Saturday, January 31, 2015

Direct Observation

Air Marshals witness the TSA in action:
One current federal air marshal, whose name has been withheld for fear of retaliation, asserts that the TSA has repeatedly sought to silence its employees.

“When it comes to the Air Marshal Service and TSA, when they are determined to f*** you, they are going to f***ing do everything in their power to make you out to be the bad guy, and they will twist every single word that they can to reflect their position [rather] than the truth,” says the marshal. “They want you to shut up, get on the plane, and sit down. They don’t want to fix any of the problems that exist.”
Many travelers have been saying this for years...

King Queen

I think he's got it backwards:
The Turkish president referred to the UK as an example for Turkey to follow as he explained that changes to the role of the president would not alter the Turkish republic's democracy.
"In my opinion, even the UK is a semi-presidency. And the dominant constituent is the Queen," Mr Erdoğan told Turkish state broadcaster, TRT.
The UK has a constitutional monarchy in which parliament decides and makes laws and the Queen's role is largely ceremonial.
Mr Erdoğan's comments, reported in Hurriyet Daily News, included an attack on those who said Turkey was becoming like a monarchy and that he aspired to be like an Ottoman sultan despite other countries also having presidents.
At least the Ottomans were openly despotic...

Body Language

The story of a man who was trapped in his own body:
"For so many years, I was like a ghost. I could hear and see everything, but it was like I wasn't there. I was invisible," Pistorius told NBC News' Kate Snow with the help of a device that speaks the words he types into a computer.

"What really got to me was the complete and utter powerlessness," Pistorius said. "Every single aspect of your life is controlled and determined by someone else. They decide where you are, what you eat, whether you sit or lie down, in what position you lie in, everything."

Day after day, year after year, Pistorius was trapped in a body that wouldn't move, left with nothing but his own thoughts.

"I would literally live in my imagination," he said. "Sometimes to such an extent that I became almost oblivious to my surroundings."
He escaped his own prison, fortunately...

Firing Back

American Sniper gets some support from...Michelle Obama:
"We hope our country will welcome back our veterans — not by setting them apart but by fully integrating them into the fabric of our communities," Mrs. Obama said.

Mrs. Obama also came to the defense of "American Sniper" — about Kyle, considered the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. It has become a box-office sensation and has strong supporters but has also weathered a growing storm of criticism that the film glorifies murder and serves as war propaganda.

"While I know there have been critics, I felt that, more often than not, this film touches on many of the emotions and experiences that I've heard firsthand from military families over these past few years," she said.
At least she's willing to learn, unlike a certain fat man...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Poetry Man

RIP Rod McKuen:
His work included the Academy Award-nominated song "Jean" for the 1969 film "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" and he was nominated for an Oscar again in 1971 for his work on the animated film "A Boy Named Charlie Brown."

McKuen was a prolific composer, working with artists such as Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra.

The Hollywood show business publication Variety said he published 30 books of poetry, including "Listen to the Warm," which sold millions of copies, and that McKuen won a spoken word Grammy for "Lonesome Cities."

The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture said that at the peak of his career McKuen was "the unofficial poet laureate of America," the New York Times said.
We had joy, we had fun...

Bad Knight

Suge Knight has been arrested for murder:
A group of people attacked Knight and threatened to kill him and were “attempting to drag him outside of the vehicle when he made an effort to escape ... in fear for his life,” Blatt told the Los Angeles Times on Friday morning.

But police have a different view. After interviewing the onetime hip-hop mogul, Los Angeles County detectives arrested him on suspicion of murder.

Knight, questioned at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department West Hollywood station early Friday, is being held in lieu of $2-million bail.

“The investigation is in the very beginning stages," Blatt said. "We anticipate him being exonerated.”
Tupac's revenge?

Romney Bows Out

The third time won't be the charm:
"After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney told supporters on a conference call.

The exit of Romney, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, comes after several of his former major donors and a veteran staffer in the early voting state of Iowa defected to support former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would have served as Romney's most likely rivals for the support of the Republican Party's establishment-minded voters.
On to Bush III?

Surviving The Locust Plague

How to win California:
For economic reasons, voters often flee the consequences of their own political philosophies — and yet they bring those same philosophies with them to their new low-tax, high-opportunity locations, starting the failure cycle all over again. Until, like the aliens in Independence Day, they have sucked the landscape dry and are forced to move on again.

The trick would be for conservatives to see this as an opportunity and retake the biggest electoral prize of them all: California. If conservatives could reflip the Golden State, the Democrats would never win another national election, ever.
You've got to upload a virus into the Mothership first...

Free Ride

Because somebody actually has to pay for it?
There’s an intuitive, consequentialist argument that making public transit free would get drivers off the road and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. In the U.S., where government subsidies cover between 57 and 89 percent of operating costs for buses and 29 to 89 percent of those for rail, many public-transit systems are quite affordable, costing in most cases less than $2, on average. If it might make transit more accessible to the masses and in the process reduce traffic and greenhouse-gas emissions, why not go all the way and make transportation free?
Nobody rides for free, no matter how hard some try...

D.I. Robot

Robots for the troops?
Officials said the experiment is part of ONR's Human Surrogate Interaction program, which will focus on how humans interact with virtual, physical and other types of surrogates. The findings are also expected to help determine how best to use robots to train infantry and other forces in the U.S. Marine Corps at a state-of-the-art military training facility at Camp Pendleton in California.

Another objective of the new ONR study is the development of a system called “Avatar Mediated Interactive Training and Individualized Experience System” (AMITIES), which enables actors to “inhabit” and control various types of robots.

According to the researchers, AMITIES combines voice modulation, artificial intelligence, network protocols and human control that can pave the way for new military training possibilities. “If human role players are not available because of cost or other reasons, this research will help us understand the type of surrogate to replace them with so that the level of training is not diminished,” Squire said in the statement.
I for one welcome out new drill instructor overlords...

Driving Wheel

This may be the only NASCAR ad you'll ever need:

There Are Bears In The Woods

Do not feed the bears:
The remains of 67-year-old Kay Grayson were found by law enforcement Monday in woods about 100 yards off a dirt road leading to her home, after a resident alerted authorities that she had not seen the woman in several days, Tyrrell County Sheriff Darryl Liverman told FoxNews.com.

An autopsy was underway Thursday to determine the case of death. Liverman said only bones and hair were found in their search for Grayson, who he said had been dead for up to two weeks.

He said the remains were found with the help of bloodhounds along a known bear path and that torn clothing led authorities to suspect Grayson was dragged into the woods by bears.

Authorities do not suspect foul play, Liverman noted, though he said it's possible Grayson died before a bear or multiple bears found the body.

"Based on what we saw, we do believe that she was dragged into the woods by bears or multiple bears," he said. "The remains were on a path that was used by bears. Her clothing had been ripped by what appeared to be bears."

"She fed the bears a lot," Liverman added, "But we do not know if bears actually killed her."
Well, she wanted to feed them...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reboot

A feminist calls for reform:

The Pink Parade

Whatever happened to Code Pink? Well, they're back:
The protesters, bearing signs reading “Kissinger War Criminal” and “Cambodia,” rushed up behind the 91-year-old diplomat at the witness table of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which was holding a hearing on global challenges and the U.S. national security strategy.

Also testifying were 94-year-old former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and 77-year-old former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would call recess until Capitol Police removed Code Pink from the room.

“I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” McCain said, which led to shout-backs from the protesters.

“You know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested. If we can’t get the Capital Hill Police in here immediately… Get out of here, you low-life scum,” McCain added.

“So Henry, I hope you will — Dr. Kissinger, I hope on behalf of all of the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle — in fact, from all of my colleagues, I’d like to apologize for allowing such disgraceful behavior towards a man who served his country with the greatest distinction. I apologize profusely.”

Later, when Kissinger began his opening statement, more protesters popped up in the room, screaming about Vietnam and rattling off his “war crimes.”

“Vietnam! From 1969 to 1973, Kissinger, working for Richard Nixon, oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, that led to the deaths of millions — millions of people. Many thousands more died from the effects of massive doses of agent orange and from unexploded bombs that covered the countryside!” a protester shouted.
So now they're protesting against a war that ended forty years ago. But at least they're not blaming Bush...

Tarnished Silver

Could Sheldon Silver bring down Andrew Cuomo?
If Silver is willing to testify that Cuomo knowingly entered a deal to kill off the commission because they were getting close to the Speaker, an obstruction of justice charge would be enough to bring Cuomo down. But what if it went even further? What if the Governor’s office was involved in some of the same deals that Silver is charged with orchestrating? If Silver knows of any such things he has a powerful motivation to roll over. The man is 70 years old and he has absolutely zero desire to die in prison. If there’s anything that will convince the Feds to cut a deal where he gets off with a very short sentence or home arrest, it would be a charge against a bigger fish that would definitely stick. And in the New York pool, the only bigger fish is Cuomo.
That fish may soon wish he'd cut bait.

The Smarter Set

Who's really more educated?
Eighty-seven percent of scientists said global warming is mostly due to human activity, while only half of the public did. The figures for scientists are slightly different than past academic studies because of wording of the question and the fact that AAAS members include many specialties, but they tell the same essential story, said Pew associate director Cary Funk.

What to do about climate change is another issue. Nearly two-thirds of scientists favored building more nuclear power plants, but only 45 percent of the public did. But more of the public favored offshore drilling for oil and fracking than scientists did.

More than four out of five scientists thought the growing world population will be a major problem, but just less than three out of five members of the public did.
Being a scientist doesn't always make you right...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Saturation Point

Andrew Sullivan retires:
I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
Sullivan, along with Glenn Reynolds, was one of the earliest and most influential bloggers. Life is change...

Watching The Clock

How much time does Andrew Cuomo have left?
If Silver provides new details about Cuomo’s role in the negotiations that led to the commission’s demise, especially if the speaker reveals that Cuomo or his top negotiators were aware of the criminality underlying Silver’s desire to kill the commission, Cuomo’s vulnerability to an obstruction of justice charge increases. And Silver will be under unrelenting pressure to talk: pressure from the feds, pressure from his family and, of course, pressure rooted in any 70-year-old’s desire not to die in prison if it becomes clear that the only route to a short sentence is to give up a much bigger fish.
Reel him in, and don't spare the bait...

Ranked

At least we're still in the top 20:
“The United States’ economic freedom score is 76.2, making its economy the 12th freest in the 2015 Index,” states the report. “Its score is 0.7 point higher than last year, with modest gains in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including control of government spending, outweighing a slight decline in business freedom.”

“Although the precipitous downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008 has come to a halt in the 2015 Index, a 1.6-point decline in overall economic freedom over the past five years reflects broad-based deteriorations in key policy areas, particularly those related to upholding the rule of law and limited government,” states the report.
And there's at least one area where business is booming...

Hello, Beastie

Johnny Depp, cupacabra victim?
"I was attacked yesterday morning by a very rarely seen or experienced animal called 'chupacabra.' I fought with it for hours. They're very persistent, very mean. And I'm pretty sure it came into my suitcase. I threw him off the 23rd floor. So we'll never see him again. Thank you for understanding," he said.

A chupacabra is a legendary, mythical creature that likes to drink the blood of livestock and is said to inhabit parts of the Americas.
At least it wasn't a Kraken...

Breaking The Code

The question of Jonathan Chait's sincerity:
I’m glad Chait has suddenly decided that speech policing is a terrible idea. He’s only a couple hundred years behind the times, but better late than never, I suppose. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s all that sincere about it. In fact, I think he just opposes speech codes when they’re used against him or his fellow travelers. And the reason I think that is because I’ve actually read what Jonathan Chait has written about people on the right who disagree with him. It’s one thing for Jonathan Chait to oppose the practice of using speech codes against Jonathan Chait and his friends, and another thing entirely for Chait to oppose speech codes used against his political opponents.
Codes for thee, not for me and mine...

Final Withdrawals

What's up with all the banker deaths?
Almost certainly, it isn't a plot. Banking - especially at the level that most of these bankers had reached - is a stressful occupation with more than the average number of suicides. It's also logical that such stress could lead to an early death due to heart attack or stroke. (Researchers now believe that some cancers are related to stress.)

If you were to take employees from a similarly stressful industry and compare suicide and early death rates, you would probably make similar correlations appear.

So far, no evidence of foul play has emerged in any of these deaths. So either the plotters are spectacularly competent in fooling authorities, or there is nothing fishy at all about these deaths.
Banking can be hazardous to your health...

Trash Talk

Seattle is now going through peoples' garbage:
In Seattle, wasting food will now earn you a scarlet letter — well, a scarlet tag, to be more accurate.

The bright red tag, posted on a garbage bin, tells everyone who sees it that you’ve violated a new city law that makes it illegal to put food into trash cans.

“I’m sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors’ cans,” says Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for the city. He’s on the front lines of enforcing these rules.

Seattle is the first city in the nation to fine homeowners for not properly sorting their garbage. The law took effect on Jan. 1 as a bid to keep food out of landfills. Other cities like San Francisco and Vancouver mandate composting, but don’t penalize homeowners directly.
It's for the greater good, or something...

Lower Than Low

The people like the government less than ever:
When asked what they specifically didn’t like about the government, some Americans cited issues with the staff and customer service. Indeed, Americans are more annoyed with the government’s customer service (specifically how courteous, helpful and professional the government staff are) than they were in 2013: customer service rankings for the government plummeted 6% from a year ago — from a score of 80 to a score of 75. While this sounds bad, ACSI Director David VanAmburg says that some of it has to do to with the fact that some agencies have fewer staff members now than in the past, which makes consumers more frustrated when trying to get something accomplished in a timely manner.

Plus, Americans say that the services the government provides aren’t always easy to navigate or delivered in a timely manner – and were worse in 2014 than in years past (scores fell from 70 to 68 out of 100), as was the information provided to them by the government (scores fell from 71 to 69), which they say often lacks clarity and isn’t accessible.
Incoherence and incompetence are always the top priorities...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Voices

What should people who hear voices do?
Recently, Waddingham and more than 200 other voice-hearers from around the world gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece, for the sixth annual World Hearing Voices Congress, organised by Intervoice, an international network of people who hear voices and their supporters. They reject the traditional idea that the voices are a symptom of mental illness. They recast voices as meaningful, albeit unusual, experiences, and believe that potential problems lie not in the voices themselves but in a person’s relationship with them.

“If people believe their voices are omnipotent and can harm and control them, then they are less likely to cope and more likely to end up as psychiatric patients,” says Eugenie Georgaca, a senior lecturer at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the organiser of this year’s conference. “If they have explanations of voices that allow them to deal with them better, that is a first step toward learning to live with them.”
Don't fear the voices in your head?

Arrowhead

Eat your heart out, Oliver Queen:

Snowman

He's the man in white:
The Boston Yeti debuted mysteriously on Twitter at about 10 p.m. Monday and wandered the deserted streets of Somerville, a Boston suburb, around midnight, after a travel ban went into effect.

The Boston Yeti told ABC News “it was raised and educated by the woods.” The “Yeti’s” identity has not been revealed.
He does get around.

Cereal Publishing

Out-faking the fakers:
The article is entitled "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?" and its authors are the venerable Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. The subtitle reads: "The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals." Shrime submitted it to 37 journals over two weeks and, so far, 17 of them have accepted it. (They have not "published" it, but say they will as soon as Shrime pays the $500. This is often referred to as a "processing fee." Shrime has no plans to pay them.) Several have already typeset it and given him reviews, as you can see at the end of this article. One publication says his methods are "novel and innovative"!. But when Shrime looked up the physical locations of these publications, he discovered that many had very suspicious addresses; one was actually inside a strip club.
No word on whether or not Captain Crunch was consulted...

The Sanders Solution

Bernie Sanders' plan for the "deficits?" Spend even more:
To address what he calls the infrastructure deficit, for example, Sanders says the United States should spend an additional $1 trillion on repairing roads and bridges by 2020.

“Investing $1 trillion over five years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs that our economy desperately needs,” the report said.

In order to improve people’s incomes, Sanders said Congress must first raise the minimum wage to “a livable wage” and expand overtime protections for workers.
It's always more popular with the left to deny the existence of the real deficit by making up imaginary ones...

Broken Bowe

Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion:
The charges will apparently not allege that Bergdahl left with the intent never to return. Bergdahl was reportedly captured by the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan. He was released in a prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay in May.

While a court martial could lead to imprisonment, defense and military officials tell NBC News it is likely Bergdahl would be given consideration for the 5 years he spent in captivity and be permitted to leave the Army with a "less than honorable discharge." If accepted, Bergdahl would be denied as much as $300 thousand in back pay and bonuses, and reduced in rank to at least Private First Class, the rank he held when he disappeared from his outpost in Afghanistan.
Needless to say, the White House can't be too happy about this. Maybe they should have thought out their trade for him a little more...

The Bill Will Come Due

The legacy of our government's spending habits:
“Although the deficits in our baseline projections remain roughly stable as a percentage of GDP through 2018, as I noted, they rise after that. The deficit in 2025 is projected to be $1.1 trillion, or 4% of GDP, and cumulative deficits over the 2016 to 2025 period are projected to total $7.6 trillion. We expect that federal debt held by the public will amount to 74% of GDP at the end of this fiscal year, more than twice what it was at the end of 2007, and higher than in any year since 1950. By 2025, in our baseline projections, federal debt rises to nearly 79% of GDP. When CBO last issued long-term budget projections in the summer, we projected that, under current law, debt would exceed 100 percent of GDP 25 years from now, and would continue on an upward trajectory thereafter. That trend that could not be sustained. Such large and growing federal debt would have serious negative consequences, including increasing federal spending for interest payments, restraining economic growth in the long term, giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually heightening the risk of a fiscal crisis.”
With no thanks to the current administration...

From Russia With Cash

Meet the environmentalist lobby's secret friends:
With oil prices plunging as a result of a fracking-induced oil glut in the United States, experts say the links between Russian oil interests, secretive foreign political donors, and high-profile American environmentalists suggest Russia may be backing anti-fracking efforts in the United States.

The interest of Russian oil companies and American environmentalist financiers intersect at a Bermuda-based law firm called Wakefield Quin. The firm acts as a corporate registered agent, providing office space for clients, and, for some, “managing the day to day affairs,” according to its website.

As many as 20 companies and investment funds with ties to the Russian government are Wakefield Quin clients. Many list the firm’s address on official documentation.
In the Green movement, Russia pays you...

Bad Connections

It's phones all the way down:
If you own a cellphone, you pay for the free phones and their wireless plans via a monthly tax on your cellphone called the Universal Service Tax. Although the Lifeline wireless program has been around since 2005 and started under President George W. Bush, it ballooned under President Obama and the phones are often referred to as Obamaphones.
To qualify for one of the cellphone plans, you have to be low income — on food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance or some other government program.
But multiple times a CBS4 producer and reporter found phone agents in Denver circumventing strict government rules to ensure that only the truly needy get the free phones. Vendors, like Total Call, receive massive government subsidies to hand out the phones and the accompanying monthly plans.
A little corruption goes a long way...

Nerds Need Not Apply?

Why we still need burly men:
Since 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the information and technology sectors have lost more than 337,000 jobs, in part as traditional media jobs get swallowed by the Internet. Even last year, which may well prove the height of the current boom, the information and technology industry created a net 2,000 jobs. And while social and on-line media may be expanding, having added 5,000 jobs over the last decade, traditional media lost ten times as many positions, according to Pew.

In contrast, energy has been a consistent job-gainer, adding more than 200,000 jobs during the same decade. And while manufacturing lost net jobs since 2007, it has been on a roll, last year adding more than 170,000 new positions. Construction, another sector hard hit in the recession, added 213,000 positions last year. The recovery of these industries has been critical to reducing unemployment and bringing the first glimmer of hope to many, particularly in the long suffering Great Lakes region.
Economies change; the need for people who actually know how to build stuff doesn't...

Web Weight

How much would the Web weigh?
As of July 2013, a crowdsourced effort to print out the entire web had produced 10 tons of pages—the equivalent of three or four baby blue whales, as the Washington Post put it. "It’s a lot of paper. Yet it’s not even a sliver of the whole Internet."

The whole Internet is hardly something that can be counted or printed or put into a shipping container. And so far it's not even something that can be preserved, not comprehensively—not even close. But Kahle is trying.
I wouldn't want to have to carry it...

Genius

Was Isaac Newton the smartest person ever?
What was Newton's IQ? It's impossible to say. IQ tests didn't exist in the 17th Century, and if they had, Mr. Newton certainly would not have deigned to spend 90 minutes filling out ovals on a multiple choice test. Besides, he likely would have finished the test early and then spent the remaining time correcting errors and devising more difficult questions.

Nobody doubts that Isaac Newton was an intelligent man, but he also exhibited in spades the two other characteristics outlined above: knowledge and creativity.

Newton was a true polymath. Not only did he master physics and mathematics, but he was also a theologian. He was obsessed with eschatology (end-times prophecy), and he calculated -- based on his interpretation of the Bible -- that Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 2060. His dedication to religion was so great that, according to Nature, more than half of his published writings were on theology.
If he'd done more on science, who knows what might have been...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Frack On In The UK

Parliament says no to stopping fracking:
Protests took place in Westminster as MPs gathered for a final Commons debate on fracking legislation in the government's Infrastructure Bill.

In the Commons, committee chair Joan Walley backed an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs calling for fracking to be suspended for up to 30 months while an assessment is carried out.

But the measure did not attract front-bench support and was defeated by 308 votes to 52.
Cheers to you, mates...

The Forgotten American

The story of Charles Curtis, America's Native American Vice President:
Admitted to the Bar at age 21, he ran for prosecutor. His slogan was simple: "If you don't want the laws enforced, then don't vote for me." The people of Shawnee wanted their laws enforced. They elected him. He enforced the laws, particularly the local Prohibition laws; this was more than 30 years before passage of the 18th Amendment. He also stood for women's suffrage: the right to vote.

Mainly though, the boy they called Indian Charley believed in assimilation. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1892, he would serve 14 years in the House, and then 20 of the next 22 years in the Senate, where he rose to the Senate majority leader upon the death of Henry Cabot Lodge. As Senate Republican Whip, Charles Curtis had a knack for getting legislation passed, which was why he was the natural successor to Henry Cabot Lodge.
It's intriguing to think what might have been...

Filibuster Follies

Seriously, guys, what?
Of course this move is political. It was political when Reid nuked the filibuster for Obama’s non-SCOTUS presidential appointees. If Democrats win big in 2016, with Hillary elected president and Reid back in charge of the Senate, he’ll go ahead and nuke the SCOTUS filibuster too and most of the hacks in the media who’d be shrieking if the GOP had done it will applaud. If Republicans are willing to base their strategy on something as momentous as Supreme Court vacancies on how media hypocrites react, we’re in more trouble than I thought.
You weren't elected to make Harry Reid's job easier...

Banking The Memory

Your memories will live on:
The idea that a memory could prove so enduring that it might grant its holder immortality is a romantic notion that could only be held by a young poet, unbothered by the aches and scars of age.

Nevertheless, while Sandburg’s memories failed to save him, they survived him. Humans have, since the first paintings scratched on cave walls, sought to confound the final vanishing of memory. Oral history, diary, memoir, photography, film and poetry: all tools in humanity’s arsenal in the war against time’s whitewash. Today we bank our memories onto the internet’s enigmatic servers, those humming vaults tucked away in the cooling climate of the far North or South. There’s the Facebook timeline that records our most significant life events, the Instagram account on which we store our likeness, the Gmail inbox that documents our conversations, and the YouTube channel that broadcasts how we move, talk or sing. We collect and curate our memories more thoroughly than ever before, in every case grasping for a certain kind of immortality.
That which survives may be mere vanity...

No College Credit

Sending your kids to college? Hold onto your wallet even more:
Why target a tax benefit that goes to a lot of your supporters (and donors), that tickles one of the sweetest spots in American politics (subsidizing higher education), and that will hit a lot of people who make less than the $250,000 a year that has become the administration's de facto definition of "rich"?

Presumably, because you're running out of other places to get the money. The top tax rate on people who make more than $413,000 ($464,000 for married couples) is already almost 40 percent. That's on top of Medicare taxes (2.9 percent, not capped), Social Security taxes, state and local taxes (in a deep blue area like New York City, these can amount to 10 percent, though you get some of that back by deducting state taxes from your federal tax) -- a marginal tax rate of around 45 to 50 percent in blue states, and possibly even more if you run a business.
Some say that a four-year degree increasingly isn't worth it. Under this scheme, it really isn't...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Like A Rolling Stone

Music for the senior set:
Wondering Sound is now reporting that 50,000 of AARP’s subscribers will be chosen at random to receive a free copy of Shadows in the Night, which is composed entirely of Sinatra renditions.

In his first interview in three years, Dylan told AARP about the album, which will be released next month. “People talk about Frank all the time,” Dylan said. “He has this ability to get inside of the song in a sort of a conversational way. Frank sang to you – not at you. I never wanted to be a singer that sings at somebody. I’ve always wanted to sing to somebody.”
Ironically, he is now a senior citizen himself. Things have come full circle...

Bean Time

I thought coffee was supposed to wake you up:
Brazilian scientists have discovered a protein in coffee that has effects similar to pain reliever morphine, researchers at the state University of Brasilia (UnB) and state-owned Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation Embrapa said Saturday.

Embrapa said its genetics and biotech division, teaming up with UnB scientists, had discovered "previously unknown protein fragments" with morphine-like effects in that they possess "analgesic and mildly tranquilizing" qualities.

The company added tests on laboratory mice showed that the opioid peptides, which are naturally occurring biological molecules, appeared to have a longer-lasting effect on the mice than morphine itself.
The anti-Espresso?

No Happy Time For Us, Please, We're Japanese

Why aren't the japanese having sex?
To examine Japanese attitudes toward sex, the Japan Family Planning Association interviewed 3,000 subjects, both male and female, about their sex lives. The group found that 49.3 percent of participants (48.3 percent of men, 50.1 percent of women) had not had sex in the past month. 21.3 percent of married men said they were too tired after work (versus 17.8 percent of women). Of men, 15.7 percent answered that they were no longer interested, after having children. 23.8 percent of women said sex was “bothersome.”

There are a number of diagnoses for this aversion to the bedroom. Morinaga Takuro, an economic analyst and TV personality, believes this has something to do with attractiveness. He has suggested a “handsome tax”: “If we impose a handsome tax on men who look good to correct the injustice only slightly, then it will become easier for ugly men to find love, and the number of people getting married will increase.”
Many would argue that love is already expensive enough...

Le Speech, Non?

Where free speech isn't:
Many countries have laws limiting free speech, and on paper most hate-speech rules do not discriminate against any particular faith or group. In Britain, recent prosecutions include a white supremacist convicted of sending a threatening anti-Semitic tweet to a lawmaker; a Muslim teenager tried for posting on Facebook that "all soldiers should die and go to hell"; and a 22-year-old man jailed for posting anti-Muslim comments on Facebook after two al-Qaida-inspired attackers murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
French law bans promoting racial or religious hatred, as well as inciting or defending terrorism or crimes against humanity — a line that prosecutors say Dieudonne's remarks crossed.
Blasphemy, in contrast, is not illegal in France, so Charlie Hebdo's mockery of religion is regarded differently.
But the line between religious satire and hate speech is not always clear, and Charlie Hebdo was sued by Muslim groups for "publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion" over cartoons it ran in 2006. The paper was acquitted, with the court ruling that the cartoons took aim at extremists, not Islam.
It's always free until somebody's offended...

Prince's Lost Trust

What's happening to black wealth?
Today, the nation’s highest-income majority-black county stands out for a different reason — its residents have lost far more wealth than families in neighboring, majority-white suburbs. And while every one of these surrounding counties is enjoying a strong rebound in housing prices and their economies, Prince George’s is lagging far behind, and local economists say a full recovery appears unlikely anytime soon.

The same reversal of fortune is playing out across the country as black families who worked painstakingly to climb into the middle class are seeing their financial foundation for future generations collapse. Although African Americans have made once-unthinkable political and social gains since the civil rights era, the severe and continuing damage wrought by the downturn — an entire generation of wealth was wiped out — has raised a vexing question: Why don’t black middle-class families enjoy the same level of economic security as their white counterparts?
You can make it, but even then...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blogging In The Years: 1965

Remebering Winston Churchill:
For him as for his countrymen his finest hour came in 1940 when Britain stood alone, beleaguered at sea and in the air. He employed all his skill as an orator to rally British pride and courage and all his ability as a statesman to get arms and sustenance from abroad.

With almost all of Europe under or about to fall under the Nazi jackboot, it was Sir Winston who flung this challenge at the enemy:

"We shall not flag, or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

As the late President John F. Kennedy said in 1963, in conferring upon him an honorary citizenship of the United States, "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
The battle may be over, but the legacy lives on. RIP.

The Kids Aren't All Right

Why we really need to keep sick kids out of school:

Europa, Europa?

The rise and fall of the EU:
There are plenty of opportunities for revolt: parliamentary elections take place in Greece, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Early elections are also expected in Italy.
It might be too early to call this the death of European unity.
But the outlook for what Winston Churchill prophetically called a "United States of Europe" has never been stormier.
the European Concert is becoming increasingly discordant...

No Fear

A woman who is literally unafraid:
Obviously someone with SM's condition (or those with the unrelated inability to feel pain, which helps prevent serious injury) would have had a rough time surviving a few thousand years ago. But when avoiding poisonous snakes isn't an immediate concern, why is lack of fear such a bad thing? In her NPR interview, SM recalls one particularly harrowing event:
"Okay. I was walking to the store, and I saw this man on a park bench. He said, 'come here please.' So I went over to him. I said, 'what do you need?' He grabbed me by the shirt, and he held a knife to my throat and told me he was going to cut me. I told him -- I said, 'go ahead and cut me.' And I said, 'I'll be coming back, and I'll hunt your ass.' Oops. Am I supposed to say that? I'm sorry... I wasn't afraid. And for some reason, he let me go. And I went home."
That's actually just one of two times that SM has been held at knife point. She's also been held at gunpoint twice. And after the above incident, she didn't feel like she should call the police. The threat had passed. She didn't have any lasting trauma, because the event had failed to faze her.
Fear can be a life-saver...

Easy Riders

Supreme Court nominees may have an easier time in the Senate if some Republicans have their way:
Top Senate Republicans are considering gutting the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees — a move that could yield big rewards for whichever party controls the White House and Senate after 2016.

The move, still in its early stages, reflects growing GOP confidence in its electoral prospects next year. But it could also have a major immediate impact if a justice such as 81-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg steps down, making it far easier for President Barack Obama to get a replacement confirmed…

The 60-vote filibuster threshold would remain for legislation.
But for how long? After all, if they're willing to do this for judges...

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Old Arrogant Lady

The editor of the New York Times admits:
SPIEGEL: In May, your internal innovation report was leaked along with its harsh conclusion that the New York Times‘ “journalistic advantage” is shrinking. Did you underestimate your new digital competitors?

Baquet: Yes, I think we did. We assumed wrongly that these new competitors, whether it was BuzzFeed or others, were doing so well just because they were doing something journalistically that we chose not to do. We were arrogant, to be honest. We looked down on those new competitors, and I think we’ve come to realize that was wrong. They understood before we did how to make their stories available to people who are interested in them. We were too slow to do it.
Looking down your nose often causes you to miss what's going on right underneath it...

Rewarding The Fail

Naturally:
GI is a $10.5 billion Montreal-based company that has forever been etched into the public’s mind as the company behind the bungled Obamacare main website.

After facing a year of embarrassing failures, federal officials finally pulled the plug on the company and terminated CGI’s contract in January 2014.

Yet on Aug. 11, seven months later, IRS officials signed a new contract with CGI to provide “critical functions” and “management support” for its Obamacare tax program, according to the Federal Procurement Data System, a federal government procurement database.
In government, you're never too incompetent...

Mike's Times

Michael Bloomberg apparently wanted the New York Times:
Bloomberg’s overture, previously unreported, might be one reason why talk of a Bloomberg-Times eventuality has flared up among insiders in the wake of the most recent round of Times’ layoffs. Given the fact that both sides vehemently deny that there have been recent conversations (Sulzberger “can’t remember the last time he spoke with Bloomberg,” said a spokesperson), this may very well be wishful — or apprehensive — thinking being played out in the echo chamber of media gossip.

But it does seem that Bloomberg is in fact interested in the Times and that his interest has not waned. “Mike has muttered a lot about the Times to a lot of people,” a Bloomberg adviser told me.
Given the state of the Times, it's possible that a Bloomberg takeover might have actually been good for the paper, at least financially. But we may never know-or will we?

In Russia, Food Eats You

Suffering for the greater good:
Russia has for the past year been sliding into recession amid a slump in its energy export prices as well as Western sanctions against Moscow's role in the conflict in Ukraine that has claimed more than 5,000 lives. Questions have been raised in Russia and abroad whether the price that ordinary Russians are having to pay for the annexation of Crimea is too high.
Shuvalov, who is believed to be one of the richest men in the government, said that what he considers the West's attempts to oust Putin will only unite the nation further.
"When a Russian feels any foreign pressure, he will never give up his leader," Shuvalov said. "Never. We will survive any hardship in the country — eat less food, use less electricity."
Shuvalov's comments triggered pithy remarks on Russia social media including an opposition activist who posted photos of Shuvalov's Moscow, London and Austria homes to illustrate where the deputy prime minister would experience the hardships he described.
Suffer as I say, not as I do...

Shut Up, They Said

Muslim students at Vanderbilt don't like what a black professor had to say:
Yamin told The Vanderbilt Hustler, the campus newspaper, that she “could not believe her eyes” when she read Swain’s column. The student also quickly labeled Swain’s opinion as “hate speech.”

She then used Facebook to set up a “Campus-Wide Protest Against Hate Speech Published in the Tennessean” on Saturday afternoon.

Attendance at the fairly brief event was in the low hundreds, The College Fix reports. Students who showed up brought signs emblazoned with slogans such as “Better a brat than a bigot.”

Yamin, who is the publicity chair for Vanderbilt’s Muslim Student Association, told the audience in no uncertain terms that a black female professor’s speech must be restricted if she says “these kinds of things” in the future.

“What I’m really trying to show her is that she can’t continue to say these kinds of things on a campus that’s so liberal and diverse and tolerant,” Yamin declared.
The lack of irony here would be astounding, if it weren't coming from someone at a "liberal, tolerant" university...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Jersey Effect

The Garden State has some weeds:
By losing those 10,000 millionaire households, the Garden State returns to third, where it was ranked from 2010 through 2012. Since the last report, Connecticut lost only 1,000 millionaire households, as it vaulted to the second spot, the group said.

Some groups doubt the millionaire-migration theory. Jon Whiten, a deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective, said long-term statistics show that tax rates do not cause the rich to flee.

"If millionaires were truly trying to flee NJ's top income tax rate, we probably would have lost a lot more when the rates were higher," Whiten said. "But during the 2000s NJ almost doubled the number of tax filers above $500K at a time when the tax rate was increased on them, twice."

Wealth has been reported leaving the Garden State before, however. In 2010, a Boston College team found that in a five-year period some $70 billion in total wealth left for other parts of the U.S.
You get what you vote but won't pay for...

No Needle And The Damage Done

The price of fear:
Some parents have expressed concern over potential harmful side effects of vaccinations including deafness, long-term seizures, permanent brain damage and serious allergic reaction as documented by the Centers for Disease Control. Others have alleged a connection to autism while a number of medical professionals refute the connection.

An estimated 82% of measles cases identified in the outbreak and for which vaccination records were obtained, were not vaccinated for the disease, KTLA 5 reports.

Of the 59 measles cases reported in California, the California Department of Public Health notes that 42 have known links to the Disneyland outbreak. In addition, eight cases linked to the theme park have arisen between Mexico, Utah, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.
Spread the disease, share the responsibility, ignoramuses...

The King Is Dead

King Abdullah has died:
His aim at home was to modernize the kingdom to face the future. One of the world's largest oil exporters, Saudi Arabia is fabulously wealthy, but there are deep disparities in wealth and a burgeoning youth population in need of jobs, housing and education. More than half the current population of 20 million is under the age of 25. For Abdullah, that meant building a more skilled workforce and opening up greater room for women to participate. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships abroad for Saudi students.

Abdullah for the first time gave women seats on the Shura Council, an unelected body that advises the king and government. He promised women would be able to vote and run in 2015 elections for municipal councils, the only elections held in the country. He appointed the first female deputy minister in a 2009. Two Saudi female athletes competed in the Olympics for the first time in 2012, and a small handful of women were granted licenses to work as lawyers during his rule.

One of his most ambitious projects was a Western-style university that bears his name, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2009. Men and women share classrooms and study together inside the campus, a major departure in a country where even small talk between the sexes in public can bring a warning from the morality police.

The changes seemed small from the outside but had a powerful resonance. Small splashes of variety opened in the kingdom — color and flash crept into the all-black abayas women must wear in public; state-run TV started playing music, forbidden for decades; book fairs opened their doors to women writers and some banned books.

But he treaded carefully in the face of the ultraconservative Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and, in return, give the Al Saud family's rule religious legitimacy.

Senior cleric Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan warned against changes that could snap the "thread between a leader and his people." In some cases, Abdullah pushed back: He fired one prominent government cleric who criticized the mixed-gender university. But the king balked at going too far too fast. For example, beyond allowing debate in newspapers, Abdullah did nothing to respond to demands to allow women to drive.

"He has presided over a country that has inched forward, either on its own or with his leadership," said Karen Elliot House, author of "On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines."
The question for Saudi Arabia now may be, will the kingdom continue to inch forward, or will it go backward by miles?

Moneybags

A crooked New York politician has been caught doing, well, what crooked politicians do:
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver mastered “the greedy art of secret self-reward” while lining his pockets with ​nearly ​$4 million in kickbacks and bribes, prosecutors said Thursday, after arresting the powerful Democrat.
Federal authorities also seized $3.8 million from Silver, freezing eight of his bank accounts at six different banks, authorities said.
“The greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced ​with particular cleverness and cynicism by the speaker himself,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said of Silver.
Most politicians are never as clever as they think they are...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

National Communism

Yes, the Nazis were in fact militaristic socialists:

Behind The Mask

What mummies' masks are revealing:
Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.

[...]

The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer.
Who's your historical Mummy?

Drive Time

Californians still like to drive:
Southern California has long been a nurturer of dreams that, while widely anticipated, often are never quite achieved. One particularly strong fantasy involves Los Angeles abandoning what one enthusiast calls its ‘car habit’ and converting into an ever-denser, transit-oriented region. An analysis of transit ridership, however, shows that the region is essentially no better off than when the the modern period of transit funding began in 1980, with the passage of Proposition A, which authorized a half-cent sales tax for transit. In 1980, approximately 5.9 percent of workers in the metropolitan area (Los Angeles and Orange counties) used transit for their commute. The latest data, for 2013, indicates the ridership figure has fallen to 5.8 percent.
Mass transit simply doesn't sell in a city where everything is spread out for miles...

Reprieve

There will be no civil rights charges against Darren Wilson:
A broader civil rights investigation into allegations of discriminatory traffic stops and excessive force by the Ferguson Police Department remains open, however. That investigation could lead to significant changes at the department, which is overwhelmingly white despite serving a city that is mostly black.

The state authorities concluded their investigation into Mr. Brown’s death in November and similarly recommended no charges.

There is a high legal bar for bringing federal civil rights charges, and federal investigators had for months signaled that they were unlikely to do so. The Justice Department plans to release a report explaining its decision, though it is not clear when.
And thus is "outrage" consigned to history...

Deflated

There seems to be something to this, after all:
According to a National Football League letter about the investigation into the controversy that was shared with the Globe, the Patriots were informed that the league’s initial findings indicated that the game balls did not meet specifications. The league inspected each of the Patriots’ 12 game balls twice at halftime, using different pressure gauges, and found footballs that were not properly inflated.

According to ESPN, 11 of the 12 game balls were found to be underinflated by about 2 pounds each. The NFL specifications say they must be inflated to 12½ to 13½ pounds.

The investigation is still ongoing.
So, what next? Disqualification?

When Revolution Fails

Why Venezuela's socialist experiment is in freefall:
The difference between Venezuela and the nanny-state petro-economy in Norway is that the latter preserves itself by respecting private property and foreign investment. From the beginning, Hugo Chavez attacked both, nationalizing oil production and criminalizing private investors as part of his “Bolivarian” revolution. When it did that, it chased off the talent needed to run oil production and the investment needed for all other kinds of goods and services. For a short period of time, their oil revenue allowed it to succeed in ignorance. When that failed, Chavez and now Maduro reacted to those predictable consequences by predictably imposing all sorts of rationing mechanisms which only decreased incentives for production and investment, especially in the legitimate economy. Now that the price of oil has collapsed, so has the official Venezuelan economy — and a populace used to a high standard of living now endures massive shortages and ever-increasing oppression to cover it up.
Chavez and Maduro forgot that the Soviet Union collapsed for the same reason...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Off Par

What really happened?
Allenby, in Honolulu Friday after missing the cut in the Sony Open earlier that day, claimed he was kidnapped, beaten and robbed after meeting friends at the posh Amuse Wine Bar on Kapiolani Blvd.

He was staying at the upscale Kahala Hotel, just steps away from the golf course where the Sony Open was being held, before heading to Amuse, a 20-minute drive away, with his caddy Mick Middlemo and his friend Anthony Puntoriero.

Medics responded to a call at the Kahala Hotel at 2:50 a.m. Saturday where they treated a 43-year-old male for facial wounds, Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokesperson Shayne Enright told FoxNews.com. She said the male declined to be transported to the hospital.

Allenby didn’t report his purported attackers until he returned to the Kahala Hotel, a 20-minute cab ride from Amuse. Honolulu Police subsequently opened an assault investigation, but an FBI spokesman denies Allenby’s claims that the FBI is aiding in that investigation.

Allenby’s account of what happened that night has continued to change, but all versions initially begin with dinner and a few glasses of red wine at Amuse, FoxSports.com reported.
Rough night? Or just a little too much roughhousing?

Time Warp

The man who got stuck in time:
He told doctors that he was "trapped in a time loop" and said he felt as if he was reliving the past moment by moment.
Details of the case have been revealed in a report published by the Journal of Medical Case Reports.
Doctors are baffled because the man does not suffer from any of the neurological conditions usually seen in people who normally suffer frequently from déjà vu - which is French for "already seen".
It is thought that panic attacks may have triggered the phenomenon. The condition may also have been exacerbated by LSD.
....

Although most people experience occasional feelings of déjà vu, more frequent and intense forms are usually only seen in people who have seizures in the temporal lobe, a condition called temporal lobe epilepsy.
However brain scans showed no sign of seizures or neurological conditons. The man also underwent a series of psychological tests to check his memory which failed to show any major issues either.
The student, who has not been named, first complained of symptoms of déjà vu early 2007, shortly after starting university.
If it seems like it's happened before, in some cases it literally has...

Middle Man

From President Obama's State of the Union speech, a shout-out to the middle class:
"At this moment -- with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production -- we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?"

...

"So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don't get in the way."
Or liberal government policies...

Meet My Invisible Mate

Remember when you could just lie about your relationships?
Instead of trying to justify your single status to your crotchety aunt, there’s also another option—downloading an Invisible Boyfriend or Girlfriend, which launched today from private to public beta.

Yep, we’re for real. The apps, founded by St. Louis’s Matthew Homann and Kyle Tabor, let users pay for “believable social proof” that they’re in a relationship. They generate everything from photos and meet-cutes to text messages and actual voicemails—all of them totally fake, but also totally realistic.

“It really helps people tell a better story about a relationship they’re not in,” Mr. Homann told Betabeat.

Mr. Homann first bought the invisibleboyfriend and invisiblegirlfriend domains nine years ago, when he was newly divorced. For years he didn’t do anything with them besides use them as “a good cocktail party story.”
With today's technology, it won't be long before holographic partners are available. Who says fake romance is dead?

Liberal Guilt Get-Together

It's time once again for wealthy liberals to find an excuse to act like they care:
Davos, which has become a playground of sorts for the global elite, is expected to feature at least 40 heads of state and 2,500 top business executives. Former Vice President-turned-carbon billionaire Al Gore and rapper Pharrell Williams will be there as well; each plans to discuss global warming and recycling respectively.

Another big theme of the mega-rich confab will be combating “income inequality” and how the world’s rich can pay their fair share to reduce the gap between top earners and the lower class. Admission price for Davos: roughly $40,000 a ticket.
Do as we say, not as we spend...

The Future Is Not NHS

The end of "free" health care in the UK?
Medical director of NHS England Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said the NHS must become far less reliant on hospitals and needed a ‘complete transformation’ of the way it operates.

Sir Bruce told the Guardian: ‘If the NHS continues to function as it does now, it’s going to really struggle to cope because the model of delivery and service that we have at the moment is not fit for the future.’

GP surgeries need to be given more resources to cope with the pressures of demand and tight budgets, he added.

In order for the NHS to keep itself sustainable, he said more services need to happen under the same roof – for example diagnostics tests and an expanded range of treatments at their GP surgery.

Sir Bruce added: ‘If not, we will get to a place where the NHS becomes unaffordable and we will have to make some very difficult decisions which will get to the very heart of the principle of the NHS and its values.

‘This will open up a whole series of discussions about whether the NHS is fit for purpose, whether it’s affordable, and whether the compact with the citizen of free healthcare for all is sustainable in the longer term.’
This seems to have been evident for quite some time now...

A Taxing Education

So much for "free" college:
Under Obama’s plan, earnings in “Section 529” (named for its location in the Internal Revenue Code) college savings plans will face full income taxation upon withdrawal.

Under current law, earnings growth in 529 plans is tax-free if account distributions are used to pay for college tuition and fees. The Obama plan will tax earnings in these accounts even if they are used to pay for college tuition and fees.

These accounts are commonly used by middle class families. There are about 12 million 529 accounts open today, and they have an average account balance of approximately $21,000. Most 529 plans permit monthly contributions as low as $25 per month.
Here's your degree-now pay up...

Martin Who?

He must have been the one who planted the flag:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ghost Of A Piano Man

It's Liberace's comeback tour:
Apparently, the “hologram” won’t just be a typical projection, but one that will actually be able to “interact” with audience members. In fact, Jonathan Warren, the chairman of the Liberace Foundation, said that those who attend the show will be able to “feel the warmth from his heart, the sparkle of his eye”.

The two partners are working on a full show, not just a short cameo during some other performance. While full details aren’t yet available, such as when this will begin, what songs he will perform, or even what else will be happening during the show (can a video projection really command a stage for any length of time?), the companies creating the experience are looking to take the show on the road, starting in Sin City and traveling around the world after that.
Just because you're dead, doesn't mean you can't headline in Vegas...

Robo Toy

Now you, too, can own your own Robocop drone:
The user can climb aboard the robot and enter a cockpit. Once strapped in, the pilot can use touch pad and intuitive joystick controls to operate the mech’s arms and legs. Among the “eco-friendly” and “safe” weapons features on this vehicle is a missile array that launches pressurized water bottles. “From time to time, it will hit its target,” the narrator on the handy user video explains.

According to the introduction video, the vehicle’s guns do function. Twin mounted Gatling guns mounted on one of the robot’s arms are reportedly designed to fire up to 6,000 BB pellets per minute, which only sounds harmless to those who have never been shot with a BB. The mech is also equipped with a computerized locking feature that tracks targets on a heads-up display and automatically unleashes a volley of fire whenever the pilot smiles sadistically at the prospect of tearing the individual in the crosshairs to shreds. “You will be able to take out all enemies with a single smile,” the narrator warns.
Thank you for your cooperation...

Pay Up Time

It's coming:
The Affordable Care Act requires those who didn’t have insurance last year and didn’t qualify for one of the exemptions to pay a tax penalty, which was widely cited as $95 the first year. But the $95 is actually a minimum, and middle- and upper-income families will actually end up paying 1 percent of their household income as their penalty.

TurboTax, an online tax service, estimated that the average penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 will be $301.

“People would hear the $95, quit listening, and make an assumption that that was what their penalty was going to be,” said Chuck Lovelace, vice president of affordable care for Liberty Tax Service. “I think that a lot of people will be surprised when they get in there and find out that their penalty is [based] on their household income.”
Surprise, surprise...

Selling Success

Why are Republicans having such a hard time countering liberal populism?
Traditionally we saw Americans who didn’t hate or even envy the rich to a great degree. They looked at that big house in the more expensive part of town and didn’t want to burn it down… they wanted a house like that for themselves. And if they did manage to make it up near the top of the ladder they certainly didn’t want a 75% tax rate bill waiting for them when they arrived.

The problem is that the worse off the middle class is and the lower their confidence that they can actually make it successfully, the less inclined they may be to protect the accomplishments of the high achievers. In darker times like that, the populist “tax the rich” message can burrow in far more deeply to the national psyche. In this way, an impoverished, despondent middle class actually works to the benefit of the Democrats.
It's the messenger, and the message?

Cold Town

That's cold:
Oymyakon (OIM-yah-cone), Russia, a village of just under 500 residents in northeast Siberia, is widely considered the world's coldest permanently inhabited town.
On Feb. 6, 1933, an observer, there, measured a temperature of -89.8 degrees Fahrenheit! This is a full 10 degrees colder than the U.S. cold record of -79.8 degrees F at Prospect Creek, Alaska on Jan. 23, 1971. (Incidentally, the record coldest temperature measured on Earth was at the Russian South Pole research station of Vostok, Antarctica (-128.6 deg. F) on July 21, 1983.)
According to Weather Underground's Christopher Burt (Wunderblog), unofficial temperatures as cold as -108 degrees F have been measured in Oymyakon. Mr. Burt says there's no record of temperatures rising above zero degrees F between December 1 and March 1!
So, not the place for a summer vacation-'cause there isn't any...

Whoosh, Sir

How do you say yes?
Instead of actually saying something, it sounds like a puff of air -- a 'whoosh!,' if you will. (The Local calls it a 'whiff.')

"Just if you have a mint in your mouth, it's like ..." a local woman said by way of explanation.

It really won't make sense until you check out the video above, though.

Apparently, lots of people think they've got the sound down, according to a very scientific poll from Mirror Online. About 60 percent of people thought they could pronounce the sound for "yes" correctly.
In a word, yes?

The Silence Of The Monologues

The day feminism met political correctness:
The Daily News reported that Erin Murphy, a spokesperson for the school’s Project Theatre Board, wrote in a campus-wide email, that “At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman.” The Board also wrote in a Facebook post that Ensler’s play “fails the trans community in a lot of ways.”

Murphy elaborated: “Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”
Like those with reproductive organs?

Falling Flat

Everyone has a conspiracy theory:
The New England Patriots find themselves amidst another controversy following their 45-7 pummeling of the Indianapolis Colts.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed via NFL spokesman Michael Signora that the league is looking into the apparent use of overly deflated footballs by the Patriots during their win.

Midway through the game, a ball was taken off the field and out of circulation, Signora told Rapoport.

WTHR’s Bob Kravitz first reported the news Sunday night.

Per the NFL rulebook, game balls must be inflated with between 12.5-13.5 pounds of air. Each team must provide 12 primary balls for testing prior to the game.
Or maybe some people just can't catch a football...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Don't Quote Us On That

NASA backpedals on its "warmest year ever" claim:
The claim made headlines around the world, but yesterday it emerged that GISS’s analysis – based on readings from more than 3,000 measuring stations worldwide – is subject to a margin of error. Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all.

Yet the Nasa press release failed to mention this, as well as the fact that the alleged ‘record’ amounted to an increase over 2010, the previous ‘warmest year’, of just two-hundredths of a degree – or 0.02C. The margin of error is said by scientists to be approximately 0.1C – several times as much.

As a result, GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has now admitted Nasa thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent. However, when asked by this newspaper whether he regretted that the news release did not mention this, he did not respond. Another analysis, from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, drawn from ten times as many measuring stations as GISS, concluded that if 2014 was a record year, it was by an even tinier amount.
That's not exactly a consensus...

Taxman

President Obama's latest proposal for helping the economic recovery is:
President Obama plans to call for billions in tax increases on top earners – including a hike in investment tax rates -- in order to fund new tax credits and other measures the White House claims will help the middle class.

The president's proposals, which also include eliminating a tax break on inheritances, are likely to be cheered by the Democratic Party's liberal base when they are announced Tuesday night in his State of the Union address. However, the tax increases are all but certain to be non-starters with the new Republican majority on Capitol Hill.
....

The centerpiece of the president's tax proposal is an increase in the capital gains and dividends rate on couples making more than $500,000 per year to 28 percent, the same level as under President Ronald Reagan. The top capital gains rate has already been raised from 15 percent to 23.8 percent during Obama's presidency.

Obama also wants to close what the administration is calling the "Trust Fund Loophole," a change that would require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they're inherited. Officials said the overwhelming impact of the change would be on the top 1 percent of income earners.
Granted, the State of the union is typically a platform for presidential laundry lists of accomplishments and wish lists, but why try and recycle what you've already tried before?

Father's Talk

Dad, you're not helping:
In an interview with a virulently anti-Western Russian newspaper, Mr Le Pen, 86, gave credence to conspiracy theories circulating on the internet suggesting that the attack was the work of American or Israeli agents seeking to foment a civil war between Islam and the West.

His comments – only partially retracted in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde today – provoked outrage amongst French politicians. They will also infuriate Marine Le Pen, his daughter, and successor as leader of the FN, who has been trying to distance the party from her father’s extreme and provocative remarks.

“The shooting at Charlie Hebdo resembles a secret service operation but we have no proof of that,” the newspaper quoted Mr Le Pen as saying. “I don’t think it was organised by the French authorities but they permitted this crime to be committed. That, for the moment, is just a supposition.”
Well, there are questions, and then there's tinfoil hat territory...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fat And Loving It

The state shall provide:
A mother and daughter who get £34,000 a year in handouts because they are too fat to work say they’d rather be happy and on benefits than depressed and thin. Janice and Amber Manzur weigh a total of 43 stone and are so overweight they have to use mobility scooters to get around.

But both women refuse to diet and mother-of-two Ms Manzur, 44, insists: “I’d rather my daughter live life on benefits being fat and happy than depressed and thin.” Ms Manzur lives in a three-bedroom house that has been customised by the council to accommodate her disability and drives a Fiat Quibo disability car worth around £15,000.

Ms Manzur said: “There’s no point in dieting, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve always been big and I’m too fat to work, so I have a genuine disability. I should be miserable but I’m happy. I know this is the way I’m meant to be.”
It's easier, you know...

Fried Chickens

So the Feds want to ban fried foods at day car centers:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing strict new dietary guidelines for day cares that would prohibit them from frying food that is served to children.

Child care providers would also be formally required to provide children with water upon request, though they would face restrictions on how much apple juice and orange juice they serve.

One of the more notable provisions would restrict day cares from frying food on site and discourage them from serving pre-packaged fried food, such as chicken fingers, from the grocery store.

“While facilities would not be permitted under this proposed rule to prepare foods on site by frying them,” the USDA wrote in the Federal Register, “store-bought, catered, or pre-fried foods can still contribute large amounts of calories and saturated fat to a meal. Therefore, facilities are encouraged to limit all fried and pre-fried foods to no more than once per week.”
Heaven forbid children should be traumatized by the site of a chicken nugget...

Hooplets

That's an awfully good game:
Arroyo Valley High girls' coach Michael Anderson was suspended for two games after the victory last week against Bloomington High.

Anderson said that he wasn't trying to run up the score or embarrass the opposition. His team had won four previous games by at least 70 points, and Bloomington had already lost a game by 91.

"The game just got away from me," Anderson told the San Bernardino Sun Friday. "I didn't play any starters in the second half. I didn't expect them to be that bad. I'm not trying to embarrass anybody."

He says if he had it to do again, he'd have played only reserves after the first quarter, or "I wouldn't play the game at all."
But then how could you run up the score?

My Son, The Fake Doctor

It's easier to play-act at being a doctor than to actually be one:
The boy was outfitted in a white lab coat bearing the St. Mary’s logo (the word "anesthesiology" was embroidered on the garment’s front side). The imposter also "had a stethoscope around his neck and a face mask," according to the report.

Hospital workers told police that the teenager was inside an exam room while an actual doctor, Sebastian Kent, conducted a patient examination.

As first reported by the Sun Sentinel, the teenager’s mother told police that her son is "under the care of a doctor" and refuses to take prescribed medicine.
But is his doctor a real doctor?

The Hollywood Man

Bill Maher takes on "liberal" Hollywood:
In an interview with director Kathryn Bigelow, Maher asked whether there was real problem with the lack of diversity among the nominees, to which Bigelow said “I think it’s very real. I think it’s a real tragedy.” Maher then interjected “so, Hollywood liberals are such hypocrites then. Because they’re the most liberal people in the world and yet they don’t vote for black people.” Bigelow then seemed to backtrack, stating “well, I don’t know the stats, do they not vote, do they not make those movie[s]? I don’t know really what the data is.” She ultimately concluded “I think it’s a real tragedy, I think it’s a real embarrassment to the industry.”
Well, they all voted for Obama. So there's one...

The Rolls That Weren't

About those Obamacare enrollees:
“The mistake we made is unacceptable,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “I will be communicating that clearly throughout the department.”

Tavenner sent the House Oversight and Government Reform committee a letter blaming the Obama administration’s unfinished back-end system for the inflated figures.

“Once the automated system for effectuated enrollment is functional, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be able to more easily report the number who has paid their premiums,” wrote Tavenner.

Tavenner, whose agency spends more than the Pentagon each year, was also a key figure overseeing the busted Obamacare website that cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.1 billion. Tavenner later apologized for the HealthCare.gov disaster.
You did a heck of a job, Ms. Tavenner...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Creative Habits

Which creative person are you?


All in a day's work: A new infographic shows how some of history's greatest creative geniuses went about their daily routines, and their schedules varied greatly

Property Rights Renewed

Well, good:
The practice of local police taking property, including cash and cars, from people that they stop, and of handing it over to federal authorities, became common during the country's war on drugs in the 1980s.

Holder cited "safeguarding civil liberties" as a reason for the change in policy.

The order directs federal agencies who have collected property during such seizures to withdraw their participation, except if the items collected could endanger the public, as in the case of firearms.

Holder said the ban was the first step in a comprehensive review the Justice Department has launched of the program.
Legalized theft is still theft...

A Question Of Temperature

Was it really the "hottest year on record?"
Any temperature claim of “hottest year” based on surface data is based on hundredths of a degree hotter than previous “hottest years”. This immeasurable difference is not even within the margin of error of temperature gauges. The claim of the “hottest year” is simply a political statement not based on temperature facts. “Hottest year” claims are based on minute fractions of a degree while ignoring satellite data showing Earth is continuing the 18 plus year ‘pause’ or ‘standstill’.
When dealing with propaganda, always ignore the facts...

Mon Ami

John Kerry finally made it to Paris, and brought, er, James Taylor:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Smuggle 'Em If You've Got 'Em

How's that cigarette prohibition working out?
In the newest iteration of our annual cigarette smuggling study, we find that New York remains America’s number one smuggling state for inbound, illegal traffic at 58.0 percent of the total market. That is, of all the cigarettes consumed in the Empire State in 2013 — legal and illegal —58 percent were smuggled in. We also estimate that nearly 25 percent of the Michigan cigarette market is comprised of contraband smokes.
We are all Al Capone now...

Mock Not, Lest Ye Be Punched

No word to your mother:
The pope began to outline what he sees as important limits on free expression. Francis began by joking that if someone were to swear against his mother, “a punch awaits him.”

Continuing more seriously, the pope said: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

“There is a limit,” he said. “Every religion has its dignity.”
There's a difference between insult and satire, as Voltaire would have noted...

Kids On The Range

The right to roam:
On Dec. 20, Alexander agreed to let the children, Rafi and Dvora, walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south, in an area the family says the children know well.

The children made it about halfway.

Police picked up the children near the Discovery building, the family said, after someone reported seeing them.

Police on Wednesday did not immediately have information on the case. But a spokeswoman said that when concerns are reported, “we have a responsibility as part of our duty to check on people’s welfare.”

The Meitivs say their son told police that he and his sister were not doing anything illegal and are allowed to walk. Usually, their mother said, the children carry a laminated card with parent contact information that says: “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid.” The kids didn’t have the card that day.

Danielle said she and her husband give parenting a lot of thought.

“Parenthood is an exercise in risk management,” she said. “Every day, we decide: Are we going to let our kids play football? Are we going to let them do a sleep­over? Are we going to let them climb a tree? We’re not saying parents should abandon all caution. We’re saying parents should pay attention to risks that are dangerous and likely to happen.”
Unfortunately that shows more common sense than the helicopter parent police would allow...

Don't Call Us

Are you elderly or disabled? Don't call the IRS:
Until 2013, taxpayers — including the elderly and disabled — were allowed to leave a voicemail requesting an in-person appointment. But now, elderly and disabled taxpayers attempting to navigate the automated helpline maze are asked to email the IRS to set up an appointment. The automated message instructs as follows:
“If you are disabled or elderly and require special accommodations for service, please email us at…"
But this leaves many taxpayers in the dark. As the report states:
"Demographic research data show only 57 percent of adults over age 65 use the Internet compared with 87 percent of all adults. According to 2010 Census data, only 41 percent of those with a non-severe disability use the Internet and only 22 percent of those with a severe disability age 65 and older use the Internet. For those without Internet access, the only viable ways to reach the IRS are by phone, or in person."
On its helplines, the IRS is required to provide taxpayers the option to speak with a live person. But as the report states, the IRS won’t even answer questions about what lines are considered helplines.
At this point, can they even call themselves a "Service" anymore?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Right Channels

Why aren't there any liberal talk radio hosts?
There are the golden voices of talk radio, the Limbaughs, the Hannitys, the Levins, and dozens of others. Their understudies are in every city in the country where people pause in drinking their lattes or their eaux minérales to say, “Did you hear what Chris Plante (in Washington) said today?” Or in Chicago, “Do you think Mancow Muller could run for the Senate or the House of Representatives”? Or—it could happen anywhere—“Should Rush run for the presidency?”

Frankly I am surprised by the dominance of conservatism on talk radio. There is nothing like this conservative dominance in television. To be sure there is Fox News, but the contagion has not spread to any of the networks. There and on CNN and on MSNBC the left presides as though all America were hanging on every word from Chuck Todd or from George Stephanopoulos. Rather than laughing out loud at their fatuities. Why have not conservative talk radio’s sages made a mark on the networks, CNN, and MSNBC, especially when Fox News is more lucrative than all the news organizations combined? Would not a profit-driven executive at network news or CNN want to broadcast Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin?
They might, if they actually cared about profit...

Blue Spending Blues

Democrats stay true to tradition: The DNC raised just $5.5 million over the June fundraising period and outspent themselves by about $200k, ...