Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Frenchman's view of U.S. soldiers

"We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing "ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events". Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever State they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other. Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine (Heh. More like Waffle House and McDonalds) - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

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Quote of the day

When an organization becomes feminized, priority shifts from efficient and profitable production of goods and services to development of labarynthine rules for the comfort and security of women. Ossification and organizational death are inevitable.

No one's minding the store

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials tasked with preventing fraud from taking place are instead being forced to do administrative work, according to the federal official who created and directed the division of the government responsible for preventing immigration fraud. Opponents and supporters of President Obama’s executive action on immigration say the Department of Homeland Security is not prepared to handle the fraud that will come from the implementation of amnesty. The sheer volume of applications the department could receive millions are expected will make it difficult to weed out document fraud and instances of false representation.

Despite the increasing potential for fraud, Louis "Don" Crocetti Jr., the architect and former director of USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, says the Obama administration has stopped conducting fraud assessments entirely. The directorate’s primary responsibility is to determine whether individuals or organizations that file for immigration benefits pose a threat to the nation. Crocetti, who built and led the directorate from 2004 until 2011, says he does not think USCIS has conducted one immigration-benefit fraud assessment in the past five years. Such assessments allow government officials to identify instances and causes of fraud and then determine possible corrective actions.

Yet fraud has been a persistent problem. In almost every assessment conducted during Crocetti’s time with the directorate, he says, a significant amount of fraud was discovered. According to Crocetti, the directorate routinely discovered that more than 10 percent of the items surveyed in its assessments was deemed fraudulent.

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Detroitization of Ferguson

A major chain is shutting down its store in Ferguson

Big Lots is the second national chain store that has closed since the death of Mike Brown. Neither Big Lots, nor KMART, who previously announced the closure of its Ferguson store, are linking the shut down to the area unrest but some small businesses are feeling the pinch.

"Once my lease is open I think I will have to move," said Binh Ho.

Ho owns a nail shop near the Big Lots and said her business has been down 50 percent.

Her neighbor, Salon Selective, also shut down.

"I worked at Salon Selective and I lost my job. She closed up after the riots her clients did not want to come over here anymore because of all the things going on," said Carolyn Tidwell.

The Kmart at 270 and West Florissant announced in September it would close.

"It’s really bad because we don’t have anywhere to go as is if these things shut down where are we going to go we have nowhere else to go," said resident Sandy Rason.

The Walmart and Sams in Ferguson said they’ve seen a change in operations, however they have no plans to leave the area.



Not in my backyard

The diplomats, lawyers and celebrities living on the priciest street in Germany’s wealthiest city aren’t thrilled about their new neighbors.

Refugees fleeing war zones are moving into the empty office building around the corner from their lakefront road, Harvestehuder Weg, in Hamburg. The four-story building being transformed by borough Mayor Torsten Sevecke sits on a leafy plot abutting a luxury development where apartments cost as much as 7 million euros ($9 million). Locals are suing the city because they’re worried their properties will lose value.

"Where will these people buy their groceries? The cheaper supermarkets are far away," said Barbara, a 70-year-old pensioner who lives in the area but spends most of the year in Spain. She asked that her last name not be published because it would be "embarrassing." "I’d prefer if the government invests the money in a new building somewhere else."

Record numbers of refugees are arriving in Europe, roiling regional politics and leaving local officials struggling to provide shelter while managing their constituents’ unhappiness. Most displaced people head to Germany and Sweden, where lodgings are being created any place there’s space: in empty schools, campgrounds, a boat on the River Elbe, even purpose-built aluminum crates that resemble shipping containers. In France and Italy, many end up on the street.

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Academic bias

I have had the following experience more than once: I am speaking with a professional academic who is a liberal. The subject of the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia comes up. My interlocutor admits that this is indeed a reality, but says the reason why conservatives are underrepresented in academia is because they don't want to be there, or they're just not smart enough to cut it. I say: "That's interesting. For which other underrepresented groups do you think that's true?" An uncomfortable silence follows.

I point this out not to score culture-war points, but because it's actually a serious problem. Social sciences and humanities cannot be completely divorced from the philosophy of those who practice it. And groupthink causes some questions not to be asked, and some answers not to be overly scrutinized. It is making our science worse. Anyone who cares about the advancement of knowledge and science should care about this problem.

That's why I was very gratified to read this very enlightening draft paper written by a number of social psychologists on precisely this topic, attacking the lack of political diversity in their profession and calling for reform. For those who have the time and care about academia, the whole thing truly makes for enlightening reading. The main author of the paper is Jonathan Haidt, well known for his Moral Foundations Theory (and a self-described liberal, if you care to know).

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Recent hate crime hoaxes

From New Jersey to Wyoming, college campuses around the country have been plagued with hate crime hoaxes in recent years. Sometimes justified as trying to raise awareness for progressive social causes, the hoaxes often worked.

The College Fix compiled this list of recent university hate crime hoaxes.

A University of Chicago student admitted to posting racist and violent messages against himself on his Facebook page after claiming his account was hacked. The elaborate hoax was an attempt to shame the school into making policy changes addressing race on campus.

The con artist, Derek Caquelin, initially said that a group known as the UChicago Electronic Army was responsible for hacking his account. Caquelin claimed that the hackers were seeking retaliation for his online complaints about offensive Halloween costumes.

He eventually confessed to the hoax which prompted a federal investigation on his Facebook page. But it didn’t stop more than 400 of the school’s students from signing a petition demanding the university make tangible policy changes to "address the culture of racial intolerance at the University of Chicago."

More here


Anti-Immigration increasing in Germany

In America, "Pinstriped Nazis" play baseball in the Bronx or play with money in Manhattan. In Germany, its the name for people that dissent from the prevailing religion of the ruling class of Europe. This story from The Tired Old Commie Times should be getting more attention.
Its members have been dubbed the "pinstriped Nazis" and they refer to their demonstrations as "evening strolls" through German cities. But on Monday night, an estimated 15,000 people joined Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West, in a march through Dresden carrying banners bearing slogans such as "Zero tolerance towards criminal asylum seekers", "Protect our homeland" and "Stop the Islamisation".

Lutz Bachmann, the head of Pegida, a nascent anti-foreigner campaign group, led the crowds, either waving or draped in German flags, in barking chants of "Wir sind das Volk", or "We are the people", the slogan adopted by protesters in the historic "Monday demonstrations" against the East German government in the runup to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Associating themselves with the freedom demonstrations has given Pegida protests an air of moral respectability even though there are hundreds of rightwing extremists in their midst, as well as established groups of hooligans who are known to the police, according to Germany’s federal office for the protection of the constitution.

What’s hilarious about hearing old lefties talk about "hooligans" disrupting the peace with their protests is it was not that long ago when these same lefties were the ones in the streets being called hooligans. They will tell you it was different because their enemies were right wing extremists and these protesters are right-wing extremists. The near total lack of self-awareness by the old fools at The Guardian is always good for some laughs.

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Magic bullets

Imagine a sniper being able to thwart weather and distance/gravity challenges by being able to adjust the course of a bullet. The bad guys should be very, very worried and that makes me happy. Hopefully, technology like this will never be used against Americans or fall into enemy hands although with Obama at the helm, that’s something to be deeply concerned about. Still, the technology of a maneuverable bullet is ingenious. Sniping is still a trained art form, but this enhancement definitely will give an edge to any sniper.

A bullet that has the ability to change directions. It may have once seemed like an idea out of a sci-fi movie, but it has now become a reality thanks to the U.S military.

According to the Daily Mail, the U.S. military recently tested the first bullet that can successfully change directions in mid-air with a .50 caliber sniper round. This opens the door for snipers to take and hit nearly impossible shots.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) commented on the mind-bending bullet.
"For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavourable conditions, such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan, is extremely challenging with current technology."
A bullet that has the capability such as this one will enable snipers to engage targets faster, with better accuracy and bring new levels of safety to snipers. A missed shot can leave a sniper’s whereabouts compromised and with this bullet they have a much larger range in which they’re able to hit their targets, according to Darpa.

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Torture and drones

There are lots of hypocrisies surrounding the recently released executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. But they pale in comparison to the current Democratic silence about President Barack Obama’s policy of targeted drone assassinations.

Since 2004, drones have killed an estimated 2,400 to 3,888 individuals in Pakistan alone, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. An estimated 345 to 553 individuals in Yemen have been killed in drone strikes over the same period. The BIJ reports that the Obama administration has "markedly stepped up the use of drones. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years."

On some occasions, drones blew up women and children in the target area. According to the BIJ, casualties of the drone strikes include 480 to 1,042 civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.

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Taking land back from the government

With the federal government engaged in a de facto unconstitutional occupation of some two thirds of Utah’s territory, citizens of the state and their elected representatives have had just about enough. So, on December 31, the State of Utah is formally demanding that Washington, D.C., relinquish control over more than 30 million acres of valuable land currently controlled by various federal bureaucracies.

While apparatchiks for an all-powerful U.S. government and far-left activists are fuming over the plan, Utah lawmakers, citizens, and experts say the time has come for the state to manage and profit from its own resources. Constitutionally speaking, experts say the lands should have gone to state control generations ago, as the federal government promised when Utah became a state.

The escalating battle now brewing between the feds and Utah formally got underway in in 2012, when Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, riding a wave of public outrage over federal abuses and land grabs, signed the popular Transfer of Public Lands Act. Among other elements, the law calls on the federal government to hand over control of public lands purportedly owned by the U.S. government within Utah’s borders.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bowe Bergdahl, silence about the probe

Six months after the military began an investigation into the disappearance of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his capture by the Taliban, which held him for five years, the results remain under wraps as senior Army officials determine what to do next.

Bergdahl was recovered in Afghanistan by U.S. troops in a controversial swap for five Taliban officials on May 31. He had disappeared from his small patrol base on June 30, 2009, under a cloud of suspicion and fear as it became clear he been captured by militants.

The Army in June launched a new investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture, amid a raft of accusations from his fellow soldiers that he walked away from his unit on the battlefield and questions about whether the Obama administration handled the prisoner swap legally. But six months later there is silence about the probe from all corners.

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Racing toward the bottom, GOP style

Top Republican leaders in the House and Senate are gearing up to push legislation in the next Congress that would increase the number of foreign guest-workers even in industries that do not need them. They are hoping such legislation would "open the door" to a broader comprehensive immigration bill.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who chairs the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, wants to push his Immigration Innovation Act (I-Squared) that would increase the number of high-tech visas, even though there is no evidence that there is a shortage of American high-tech workers. Tech industry lobbies, like Mark Zuckerberg's, have spent millions trying to secure massive increases in guest-worker visas that would give them an endless supply of cheap foreign labor even as companies like Microsoft are laying off 18,000 American workers.

"If we can do I-Squared, I think it would open the door to real, decent, honorable immigration reform itself," Hatch told Reuters.

As Reuters notes, "Hatch represents the tech-rich 'Silicon Slopes' state of Utah, and regularly talks to tech moguls." He has met with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella and Apple CEO Tim Cook, and he recently told a gathering at headquarters that "there is agreement on reforming the rules governing high-tech visas, known as H-1b visas" and it could "help pave the way for additional and more far reaching reforms."

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Skyrocketing utility bills in New England, so sorry

The New York Times last weekend took note of *skyrocketing* utility bills in New England. According to the paper of record,
For months, utility companies across New England have been warning customers to expect sharp price increases, for which the companies blame the continuing shortage of pipeline capacity to bring natural gas to the region. Now that the higher bills are starting to arrive, many stunned customers are finding the sticker shock much worse than they imagined.
New England ratepayers are suffering primarily due to the fact that the regional grid (known as the "ISO-NE") has undergone tectonic shifts over the last decade, as the region’s fuel mix has shifted dramatically from coal and oil to natural gas. In 2000, coal, oil, and natural gas provided 18 percent, 22 percent, and 15 percent (respectively) of total electric production in ISO-NE; in 2013, coal, oil, and gas provided 6 percent, less than 1 percent, and 46 percent.

It’s not that over-reliance of natural gas, per se, has caused utility bills to blow up; after all, gas is plentiful in the region, thanks to the nearby Marcellus shale, where gas production is booming due to the "fracking" technological breakthrough. Rather, the problem is constraints in gas pipeline capacity. There’s too much demand for gas, and too little infrastructure to deliver the gas. The logistical shortfall is especially pronounced in the winter, when gas demand for power competes with demand for space heating.

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Quote of the day

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." ...  "The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it." --H. L. Mencken

Gazans on Gaza

While the world's media has been blaming Israel for the death of Gazan civilians during Operation Protective Edge, this correspondent decided to speak with Gazans themselves to hear what they had to say.

They spoke of Hamas atrocities and war crimes implicating Hamas in the civilian deaths of its own people.

Although Gazans, fearful of Hamas's revenge against them, were afraid to speak to the media, friends in the West Bank offered introductions to relatives in Gaza. One, a renowned Gazan academic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as soon as someone talked to a Western journalist, he was immediately questioned by Hamas and accused of "communicating with the Mossad". "Hamas makes sure that the average Gazan will not talk to Western journalists -- or actually any journalists at all," he said, continuing....

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NASA, fail

In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space.

Then, NASA did something odd.

As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially "mothballed" closed up and left empty without ever being used.

"You lock the door, so nobody gets in and hurts themselves," said Daniel Dumbacher, a former NASA official who oversaw the project.

The reason for the shutdown: The new tower called the A-3 test stand was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010.

But, at first, cautious NASA bureaucrats didn’t want to stop the construction on their own authority. And then Congress at the urging of a senator from Mississippi swooped in and ordered the agency to finish the tower, no matter what.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chinese trolls

Leaked emails that expose the workings of the Chinese regime’s secret "Fifty Cent" army of Internet trolls are making the rounds among the Chinese-language press. On the basis of the emails Chinese-language media has estimated that the regime employs at least 500,000 of the Internet trolls.

An unnamed hacker allegedly breached China’s Internet Information Office in Zhanggong District, Ganzhou City, in southeastern China’s Jiangxi Province and posted its emails on the Internet. News of the breach was on most major news outlets in Taiwan on Dec. 8, and most of them cited a report from Radio France International.

China’s Fifty Cent army is a group of Internet commentators who get paid to leave fake comments on news articles and social media. They allegedly get paid 50 cents of yuan for every post.

Internal orders for the Fifty Cent army were leaked in 2011. They stated, according to Business Insider, that its members should make America the "target of criticism" and manipulate criticisms against the U.S. government to create sentiments favorable to the Chinese regime.

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Credibility of witnesses

The grand jury in the case of Michael Brown's shooting didn't just face an onslaught of witnesses with conflicting memories of what happened the day white police officer Darren Wilson killed Brown, an unarmed black teenager. It also heard from witnesses who couldn't be believed at all.

Some admitted lying. Others changed their stories under questioning. Prosecutors were so skeptical of one woman's account that they asked whether she might have dreamed about seeing the confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9.

Most of the dozens of witnesses who testified likely did their best to describe what they saw, but a review of thousands of pages of grand jury documents shows that untrustworthy testimony came from some witnesses on both sides.

"It's no surprise that some people did not tell the truth in this or any other grand jury," says CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

What is unusual in the Ferguson case is that prosecutors chose to call so many witnesses, including some whose credibility they doubted.

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Moon landings hoaxed?

From 2005-2009, NASA planned and developed the Constellation Program (CxP). Constellation had the major objectives of completing the International Space Station, resuming manned missions to the moon by the year 2020, and delivering the first manned mission to the planet Mars.

If we read through the lines of official statements that were created and disseminated by the United States Government regarding Constellation, we are lead to believe that funding issues and a lack of desire to return to the moon by NASA executives were the reasons President Barack Obama cancelled the program in 2010.

The truth be told, NASA has been attempting to figure out a way to safely transport astronauts through the impenetrable radiation belts that completely surround our earth and protect human beings from lethal cosmic radiation since the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. The Van Allen Belts extend some 60,000 kilometers above the surface of our planet and have most likely prevented all human beings from traveling farther than low earth orbits (LEO's) and into deep space locations.

Every manned space mission, with the exception of Apollo, that has been attempted by NASA or any other space agency has taken place in LEO’s. And there are many of us that believe Apollo never left the safety of LEO’s either.

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Question of the day

Why can't we send Obama to St. Helena?

Deep state

What is it that pushes the nation leftward even when conservatives win at the ballot box? The permanent powers and the deep state.

While there are conservative enclaves within the major media, they are few. Our mammoth bureaucracy22 million municipal, county, state and federal employeeshas a vital interest in the preservation and growth of government.

Add up the beneficiaries of all social programs, and the number now approaches 100 million. They don’t tend to stay committed to folks who will take away what they have come to depend upon.

Higher education is dominated by tenured leftists and radicals. The Ivy League is "No Conservative Need Apply" country.

Our popular culture, from movies to music to TV, is dominated by the left. Conservatives in Hollywood meet in catacombs.

There are conservative judges and justices on the courts, but few counter-revolutionaries. The decisions that come down either advance or confirm decisions handed down half a century ago by the Warren Court.

Yet, as Herb Stein observed, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." From Illinois to Puerto Rico to France, Italy and Greece, debt-ridden Western social welfare states seem to be coming to the end of the line.

Like the shepherd boy in Aesop’s fable, the right has often cried, "Wolf!" This time, the kid may be right.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The student loan scam

Universities do a spectacular job of convincing prospective students go to thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to gain liberal arts degrees which are mostly an instruction in post-modern Marxism.

After graduation, many of these students have a hard time finding work that can pay back their loans on a sensible schedule. This problem is more acutely felt at the middle-tier schools, but it affects elite graduates as well, more so than many people would otherwise tell you. An elite degree alone will not get you a good job.

Social justice fanatics may be fanatical because they are justifying to themselves the amount of money and time that they spent on getting a Marxist degree that sets them at odds with their surrounding society. They feel that, unless they join the class struggle, their expenditure has been wasted.

This behavior tends to present itself frequently in victims of scams: the more that they have spent on getting into the scam, the more fervently that they want to believe in it.

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Fact of the day

Texas is pumping more than twice the oil it did three years ago more than 700 million barrels of crude in 2013 accounting for more than a third of all U.S. production. It also produces about a quarter of the nation’s natural gas, more than 7 trillion cubic feet last year.

Hacking at civilization

The pipeline was outfitted with sensors and cameras to monitor every step of its 1,099 miles from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Yet the blast that blew it out of commission didn't trigger a single distress signal.

That was bewildering, as was the cameras' failure to capture the combustion in eastern Turkey. But investigators shared their findings within a tight circle. The Turkish government publicly blamed a malfunction, Kurdish separatists claimed credit, and BP Plc had the line running again in three weeks. The explosion that lighted up the night sky over Refahiye, a town known for its honey farms, seemed to be forgotten.

It wasn't. For western intelligence agencies, the blowout was a watershed event. Hackers had shut down alarms, cut off communications and super-pressurized the crude oil in the line, according to four people familiar with the incident who asked not to be identified because details of the investigation are confidential.

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Not what they had in mind

Arnold Kling‘s Not What They Had in Mind is a short book which lays out why he thinks the financial meltdown of 2008 happened. It costs 87 cents on Amazon Kindle and is an easy read, as economics books go.

His basic theory is that each generation of regulators creates an unintentional policy bomb from the ruins of the most recent crisis. They prepare to fight the last economic disaster and prepare the ground for the next one. One of his key graphs is a timeline of regulatory regimes starting from the 1934 National Housing Act until the 2004 Housing Interim Goals set for 2005-2008. They regs as they stood in 2008 were just the thing to prevent the disasters of the previous decades, but unfortunately that was not the crisis they faced.

He uses the regulatory map to explain how the finance industry and government had cooked up between them a way of doing business founded on loopholes. Constrained by the regulations, every player found ways to satis-fice their positions while staying within the letter of the law. They even created off-balance sheet risks that were altogether invisible.

And what you can’t see can’t hurt you. Or so the saying goes. But in reality the entire industry was sitting on huge pressure dome of largely unrecognized risk.

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Japan was innovative in World War II

Normally, it's the Western Powers who are remembered for developing some of the most innovative and conceptual weapons of the Second World War. But when it came to experimental military technologies, Japan suffered from no shortage of ideas. Here are 11 you should know about.

Japan emerged as a world power in 1905 after its humiliating defeat of Russia. Though allied with the Entente during the First World War, Imperial Japan shifted its allegiances after being snubbed at Versailles. Starting in the 1930s, and allied with Nazi Germany, the empire began a series of aggressive campaigns at it worked to assert itself in the Pacific region. Its actions would eventually bring it into conflict with the United States, a development that proved to be its undoing.

Shōwa Japan, knowing it was up against a superior enemy, both in terms of industrial strength and technological sophistication, accelerated its efforts to keep pace. To that end, the Japanese Imperial Army was equipped with advanced conventional weapons, specialized suicide attack weapons, and even weapons to conduct biological and chemical warfare. Indeed, Japanese military planners did not care much for the Geneva Protocol. And in fact, they assumed that banned weapons were particularly effective.

The Japanese developed dozens, if not hundreds, of highly conceptual weapons during the war, including some that actually made it to the battlefield. Here are 11 you need to know about.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Antivirus is dead

Antivirus is dead.

So sayeth Brian Dye, Symantec's senior vice president for information security, in a weekend interview with The Wall Street Journal. The words sound shockingSymantec and its Norton antivirus suite have been at the forefront of PC security for years and years. But don't let the stark claim fool you: Norton isn't being retired, and Dye's words merely reflect the new reality in computing protection.

While detecting and protecting against malicious software installed on your computer still plays a very vital role, many of the sophisticated attacks of today still manage to penetrate PCs with antivirus programs installed. In fact, Dye told WSJ that he estimates traditional antivirus detects a mere 45 percent of all attacks. That's not good.

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Obama got everything, GOP clueless

Matt Drudge of the influential Drudge Report news aggregation site expressed discontent over a federal spending bill that passed with votes from both Republicans and Democrats in the House.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill that runs through September 2015 is now up for a vote in the Democratically-led Senate. Many conservatives, including Drudge, are upset that the bill funds both Obamacare and President Obama's immigration executive orders.

"Obama got EVERYTHING," Drudge tweeted Friday. "NSA dirt on Boehner must be incredible. Chicago wins."

Despite opposition on the left led by Sen, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and on the right by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx., the bill is expected to pass the Senate.



Quote of the day

"Back in 2010 Judicial Watch obtained government documentsonce marked "Top Secret"that reveal between 2001 and 2007, the CIA briefed at least 68 members of Congress on its interrogation program. This included so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." The dates of all congressional briefings and, in some cases, the members of Congress in attendance as well as the specific subjects discussed are included in the files. Pelosi, who has publicly denied she was briefed by the CIA on the use of these techniques, is specifically referenced in a briefing that took place on April 24, 2002, regarding the "ongoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah."

After being the subject of enhanced interrogation techniques, Zubaydah identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) as the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans. Before Zubaydah identified KSM, currently held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, the 9/11 mastermind didn’t even appear in the intelligence community’s file of key Al Qaeda operatives or associates. KSM, in turn, provided valuable intel about another Al Qaeda jihadist, Majid Khan, who, in turn, identified a terrorist named Zubair who was subsequently captured. Zubair later provided information that led to the arrest of Al Qaeda’s South Asia leader.

These jihadists didn’t exactly provide this valuable information willingly over tea and biscuits. The CIA held meetings with legislators as it pursued broader authority for its interrogation program, which did not begin until the agency got legal guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ). A separate CIA report obtained by JW details the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques to thwart Al Qaeda operations in the United States and overseas. Nevertheless, President Obama banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques during his first week in office in January 2009 and withheld information detailing the program’s successes. His allies in Congress did an about-face, pretending to be shocked and in the dark about the interrogation program they had been briefed aboutand apparently endorsedso many times"

White privilege, maybe not

David Ruenzel knew, better than most, about the white privilege that killed him. As a writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of this favorite topics was rooting out racism. And how white racism is permanent.

White racism is everywhere. And white racism explains everything. This mantra of the Critical Race Theory and the Southern Poverty Law Center applied to all white people because, even if they were not personally cracking the whips, or breaking the skulls, white people benefitted from a racist system that did all that and a lot more.

Ruenzel was writing about white privilege for the Southern Poverty Law Center as far back as 1997 long before it became the rage at college campuses, newsrooms, churches, high schools and even grade schools.

By the time of his death, Ruenzel had accumulated many of the trappings of the white privilege he exposed: The job. The home. The intact family. And most importantly in his case, white privilege endowed Ruenzel with an expectation of safety in the Oakland neighborhood where last week two black people are suspected of killing him.

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Staggering unfunded liabilities

November brought two pieces of good news for Californians hoping to regain momentum in the fight against the public-employee pension systems that are strangling state and local budgets. Well, one and a half pieces of good news, anyway.

The one is the result of the mayoral election in San Jose, which pension reformers hope is a bellwether. Voters had a choice between a pro-reform candidate and a union-backed anti-reformer. Fortunately, they chose Sam Liccardo, who supports the agenda of outgoing Mayor Chuck Reed, architect of that city's successful pension-reform ballot initiative in 2012 and leader of a stalled state initiative drive aimed at empowering government leaders to negotiate reductions in current workers' future benefits.

The half the semi-good news is the online posting of huge amounts of data from 130 state and local pension systems. Available at state Controller John Chiang's open-data website,, the data show the severity of the looming crisis and underscores public officials' failure to confront it. The silver lining is that this new information arms state residents to pressure their representatives to act before it's too late. ...

Among the lowlights of the revelations in Chiang's database is the overarching fact that in 2013, California's public-employee pension systems including those for police, firefighters and teachers were carrying an estimated aggregate of $198 billion in unfunded liability. That's 31 times the unfunded liability 10 years earlier.

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Some big ideas are best forgotten

In 1837, the Scottish scientist Thomas Dick had a big idea. A really, really big idea: Build "a huge triangle or ellipsis of many miles in extent, in Siberia or any other country." He figured that because there are some 22 trillion aliens living in our solar system, 4.2 billion of which are on the moon, even if they don’t have telescope technology to spy the triangle, surely some would have eyes powerful enough to see it unaided. Perhaps realizing just what a big idea this was, he added, "Schemes far more foolish and preposterous than the above have been contrived and acted upon in every age of the world."

Here’s what Dick figured. At the time, there were an average of 280 people per square mile in England. And because he thought every surface of our universe bears life, it would naturally occur at roughly the same population density. So from comets and asteroids to the rings of Saturn, if you knew how big something was, you could guess how many beings live there. Thus, Jupiter would be the most populated object in the solar system, with 7 trillion beings. The least populated would be Vesta, the second largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, tallying just 64 million.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Feminist rage

Feminism is entering a new phase of the movement. You could call it the era of mea culpa. Feminism has rightly claimed "victim" status at the mercy of rapists, and now certain women have turned the tables and are making victims of men, but with slander, the rape of reputation. This isn’t an "epidemic," as feminists have said rape is an epidemic, but the numbers are significant enough to make the headlines.

The story of "Jackie," the protagonist in the notorious Rolling Stone account of a campus gang rape, has been shredded in its particulars. But college fraternities are reeling against accusations that as a "band of brothers" they are denounced as collectives of sexual criminals. Drunkenness is a way of life in many frat houses, and the brothers and the young women who conspire with them should set restrictions for themselves lest they become a generation of alcoholics, but to tar a specific fraternity chapter with false accusations of "gang rape" is not the way to do it.

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Smell of default is in the air

Over the summer I covered the Argentine government’s default on its debts owed to U.S. hedge fundsits second default in just 13 years.

Now fellow Latin American socialist paradise Venezuela is gearing up for a default of its own, as precipitously falling oil prices have decimated the country’s budget and will continue to pressure its currency reserves. Since mid-June, crude oil prices have declined by more than 30%, with West Texas Intermediate (the benchmark measure for North American oil) dipping to $60.55/barrel before ultimately settling at a 5-year low of $61.54/barrel on Wednesday.

A CNBC report on the prospect of a Venezuelan default cited a Capital Economics report stating that a default could be expected by next September or October when $5 billion in debt payments come due. Only an upswing of oil prices to somewhere around $121/barrel would allow Venezuela to balance its budget, according to some estimates. But with OPEC recently slashing its 2015 production levels to a 12-year low in response to decreasing estimated global oil demand and increasing supply via U.S. shale production, a significant oil price increase in the short-term seems highly unlikely. Bloomberg reports that the implied probability of defaultderived from complex financial formulasin the next five years stands at 93%, the highest in the world.

Meanwhile, low oil prices translate into low oil revenues for PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company, which means the Venezuelan government will have to dip into dwindling reserves to service debt payments. Ratings agency Moody’s estimates that the country’s non-gold reserves are less than $7 billion, with only half of that "freely available and usable."

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Maine is full of Mainiacs

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmasexcept at the University of Maine.

UMaine faculty and staff received an email on Monday forbidding candy canes, Christmas trees, Christmas presents, Menorahs, and wreaths in public areas on campus.

"What is allowed our [sic] winter themes, snowmen, plain trees without presents underneath, decorative lights, but not on trees, snow flakes, [sic] etc." Tweet This

"Just wanted to remind everyone that Aux Services is not to decorate any public areas with Christmas or any other religious themed decorations," the email states. "Winter holiday decorations are fine but we need to not display any decoration that could be perceived as religious."

"This includes xmas trees, wreaths, xmas presents, menorahs, candy canes, etc.," the email says. "What is allowed our [sic] winter themes, snowmen, plain trees without presents underneath, decorative lights, but not on trees, snow flakes, [sic] etc."

According to a statement from the university, UMaine's holiday decorations decision was made to better promote diversity on campus.

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Cultural choices and racism

The riots subsequent to Michael Brown’s shooting were based on multicultural logic. People know that police arrest and shoot black Americans disproportionately. They then incorrectly assume that culture has nothing to do with it (multiculturalists think all cultures are wonderful and equal). Then, having no other basis upon which to explain disparities, multiculturalists default to the conclusion that differing arrest rates show that police and society are racist.

President Obama publicized this narrative after Brown’s death. Suppose the president instead acknowledged that the inner-city black culture is broken. What if he said, "Blacks killing blacks, blacks failing to take education seriously, and black family breakdown need to be halted"? Blacks would have then had to look upon their educational, criminal, and economic disparities as sources of shame rather than justifications for resentment.

Michael Brown would have made an exemplary platform for culturist analysis. We must confront rap music’s antisocial messages. In his rap recordings, Brown spoke about killing people and "smoking weed since 9." This is poignant because Brown had marijuana in his system when he died. At the same time, Brown graduated from high school via a credit recovery program and enrolled in a vocational education program. Brown personified the impact of cultural choices.

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STFU feminists

A new report on sexual assault released today by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officially puts to bed the bogus statistic that one in five women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault. In fact, non-students are 25 percent more likely to be victims of sexual assault than students, according to the data. And the real number of assault victims is several orders of magnitude lower than one-in-five.

The full study, which was published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division within DOJ, found that rather than one in five female college students becoming victims of sexual assault, the actual rate is 6.1 per 1,000 students, or 0.61 percent (instead of 1-in-5, the real number is 0.03-in-5). For non-students, the rate of sexual assault is 7.6 per 1,000 people.

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GOP up to old tricks

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, isn't wasting any time. Minutes after the House passed a controversial omnibus spending bill, she tweeted: "Speaker Boehner & House GOP leadership have found a way to needlessly squander political capital, after being handed a historic majority."

The bill, literally crafted behind closed doors in cigar smoke-filled rooms by a handful of legislators and staffers, fully funds President Obama's unconstitutional executive actions granting amnesty to illegal aliens.

The House of Representatives passed the 1,700-plus page, $1 trillion-plus CR-Omnibus budget bill by a 219 to 206 margin late Thursday night, barely two hours before the clock struck midnight and the federal government would have shut down.

Only 162 Republicans voted for the bill, while 67 opposed it. The bill passed because 57 Democrats -- encouraged by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- crossed the aisle to vote yes.

Tea Party reaction to the vote was uniformly negative and defiant.

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