car in front of the location and quickly ran through the picket line,” a source said. “They were yelling, ‘You bitch! You slut! We’re gonna get you!’ It went on like that all day.”
Being a thug means never having to apologize...

Clapter And Verse

The perils of comedy in the Obama era:
Clapter is the death knell of comedy, a sure sign that one is reinforcing preconceived notions rather than challenging prevailing norms. But clapter reigns supreme. In the age of Obama, there are a ton of comedians who have prospered by getting the audience to cheer. And there’s a whole separate set of comedians who have prospered by simply going along to get along. Every time I think about humor in the age of Obama, I return to this horribly disheartening line from Between Two Ferns creator Scott Aukerman, who had been asked if Obama pitched jokes for the bit: “I don’t think the president has to pitch jokes, he just says jokes and we enjoy them.”
But is the joke really on those who are supposed to laugh at those in power?

The Cupcake Cops

George Will is fed up:
By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. . . . The collapse of confidence in government is not primarily because many conspicuous leaders are conspicuously dimwitted, although when Joe Biden refers to ‘the nation of Africa,’ or Harry Reid disparages the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision as rendered by ‘five white men’ (who included Clarence Thomas), Americans understand that their increasingly ludicrous government lacks adult supervision. What they might not understand is that Reids and Bidens come with government so bereft of restraint and so disoriented by delusions of grandeur that it gives fighting knives to police and grief to purveyors of noncompliant cupcakes.
You can't have your cupcake and eat it, too, nannystaters...

We Is Dumb

Are we getting dumber?
Jan te Nijenhuis, a psychology professor at the University of Amsterdam, says Westerners have lost an average of 14 IQ points since the Victoria Era.

He believes this is due to more intelligent women have fewer children than those who are less clever,The Huffington Post reported.

Dr Woodley and others think humans will gradually become less and less intelligent.

But Dr Flynn says if the decline in IQ scores is the end of the Flynn effect, scores should stabilise.

He thinks that even if humans do become more stupid, better healthcare and technology will mean that all people will have fewer children and the ‘problem’ will regulate itself.
the dumb and dumber era? (Well, from some of what I've seen, I believe it...)

Bad Deal All Around

The government says President Obama broke the law when he traded Berghdal:
“[The Department of Defense] violated section 8111 because it did not notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the transfer,” the GAO report said. “In addition, because DOD used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act. The Antideficiency Act prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations exceeding an amount available in an appropriation.”
It's not like it's the first time that's happened...

Water Town

Water for me, not for thee:
Mr. Manson wants the National Park Service to press the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end the special exemption from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but “the Park Service just won’t do it.”


Why not? Jeffrey Olson, National Park Service spokesman, said the agency cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but critics point out that San Joaquin Valley farmers have nowhere near the political clout of San Francisco’s political leadership, which includes Mrs. Pelosi and a good chunk of the state’s dominant liberal power structure.

“I think the law is being subjectively applied,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, executivedirector of the California Water Alliance. “California is a tale of two cities. If you added all the agrarian counties of California together in terms of registered voters, that’s not even enough to offset either San Francisco or Los Angeles. There are not enough votes.”
Unless you're a fish...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Game Pay

Will this year's Super Bowl halftime performers have to pay for the privilege of working at the big game?
It is unclear how much money the NFL was seeking, and whether it would likely have amounted to more or less than the extra income the chosen performer might stand to generate from the exposure. No decision has been made yet and it is possible another act could be selected.
In NFL, you pay league...

Back To Vacation

Why did President (or is it ex-President) Obama return to Washington?
Obama’s two days in Washington were mostly quiet, and concluded with the president receiving his daily national security briefing in the morning, and joining Vice President Biden to huddle with members of his economic team in the afternoon.

Administration officials have insisted for weeks that the president just wanted to return to the White House for a series of meetings, but the explanation was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, since Obama rarely interrupts his vacations.
Judicial Watch estimates the extra roundtrip cost $1.1 million. Only daughter Malia accompanied Obama back to Washington.

Speculation for why Obama returned focused around the possibility of a secret foreign leader meeting or the roll out of a new administration initiative on immigration or corporate taxes.

But no such explanation materialized.
Keeping up even rare appearances never seems to need one...

Friends On The Inside

Nope, nothing suspicious going on here:
“For me, it’s not a political decision,” Chalmers told the newspaper. “That’s what a grand jury is about – take the emotion out of it and look at the facts and make your best decision based on your life experience.”

More troubling, however, is the fact that Chalmers attended, photographed, and commented on an event with Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson while grand jury proceedings were ongoing.

Watson was a witness in front of the grand jury. On June 27, 2014, Chalmers shared a photo of the Watson event on a community Facebook page she started called Developer’s Dungeon. “Senator Kirk Watson telling the story of the Wendy Davis fillibuster (sic),” she wrote in a comment accompanying the picture.
A rigged jury is a useful jury...

Endangered Species

Don't kill the dinosaurs:
Alex Stone said he and his classmates were told in class to write a few sentences about themselves, and a "status" as if it was a Facebook page.

Stone said in his "status" he wrote a fictional story that involved the words "gun" and "take care of business."

"I killed my neighbor's pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business," Stone said.

Stone says his statements were taken completely out of context.

"I could understand if they made him re-write it because he did have "gun" in it. But a pet dinosaur?" said Alex's mother Karen Gray."I mean first of all, we don't have dinosaurs anymore. Second of all, he's not even old enough to buy a gun."
Common sense, like the dinosaurs, seems to be extinct...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Funky Old Man

John McCain does the robot:

Nanny Nation

Do Americans want a nanny state for their kids?
Democrats and Republicans tend to agree the law should require 6-year-olds and 9-year-olds be supervised at public parks, but Republicans (73%) are 15 points more likely than Democrats (58%) to also want the law to apply to 12 year-olds as well. Strong Republicans diverge from independent-leaning Republicans on this issue. Independent-leaning Republicans are actually as likely as Democrats (4 in 10) to say 12 year olds should be allowed to play in public parks unsupervised, compared to 26 percent of strong Republicans.

Americans who think government should promote traditional values are also more likely to say the law should require supervision of 12 year olds at public parks—69 to 55 percent of those who say government should not promote traditional values.
We get the nannies we deserve...

Gut Reaction

Does your bacteria have you under its control?
We’ve come to appreciate how beneficial our microbes are — breaking down our food, fighting off infections and nurturing our immune system. It’s a lovely, invisible garden we should be tending for our own well-being.

But in the journal Bioessays, a team of scientists has raised a creepier possibility. Perhaps our menagerie of germs is also influencing our behavior in order to advance its own evolutionary success — giving us cravings for certain foods, for example.

Maybe the microbiome is our puppet master.
We are already assimilated?

The Smoke-Filled Oval Room

President Obama worksbehind closed doors:
Mr. Obama’s increasingly expansive appetite for the use of unilateral action on issues including immigration, tax policy and gay rights has emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. It also has opened the president, already facing charges of executive overreach, to criticism that he is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers at the expense of other interests, including some on the losing side who are threatening to sue.
And not just them...

The Long Arm Of The Past

Your record follows you:
Many people who have never faced charges, or have had charges dropped, find that a lingering arrest record can ruin their chance to secure employment, loans and housing. Even in cases of a mistaken arrest, the damaging documents aren’t automatically removed. In other instances, arrest information is forwarded to the FBI but not necessarily updated there when a case is thrown out locally. Only half of the records with the FBI have fully up-to-date information.

“There is a myth that if you are arrested and cleared that it has no impact,” says Paul Butler, professor of law at Georgetown Law. “It’s not like the arrest never happened.”
Free and clear? Not always...

Texas Inquisition

Even the New York times agrees that the attempted prosecution of Rick Perry is bogus:
Governors and presidents threaten vetoes and engage in horse-trading all the time to get what they want, but for that kind of political activity to become criminal requires far more evidence than has been revealed in the Perry case so far. Perhaps Mr. McCrum will have some solid proof to show once the case heads to trial. But, for now, Texas voters should be more furious at Mr. Perry for refusing to expand Medicaid, and for all the favors he has done for big donors, than for a budget veto.
Sometimes a ham sandwich is just a ham sandwich...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Going My Way?

Would you pick up a robot hitchhiker?
HitchBOT, created by team of Ontario-based communication researchers studying the relationship between people and technology, will reach its final destination Sunday in Victoria, British Columbia, where it will receive a traditional aboriginal canoe greeting at Victoria Harbor.

"What we wanted to do is situate robotics and artificial technologies into unlikely scenarios and push the limits of what it's capable of," said David Smith, the robot's co-creator, who teaches at Ontario's McMaster University. "It's challenging but it can also be highly engaging and entertaining as hitchBOT has proven."
Even robot overlords need a lift once in a while...

The Dark Side

The tourism for places that aren't in other guide books:
Just about every article on dark tourism, including Luongo's, is quick to mention that there's nothing new about our interest in going to places associated with death. Public hangings, for instance, were once the norm. During July 1861, several sightseers packed picnic baskets before heading out to witness one of the earlier battles of the American Civil War. People have flocked to the Colosseum for years. What sets Dark Tourism apart as something new, however, is the tourism industry's packaging and marketing of such places.
Humanity's dark side for fun and profit?

The Libertarian Generation

These are not your baby boomer parents' liberals:
What makes this generation particularly notable is that they don’t conform to conventional political stereotypes. In particular, their increased social liberalism has not gone in lockstep with economic liberalism.

To this point, Thomas Edsall in the New York Times citing a recent Pew survey observes the "emergence of a cohort of younger voters who are loyal to the Democratic Party, but much less focused on economic redistribution than on issues of personal and sexual autonomy." Edsall cites an email exchange with Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, in which Kohut further explains, "There is a libertarian streak that is apparent among these left-of-center young people. Socially liberal but very wary of government."
The streak is alive...

Non-Political Science

Silencing dissenters won't end debate:
Genuine scientific inquiry is degraded when science becomes politicized. The standards that have prevailed since the Scientific Revolution conflict with the advocacy needs of politics, and AGW would be finished as the basis of a political program if confidence in its scientific consensus were undermined. Its advocates’ evasion of rigorous falsifiability tests points to AGW’s current weakness as a science. As an academic critic of the science on which AGW rests, Murry Salby may have been silenced for now. The observed behavior of nature, from which he draws his analysis, cannot be dismissed so readily.
But the "experts" will do their best to try...

On The Job Debt

Government job training trains no one:
Many graduates wind up significantly worse off than when they started — mired in unemployment and debt from training for positions that do not exist, and they end up working elsewhere for minimum wage.

Split between federal and state governments — federal officials dispense the money and states license the training — the initiative lacks rigorous oversight by either. It includes institutions that require thousands of hours of instruction and charge more than the most elite private colleges. Some courses are offered at for-profit colleges that have committed fraud in their search for federal funding. This includes Corinthian Colleges Inc., which reached an agreement last month with the federal Education Department to shut down or sell many of its campuses.
Several years and thousands of dollars wasted? Sounds like college...

The View From Above

Spoken like a snob:
“I think if you were to go around to most of the — what I would think of as super-sophisticated people who think about politics and policy more than five minutes a month — we are doing really well.”


“And the question in the United States of America is how are we doing with everybody else, which is the 99.5 percent of the people whose lives are very busy and complicated and pressing and they don’t have a lot of time to think about the things that don’t immediately impact themselves and their family.
We are the 99.5 percent...

Fire Birds

Going green literally burns:
More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers each looming up to 40 stories high. The water inside is heated to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes.

Sun rays sent up by the field of mirrors are bright enough to dazzle pilots flying in and out of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a "mega-trap" for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays.

Federal and state biologists call the number of deaths significant, based on sightings of birds getting singed and falling, and on retrieval of carcasses with feathers charred too severely for flight.
When it comes to environmentalism, everybody gets burned...

Let Them Eat Granola

Snacks for me, not for thee:
Students are already revolting against the newly-implemented school snack regulations that affect what is sold in vending machines.

They will probably be equally upset to learn the vending machine just across the hall – in the teachers lounge – is exempt from the regulations.

In the Spring 2014 issue of School Nutrition News, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction rationalized school employees can continue to get candy bars and Fritos from the vending machine in the teachers lounge. They’re exempt from the new rules because “they aren’t accessible to students.”
Sounds like an invitation to a raid...

Top Cop Comes To Town

I'm sure everything will be completely fair and above board:
President Barack Obama is sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson, Missouri, to meet with federal law enforcement authorities investigating the police shooting of an unarmed teenager.

Obama says Holder will travel to the St. Louis suburb on Wednesday.

Holder recently authorized a federal autopsy on the body of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot on Aug. 9. Brown was black; the officer who shot him was white.
It's not as if he doesn't have friends down there...

Process Servers

Silly liberals, transparency is for kids:
A watchdog group on Monday sued the U.S. government, accusing the Obama White House of interfering in and thwarting the release of public documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the group Cause of Action (CoA) names 12 federal agencies that delayed the release of documents so officials could consult with White House under a new process established in spring 2009.

The process, which gave White House officials review authority over documents that federal agencies wanted to release that mentioned the White House or presidential aides, was based on a previously secret April 15, 2009 memo by then-White House Counsel Gregory Craig that instructed all federal agencies to consult with Mr. Obama’s lawyers on the release of documents containing “White House equities.”

The lawsuit challenges that process, and says the term “White House equities” was never mentioned in the FOIA law and has been used to delay the legitimate release of public information.
It bears repeating: you will know what they want you to know-and always intended it that way...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blogging In The Years: 1969

The big concert is over:
As the music wailed on into the early morning hours, more than 100 campfires - fed by fence-posts and any other wood the young people could lay their hands on- flickered around the hillside that formed a natural amphitheater for the festival.

By midnight nearly half of the 300,000 fans who had camped here for the weekend had left. A thunderstorm late yesterday afternoon provided the first big impetus to depart, and a steady stream continued to leave through the night.

Drugs and auto traffic continued to be the main headaches.

But the crowd itself was extremely well-behaved. As Dr. William Abruzzi, the festival's chief medical officer, put it: "There has been no violence whatsoever, which is remarkable for a crowd of this size. These people are really beautiful.
But dig the coverage from the hip crew at CBS:

The Return

Washington's prodigal son comes home, for now:
The White House has been cagey about why the president needs to be back in Washington for those discussions. He's received multiple briefings on both issues while on vacation. The White House had also already announced Obama's plans to return to Washington before the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq began and before the shooting of a teen in Ferguson that sparked protests.

Part of the decision to head back to Washington appears aimed at countering criticism that Obama is spending two weeks on a resort island in the midst of so many foreign and domestic crises.
I'm sure he'll be back golfing in no time...

Blade

Don't bring a knife to a mastodon fight:
A 22,000-year-old mastodon skull and tool dredged from the seafloor in the Chesapeake Bay hints of early settlers in North America. The two relics, which were pulled up together, may come from a place that hasn’t been dry land since 14,000 years ago. If so, the combination of the finds may suggest that people lived in North America, and possibly butchered the mastodon, thousands of years before people from the Clovis culture, who are widely thought to be the first settlers of North America and the ancestors of all living Native Americans.
It was a rough neighborhood back then...

Heartbeats

Students in Iowa must wear heart monitors:
"It will be a large portion of their grade, because we want to grade them on what they're actually doing in our class," Dubuque Schools Athletic and Wellness Director Amy Hawkins told ABC News.

Teachers will use the information collected from the heart rate monitors to write report cards.

"It really takes the opinion out of things," Hawkins said. "You know it's not really 'I think your kid is doing this and this in class.'"
Have a heart...or get an F?

Popped

The creator of the pop-up ad comes clean:
It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content. Specifically, we came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.
So now you know...

A Note A Day

Reading doctor's notes can be good for all concerned:
In 2010, Tom Delbanco, an internist, and Jan Walker, a nurse and researcher, started an experiment called OpenNotes that let patients read what their primary care providers write about them. They hypothesized that giving patients access to notes would allow them to become more engaged in their care.

Many doctors resisted the idea. Wouldn't open medical records inhibit what they wrote about sensitive issues, such as substance abuse? What if patients misunderstood the notes? Would that lead to more lawsuits? And what would patients do with all the information anyway?

After the first year, the results were striking: 80 percent of patients who saw their records reported better understanding of their medical condition and said they were in better control of their health. Two-thirds reported that they were better at sticking with their prescriptions. Ninety-nine percent of the patients wanted OpenNotes to continue, and no doctor withdrew from the pilot. Instead, they shared anecdotes like mine. When patients see their records, there's more trust and more accuracy.
It does help when you can actually understand what your doctor wrote without having to be a handwriting expert...

Smart Stuff

How to look more intelligent:
Other ways to signal intelligence without opening your mouth include walking at the same pace as those around you. Subjects in one study rated a person moving faster or slower than “normal human walking speed” as less competent and intelligent [2]. Speaking of incompetence: don’t drink in public, at least not at work functions. The perceived association between alcohol and stupid behavior is so strong, according to a 2013 study, that merely holding a beer makes you appear dumber [3].
Note to politicians who might be thinking of holding a beer summit...

Out In The Cold

Is the power grid ready for winter?
This year, if you get the kind of winter that we had in 2009-2010 or 2002-2003 with the nation’s grid on the ropes the way it is and some of these regulations that I hear about coming down that are supposed to close plants on January 1st – and what I know, because we’re involved in getting people ready to fight snow in cities around the country – this could be a very, very big economic impact on the winter. And we’re very concerned about that.
The EPA-keeping America in the dark for its own good...

Chinese Flight

Who's leaving China?
Most are tourists who come home. But rapidly growing numbers are college students and the wealthy, and many of them stay away for good. A survey by the Shanghai research firm Hurun Report shows that 64% of China's rich—defined as those with assets of more than $1.6 million—are either emigrating or planning to.

To be sure, the departure of China's brightest and best for study and work isn't a fresh phenomenon. China's communist revolution was led, after all, by intellectuals schooled in Europe. What's new is that they are planning to leave the country in its ascendancy. More and more talented Chinese are looking at the upward trajectory of this emerging superpower and deciding, nevertheless, that they're better off elsewhere.
Ironically, many Americans now feel the same way...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Out In The Cold

Are social conservatives alone in the libertarian moment?
Many social conservatives say they feel politically isolated as the country seems to be hurtling to the left, with marijuana now legal in Colorado and gay marriage gaining ground across the nation. They feel out of place in a GOP increasingly dominated by tea party activists and libertarians who prefer to focus on taxes and the role of government and often disagree with social conservatives on drugs or gay rights.

Meanwhile, the list of possible front-runners for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has a limited relationship with evangelical activists, and the libertarian-leaning Paul, the senator from Kentucky who only recently began reaching out to social conservatives. One prominent establishment favorite weighing a bid, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), is a supporter of legal same-sex marriage who claims his views on the issue could help him and his party appeal to younger voters.
There was once a huge gulf between libertarians and the GOP, as well. Perhaps this too, shall pass...

No Reply At All

President Obama sees all, does nothing:
“I certainly do not think President Obama is responsible for all of the world crises that have taken place during his time in office,” said William C. Inboden, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush and executive director of the William P. Clements Jr. Center on History, Strategy and Statecraft at the University of Texas. “But he is responsible for actions and attitudes he took that have contributed to some of those crises — and he is also responsible for how he responds, or fails to respond.”
The President does have a busy golf schedule...

Texas Ham Sandwich

Why is Rick Perry being indicted?
The “crime” for which Perry faces a sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison is vetoing funding for a state agency. The conventions of reporting — which treat the fact of an indictment as the primary news, and its merit as a secondary analytic question — make it difficult for people reading the news to grasp just how farfetched this indictment is.
....

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — a Democrat who oversees the state’s Public Corruption unit — was arrested for driving very, very drunk. What followed was a relatively ordinary political dispute. Perry, not unreasonably, urged Lehmberg to resign. Democrats, not unreasonably, resisted out of fear that Perry would replace her with a Republican. Perry, not unreasonably, announced and carried out a threat to veto funding for her agency until Lehmberg resigned.

True, I do not have a fancy law degree from Harvard or Yale or, for that matter, anywhere. I am but a humble country blogger. And yet, having read the indictment, legal training of any kind seems unnecessary to grasp its flimsiness. . . . To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves.
And, not unreasonably, Perry is resisting.

The Party Left Him

Joe Piscopo on why he is no longer a Democrat:
I was a Democrat because I believed in civil rights, like Lyndon Johnson. I was a Democrat because while it was clear to me that the Republican politicians were out of touch and cared for only the upper class, Democrats like Franklin Roosevelt cared for the masses and helping the working man. I was a Democrat because I believed in a strong defense and opposed communism, like John F. Kennedy. And I was a Democrat because I loved the fact that Kennedy understood we needed lower marginal tax rates.

By and large, none of these values are represented in the Democratic Party today. From where I’m standing, the party has largely abandoned its commitment to civil rights and instead allows race-baiters to be national power brokers. As spokesman for the Boys and Girls Clubs of New Jersey, I am hurt that there is not one Democrat in Washington who cares enough about the great inner cities of this country to help those in dire distress from poverty and crime. These cities are in worse shape than those countries from which all those illegal “children” crossing our borders daily are coming.

In my home state, if I can walk the streets of Camden to try to help the disenfranchised, why can’t the Democrat in the White House walk the South Side of his hometown and do the same? In terms of caring for the working class, it seems as though Democrats are more interested in catering to the special interests, such as the trial lawyers, lobbyists and George Soros who fund their campaigns — rather than fighting for small-business relief to allow a higher minimum wage or (God forbid) middle-class tax relief.
Unfortunately, it hasn't been that Democratic Party for a long time...

A Canal Runs Through It

Happy 100th anniversary to the Panama Canal:
The French took on the project in the 1880s behind engineer and Suez Canal mastermind Ferdinand de Lesseps. But after over 20,000 workers died, largely due to disease, the rock bed proved too difficult to cut through, and the project suffered financial problems, they left the effort. Theodore Roosevelt took over the Panama Canal project in 1902—a move that led to Panama's independence from Colombia and gave the U.S. rights to a 10-mile stretch. (Per a 1977 agreement, the United States returned the land to Panama in 1999.)

More than a decade later—following nearly 6,000 more worker deaths—the canal opened in 1914. Where traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific previously took thousands of miles and weeks or months, it could now be done in just 48 miles and less than 10 hours.
It's a shame that something like it probably couldn't be done today (in the U.S. at least.)

Here There Be Dragons

Who you gonna call?
Rossendale Council was asked to detail its employment of exorcists and faith healers. Worthing Council was asked to explain its emergency plans for meteor strikes and solar flares. Birmingham was asked to reveal how many requests it's had to screen public buildings for ghosts.

And there be dragons in northwest England, apparently. One fact-seeker asked Wigan Council: "What plans are in place to protect the town from a dragon attack?"
No word on elves or faeries...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Swarm

You will be assimilated:

Final Move

It must be that violent intellectual culture:
Hundreds of spectators attending the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway, and countless others watching live TV coverage on Norway's state broadcaster, reacted with shock after Kurt Meier, 67, a Swiss-born member of the Seychelles team, collapsed on Thursday afternoon, during his final match of the marathon two-week contest. Despite immediate medical attention at the scene he died later in hospital.

Hours later, a player from Uzbekistan who has not yet been named was found dead in his hotel room in central Tromsø. Norwegian police and the event's organisers said on Friday they were not treating the deaths as suspicious.

"We regard these as tragic but natural deaths," said Jarle Heitmann, a spokesman for the Chess Olympiad. "When so many people are gathered for such a long time, these things can happen."

The Olympiad involved 1,800 competitors from 174 countries, accompanied by more than 1,000 coaches, delegates and fans.

The event sees players compete in national teams over 11 rounds, often playing matches that last for up to six hours, and claims a worldwide online audience of tens of millions.

There were brief scenes of panic in the hall after Meier's collapse, when spectators reportedly mistook a defibrillator for a weapon. Play was briefly suspended before his death was marked with a minute's silence during the closing ceremony.

While the causes of the two men's deaths are still unknown, they will raise questions about the mental and physical stress that tournaments place on players.
Shouldn't ESPN be all over this?

Perry, Pinched

Rick Perry is in trouble:
A special prosecutor spent months calling witnesses and presenting evidence that Perry broke the law when he promised publicly to nix $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit run by the office of Travis County Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg was convicted of drunken driving, but refused Perry's calls to resign.

Perry's general counsel, Marry Anne Wiley, defended the governor's action.

"The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution," she said. "We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail."
The prosecution doesn't exactly have a star witness:

Wage Hike Slaves

Who could have seen this coming? The working poor are making more per hour but taking home less pay. The University of Washington paper asse...