Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday roundup

Large quantities of illicit and prescription drugs are being flushed down toilets. And they are starting to risk people’s health, a UniSA study has found. The authors have warned there is no policy on the safe disposal of the drugs into treated wastewater, surface water, drinking water, or the air; yet the residual drugs are making their way back into innocent victims from the environment and human food chain. Story

Prediction of a European..."When the euro collapses, the social service system for immigrants will fall apart. Then the old ethnic, religious, national and other prejudices will burst out so vividly that each population group will think first and foremost of itself."

Elizabeth "Fauxcahontas" Warren told the Boston Globe last week that she wants to win the Senate race so that she can "bring an outsider’s perspective to solving the nation’s problems". And who better to bring an outsider's perspective than a Harvard professor, a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion and the chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel. If a law professor who spent 15 years on and off government and quasi-government commissions and whose prescriptions have become policy, and who could raise 7 million dollars in a few months is an outsider, then who exactly is an insider? Story

Dennis Miller tweet..."Pelosi is bat-shit crazy. I guarantee you she sleeps upside down."

Bumper sticker...Against Guns? Well Don't Buy One!

District of Columbia spends $29,409 per student per year. Story

90% of weaponry used by the Mexican drug cartels came from the U.S. right? No, and Ann Coulter tells you the true story here

Cities with the highest and lowest rates of unemployment here.

Obama gave his congratulations to the Miami "Heats" for winning the NBA championship.

The heat wave that swept across Russia in July and August of 2010 killed an estimated 55,000 people.

The California city of Stockton approved a special budget Tuesday night, paving the way for it to become the largest American city to declare bankruptcy. "Unfortunately, we have no comprehensive set of agreements with our creditors to offer you . . . that would eliminate the $26 million budget deficit and avoid insolvency," City Manager Bob Deis said at a council meeting. Story

"Let's talk about Roberts. I'm going to tell you something that you're not going to hear anywhere else, that you must pay attention to. It's well known that Roberts, unfortunately for him, has suffered from epileptic seizures. Therefore he has been on medication. Therefore neurologists will tell you that medication used for seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can introduce mental slowing, forgetfulness and other cognitive problems. And if you look at Roberts' writings you can the cognitive disassociation in what he is saying," Michael Savage said on his radio program this evening. Source

Will employers dump health coverage for their employees? Rush Limbaugh says, "If the fine is $800 or $900 and the cost of an insurance policy for an employee is $5,000, what are you gonna do? You off-load coverage, and you say to the employee, "Sorry, I've got no choice. I have to stay in business. I'm paying the fine. You're on your own."

From the New Black Panthers...General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out) of the New Black Panther Party had some less than encouraging words for white people this week. Mr. Taco, speaking on NBPP Radio on Sunday, decided to let white America know that the NBPP will "hunt" their "pink asses down." Hunting white people down will serve to accomplish General Taco’s other stated goal of "destroying white supremacy and capitalism." Gen. Taco also justifies his killing of white people because of their "history" of pushing "crack, AIDS and unemployment" on black men and women in order to "exterminate" them. But simply hunting and killing the white person does not satisfy Mr. Taco: Once [white people] die, we should dig ‘em up, and kill ‘em again, bury ‘em, dig ‘em up, and kill ‘em again, and again, and again!

Another one bites the dust...Abound Solar Inc., a U.S. solar manufacturer that was awarded a $400 million U.S. loan guarantee, will suspend operations and file for bankruptcy because its panels were too expensive to compete. Abound borrowed about $70 million against the guarantee, the Loveland, Colorado-based company said today in a statement. It plans to file for bankruptcy protection in Wilmington, Delaware, next week. Story

The elderly lady acting as a bus monitor and harassed by young kids has been getting donations from across the land in sympathy for her ordeal. The total right now is $668,000. Donations have come from all 50 states and 82 countries.

Based on 1860 census data, less than five percent of Southerners owned slaves. In today's money, a young adult slave would be worth more than $50 thousand.

Assange

In 2006, Julian Assange and associates founded the WikiLeaks website with a noble and necessary goal. WikiLeaks aimed at forcing the world’s governments to act with greater transparency and therefore possibly rule more justly.

It was Assange's opinion that if governments were less able to lie and keep secrets, they would be less prone to break their own and international laws, or at least more likely to adhere to a general rule of decency allegedly shared by their citizenry.

This was a truly heroic undertaking. What did WikiLeaks do to accomplish this task? It created a web-based non-governmental window on government activity through which it made public those official lies and secrets. This information was supplied to it by whistle blowers the world over.

Soon WikiLeaks was telling the world about "extrajudicial killings in Kenya … toxic waste dumping on the coast of Cote d’Ivoire … material involving large banks … among other documents." None of this got Assange into great trouble. The simple fact is that the ability of states such as Kenya and the Ivory Coast to reach out and crush an organization like WikiLeaks is limited.

However, in 2010 the website started publishing massive amounts of U.S. diplomatic and military documents, including damaging information on procedures at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and a video documenting lethal attacks on civilians in Iraq.

It was at this point that Assange, as the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, became a criminal in the eyes of the U.S. government. The hero, ferreting out facts about official wrongdoing, now became the hunted. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, an Islamophobe who unfortunately chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, labeled WikiLeaks a "terrorist organization" and said that Assange ought to be "prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917."

More here

Friday, June 29, 2012

Reparations in kind

Between 1945 and 1950, Europe witnessed the largest episode of forced migration, and perhaps the single greatest movement of population, in human history. Between 12 million and 14 million German-speaking civilians—the overwhelming majority of whom were women, old people, and children under 16—were forcibly ejected from their places of birth in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and what are today the western districts of Poland. As The New York Times noted in December 1945, the number of people the Allies proposed to transfer in just a few months was about the same as the total number of all the immigrants admitted to the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. They were deposited among the ruins of Allied-occupied Germany to fend for themselves as best they could. The number who died as a result of starvation, disease, beatings, or outright execution is unknown, but conservative estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people lost their lives in the course of the operation.

Most disturbingly of all, tens of thousands perished as a result of ill treatment while being used as slave labor (or, in the Allies' cynical formulation, "reparations in kind") in a vast network of camps extending across central and southeastern Europe—many of which, like Auschwitz I and Theresienstadt, were former German concentration camps kept in operation for years after the war. As Sir John Colville, formerly Winston Churchill's private secretary, told his colleagues in the British Foreign Office in 1946, it was clear that "concentration camps and all they stand for did not come to an end with the defeat of Germany." Ironically, no more than 100 or so miles away from the camps being put to this new use, the surviving Nazi leaders were being tried by the Allies in the courtroom at Nuremberg on a bill of indictment that listed "deportation and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population" under the heading of "crimes against humanity."

More here

All is well

Perks shrinking

More signs of trouble in China. This time the news is that cash-strapped local governments are having to sell off the luxury cars assigned as perks to government officials. These cars are a badge of office throughout China’s vast bureaucracy, even in the middle ranks of government. Such perquisites have traditionally attracted considerable anger among the population. Particularly ostentatious vehicles (it’s not unknown, albeit rare, for officials to own Porsches or Maseratis) are often photographed and posted online to highlight official corruption.

That these cars are now being sold off en masse is a harbinger of economic slowdown, the Financial Times reports:
Wenzhou, a south-eastern coastal city hit hard by the cooling economy, sold 215 cars at the weekend, fetching Rmb10.6m ($1.7m). It plans to sell 1,300 vehicles – 80 per cent of the municipal fleet – by the end of the year.

Government revenues from tax and land sales in Wenzhou have been declining after years of heady growth. With the city’s risk-taking businesses struggling to pay back debts, the burden has fallen on the local government to turn things around. State media noted the auctions would directly boost the city’s coffers.

These luxury car fire sales may be a more reliable economic indicator than some of the statistics published by the government. We can be sure that local officials would hold on to their Porsches for dear life unless the revenue outlook were particularly dire. Since a large portion of local government revenue in China depends on things like land sales to real estate developers, empty coffers at the local government level are a pretty strong signal that things are not going well.

Source

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Karnack

Paul Ehrlich, back in 1968, had a best-selling book entitled "The Population Bomb." Among his predictions in the book....

"The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines...hundreds of millions of people (including Americans) are going to starve to death." (1968)

"Smog disasters" in 1973 might kill 200,000 people in New York and Los Angeles. (1969)

"I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." (1969)

"Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity...in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion." (1976)

 

No deception indicated

A day after killing Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman passed a police lie detector test when asked if he confronted the teenager and whether he feared for his life "when you shot the guy," according to documents released today by Florida prosecutors.

According to a "confidential report" prepared by the Sanford Police Department, Zimmerman, 28, willingly submitted to a computer voice stress analyzer (CVSA) "truth verification" on February 27. Investigators concluded that he "has told substantially the complete truth in regards to this examination."

Zimmerman, the report noted, "was classified as No Deception Indicated (NDI)."

Along with questions about whether his first name was George and if it was Monday, Zimmerman was asked, "Did you confront the guy you shot?’ He answered, "No." He was also asked, "Were you in fear for your life, when you shot the guy." Zimmerman replied, "Yes."

Before the CVSA test, Zimmerman--who was apparently not accompanied by legal counsel--signed a Sanford Police Department release stating that he was undergoing the examination "voluntarily, without duress, coercion, threat or promise."

The lie detector test was requested by Chris Serino, a homicide investigator with the Sanford Police Department.

Source

Poverty

The federal government is not making much headway reducing poverty despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars, according to a study by the libertarian Cato Institute.

Despite an unprecedented increase in federal anti-poverty spending, the national poverty rate has not declined, the study finds.

"[S]ince President Obama took office [in January 2009], federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year," the study says.

Federal welfare spending in fiscal year 2011 totaled $668 billion, spread out over 126 programs, while the poverty rate that remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.

In 1966, the first year after Johnson declared war on poverty, the national poverty rate was 14.7 percent, according to Census Bureau figures. Over time, the poverty rate has fluctuated in a narrow range between 11 and 15 percent, only falling into the 11 percent range for a few years in the late 1970’s.

While the study concedes that some of the increased spending under Obama is a result of the recession and the counter-cyclical nature of anti-poverty programs, it also finds that some of the increase is deliberate, with the government having expanded eligibility for welfare programs.

In fiscal year 2008, anti-poverty spending was $475 billion. In fiscal year 2009, when Obama took office, it had risen to $590 billion.

More here

Particle physics

The reigning theory of particle physics may be flawed, according to new evidence that a subatomic particle decays in a certain way more often than it should, scientists announced.

This theory, called the Standard Model, is the best handbook scientists have to describe the tiny bits of matter that make up the universe. But many physicists suspect the Standard Model has some holes in it, and findings like this may point to where those holes are hiding.

Inside the BaBar experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., researchers observe collisions between electrons and their antimatter partners, positrons (scientists think all matter particles have antimatter counterparts with equal mass but opposite charge). When these particles collide, they explode into energy that converts into new particles. These often include so-called B-bar mesons, which are made of both matter and antimatter, specifically a bottom quark and an antiquark. If that wasn't too much of a headache, this process has the impenetrable moniker "B to D-star-tau-nu."

The BaBar researchers were looking for a particular decay process where B-bar mesons decay into three other particles: a D meson (a quark and an antiquark, one of which is "charm" flavored), an antineutrino (the antimatter partner of the neutrino) and a tau lepton (a cousin of an electron).

What they found is that this process apparently happens more often than the Standard Model predicts it will.

"The excess over the Standard Model prediction is exciting," BaBar spokesperson Michael Roney of the University of Victoria in Canada said in a statement. "But before we can claim an actual discovery, other experiments have to replicate it and rule out the possibility this isn't just an unlikely statistical fluctuation."

More here

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here and there

The global environment summit concluding Friday, which drew nearly 100 world leaders and more than 45,000 other people to Rio de Janiero and cost tens of millions of dollars, may produce one lasting legacy: Convincing people it’s not worth holding global summits. Story

U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, estimates that up to 27 million people are living in slavery around the world, according to the Secretary of State's annual report into human trafficking.

Putting priests in jail. It's about time! Story

Strangest story of the week...Officials at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials told guests during a dinner to hurry and finish their meals because no knives and forks would be allowed in the room once President Obama entered the room. Conservative wags were wondering if the president feared being stabbed by some malcontented voter.

Massachusetts GOP officials bought Elizabeth Warren a membership to Ancestry.com. Ha.

One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favor of English, Mandarin, or Spanish. What is lost when a language goes silent? Story

Almost 150 missiles were fired into Israel from Gaza last week. Mainstream media yawns.

88% of Somali immigrants in the UK are on unemployment benefits.

Four Cherokee women went to Boston this week to try to meet Elizabeth Warren to show Warren genealogical evidence proving that Warren has no Cherokee ancestry, and to explain to Warren why her continued insistence that she is Cherokee is offensive. Story

Ever notice how the places that are in the deepest financial trouble — Europe, California in the U.S., Ontario in Canada — are the ones that fell hardest for the myth of green energy? Story

Soledad O'Brien is brain-dead. Here's her take on the Fast and Furious scandal..."So because the Attorney General does not support gun rights in the way you support gun rights, you believe he should be held in contempt..."

Egypt's new president is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. What could go wrong? Earlier this year he told his supporters, "Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca, or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem."

Question of the day...What if Walmart sold 2500 guns illegally, walked them into Mexico, and hid the documentation from Congress? Story

Maxine Waters says to supporters..."Come on, Tea Party, let's get it on." (politically, not sexually, I presume, and hope)

Headline of the day...Sandusky found Guilty -- From Penn State to State Pen

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is rumored to be on the way out of her job as Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee. Conservative wags are hoping she remains in the job since she is such a rich source of humor.

So what did you do this past Sunday? Obama played his 101st round of golf.

Bumper sticker...Four years are enough. Time for a change.

According to a Rasmussen poll, only 22% of Americans thinks the government has the consent of the governed.

...the traditional media outlets are dishonest. They are increasingly unmasked as propaganda arms for the left. The media today have one goal: to shape the news, change the message, even lie about the news to advance a collectivist, pro-sharia agenda. People have been burned, and burned badly. They are turning to alternative sources, particularly honest pro-freedom blogs, for the truth. Story

The head of the House oversight panel suggests the real reason for the administration's invoking executive privilege in the Fast and Furious case is to hide proof that the operation was part of a push for gun control. Defenders of President Obama's use of executive privilege to provide cover for Attorney General Eric Holder in the gun-running fiasco that resulted in the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata may dismiss it as just another conspiracy theory. But the suggestion by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that the deadly operation was conceived to advance the administration's gun-control agenda is quite plausible. Story

"Unauthorized immigrants" seems to be the new politically correct term for illegals. It's beginning to pop up more and and more in stories. Wonder why "undocumented immigrants" is being squeezed out?

According to the Wall Street Journal...Even in the face of recent bad economic news, Mr. Obama has managed to keep his narrow lead of three points against Mr. Romney in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Tuesday night.

Inside the wire

More than 100 investigations into suspected Islamic extremists within the military have been carried out by the FBI, including 12 cases considered serious, NPR is reporting. Investigators believe the main target to be military bases. NPR reports:
Officials define that [a serious case] as a case requiring a formal investigation to gather information against suspects who appear to have demonstrated a strong intent to attack military targets. This is the first time the figures have been publicly disclosed.

The FBI and Department of Defense call these cases "insider threats." They include not just active and reserve military personnel but also individuals who have access to military facilities such as contractors and close family members with dependent ID cards.

Officials would not provide details about the cases and the FBI would not confirm the numbers, but they did say that cases seen as serious could include, among others things, suspects who seem to be planning an attack or were in touch with "dangerous individuals" who were goading them to attack.

The investigation was discussed at a closed hearing on Capitol Hill in December. Though the FBI and Defense Department would not disclose details, Sen. Joseph Lieberman spoke to the radio network:
"I was surprised and struck by the numbers; they were larger than I expected," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, told NPR. He stopped short of confirming the numbers.

"I know one can say that as a percentage of the millions of people in active military service or working with contractors, the numbers you talk about are a small percentage of the total, but the reality is it only took one man, Nidal Hasan, to kill 13 people at Fort Hood and injure a lot more," Lieberman said.

More here

Biden

Senator Joe Biden in 2007...

"The executive privilege only covers communications between the president and his advisors," Biden said in a Boston Globe interview published in Dec. 20, 2007. "Even when the privilege does apply, it is not absolute; it may be outweighed by the public’s interest in the fair administration of justice."

Biden, then serving as a U.S. senator from Delaware and seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was speaking about President Bush and the issues of warrantless surveillance and interrogation of terror suspects in his interview with the Globe.

Source

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bath salts

The drug being blamed for a spate of cannibal attacks in the U.S. is entering the country from the UK.

Horrific assaults in which users of a substance known as 'bath salts' have eaten victims' flesh have given rise to speculation that America is in the throes of a 'zombie apocalypse'.

Getting hold of the drug via the internet can be shockingly easy, requiring just a few clicks of the mouse and no proof of age, a U.S. news channel discovered.

Bath salts have been linked to a number of disturbing cases over the past month - including that of Rudy Eugene, who was shot dead by police as he bit off most of his homeless victim's face. Officers in Miami opened fire after Eugene ignored their orders to stop, snarling at them as he stood over 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, who was left partially blind.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, 42-year-old Carl Jacquneaux is alleged to have torn off part of his neighbour's cheek - and is believed to have taken bath salts or a similar drug. Todd Credeur, 48, is married to Jacquneaux's ex-wife and said he only managed to escape by spraying wasp poison in the man's face.

Meanwhile, again in Miami, homeless Brandon de Leon threatened to eat a police officer after he was arrested during a fight at a restaurant. The 21-year-old gnashed his teeth, growled and tried to bite the man, who was tending to his self-inflicted wounds after he smashed his own head against the inside of a patrol car and then on the walls of a cell.

And on June 12, a 35-year-old mother punched and choked her young son while under the influence of bath salts. After beating the three-year-old, Pamela McCarthy was pictured rampaging naked through the streets of Munnsville, New York, as she attacked her neighbours and strangled one of her dogs. She later died of a heart attack after police subdued her with a Taser.

The drug has been described as a synthetic alternative to cocaine and methamphetamine and is sold under a variety of names including Cloud 9, Tranquility and Ivory Wave.

More here

VP candidates

Rumors of war

A continuation of bailouts in Europe could ultimately spark another world war, says international investor Jim Rogers.

As an alternative, he recommends a combination of capitalism and socialism to weed out weak European banks and companies and to support the strong.

"This is how we got into World War II," Rogers tells Yahoo, referring to Europe’s handling of its financial crisis.

"Add debt, the situation gets worse, and eventually it just collapses. Then everybody is looking for scapegoats. Politicians blame foreigners, and we’re in World War II or World War whatever."

The Rogers solution: "Let the people who have failed, go bankrupt," he says. "The banks and bondholders would lose money, but then you start over."

That’s classic capitalism, Rogers says. "Bailing out zombie companies and banks has never worked. Look at Japan."

But free markets alone can’t solve the problem, Rogers says. Governments must help choose the winners and losers – and quickly.

"If you wait two years from now, five years from now, when no government has any credibility and nobody will give you any more money, then it's finished. You better get yourself a rifle and head to Asia."

But the prospect for Europe doing more than kicking the can down the road now looks bleak.

Countries in the eurozone are split, with creditors like Germany continuing to focus on the need for austerity, while borrowers seek more assistance and want to focus on growth.

Rogers isn't alone in predicting such a dire scenario.

More here

Executive authority

From the New York Times...

When George W. Bush was president of the United States, it was an article of faith among liberals that many of his policies were not just misguided but unconstitutional as well. On issues large and small, from the conduct of foreign policy to the firing of United States attorneys, the Bush White House pushed an expansive view of executive authority, and Democrats pushed right back — accusing it of shredding the constitution, claiming near-imperial powers and even corrupting the lawyers working in its service.

That was quite some time ago. Last week the Obama White House invoked executive privilege to shield the Justice Department from a Congressional investigation into a botched gunrunning operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The previous week the White House invoked powers that President Obama himself had previously claimed to lack, unilaterally revising the nation’s immigration laws by promising to stop enforcing them against a particularly sympathetic population.

Both moves were entirely characteristic of this presidency. Obama campaigned as a consistent critic of the Bush administration’s understanding of executive power — and a critic with a background in constitutional law, no less. But apart from his disavowal of waterboarding (an interrogation practice the Bush White House had already abandoned), almost the entire Bush-era wartime architecture has endured: rendition is still with us, the Guantánamo detention center is still open, drone strikes have escalated dramatically, and the Obama White House has claimed the right — and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, followed through on it — to assassinate American citizens without trial.

More here

Monday, June 25, 2012

Osborne Effect

In the early 1980s, Osborne Computer Corporation was the first computer hardware company to go bankrupt essentially by unveiling a product it couldn't sell yet. The company announced the Osborne Executive, a new computer that wouldn't be available for several months. Meanwhile, the Osborne 1, which legendary computer engineer Lee Felsenstein designed, was still on sale. So what happened is that from the moment the company announced the Osborne Executive, sales of the Osborne 1 fell to approximately zero. Not only that, but various dealers all began canceling their Osborne 1 orders. Ultimately, this contributed to the destruction of the company.

Story here

Obama's Catch 22

In the grand scheme of things, a congressional committee’s vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the failed and fatal Operation Fast and Furious gun-running scandal doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

Even if the full House concurs next week, the matter will be referred to Mr. Holder’s Justice Department. "Prosecutory discretion" being what it is these days, nothing will happen.

But President Barack Obama’s invocation of executive privilege to shield those documents is another matter. In fact, it’s a mountain of a mess that could topple Mr. Obama (if the electorate doesn’t do it first).

By now declaring executive privilege, the administration is legally stipulating that there was direct White House involvement. And it has placed itself in Catch-22 jeopardy: It was more intimately involved in Fast and Furious than previously stated and it has been involved in nothing less than a cover-up to prevent that public disclosure.

Either the White House lied or the White House lied.

Whether it has done so to prevent being embarrassed politically or to shield criminal activity remains the question.

That question could be answered by the House filing a lawsuit against the administration to force it to comply with its subpoena for Fast and Furious documents. It’s the only way to ascertain what this White House knew and when it knew it.

Source

Valentino

With the Roaring Twenties in full swing and the first talkies on the horizon, Hollywood’s booming film industry already had its share of bankable stars—Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton. But in the summer of 1926, an Italian immigrant named Rodolfo Alfonso Rafaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D’Antonguolla would join them. Known as the "Latin Lover," Rudolph Valentino would, by summer’s end, single-handedly change the way generations of men and women thought about sex and seduction.

It’s sad Valentino never live to see that autumn. And it’s sadder that he spent his final weeks engaged in an indecorous feud with an anonymous editorialist who had questioned his masculinity and blamed him for America’s "degeneration into effeminacy."

Born in Castellaneta, Italy, in 1895, Valentino arrived at Ellis Island in 1913, at the age of 18. He lived on the streets and in Central Park until he picked up work as a taxi dancer at Maxim’s Restaurant-Caberet, becoming a "tango pirate" and spending time on the dance floor with wealthy women who were willing to pay for the company of exotic young men.

Valentino quickly befriended a Chilean heiress, which might have seemed like a good idea, but she was unhappily married to a well-connected businessman named John de Saulles. When Blanca de Saulles divorced her husband in 1915, Valentino testified that he had evidence that John de Saulles had been having multiple affairs, including one with a dance partner of Valentino’s. But his refined, European and youthful appearance at the trial had some reporters questioning his masculinity in print, and John de Saulles used his clout to have the young dancer jailed for a few days on a trumped-up vice charge. Not long after the trial, Blanca de Saulles shot her husband to death over custody of their son, and Valentino, unwilling to stick around for another round of testimony and unfavorable press, fled for the West Coast, shedding the name Rodolpho Guglielmi forever.

More here

Ctrl-Alt-Del

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Repackaging hot air

Twenty years ago, the Rio de Janeiro "Earth Summit" proclaimed that fossil fuel-induced climate change had brought our planet to a tipping point, human civilization to the brink of collapse, and numerous species to the edge of extinction. To prevent these looming disasters, politicians, bureaucrats and environmental activists produced a Declaration on Environment and Development, a biodiversity treaty, Agenda 21 and a framework for the Kyoto climate change treaty.

In developed nations, government responses to the purported crises sent prices soaring for energy, increasing the cost of everything we make, ship, eat and do – and crippling economic growth, killing jobs and sending families into fuel poverty. In developing countries, governments restricted access to electricity generation and other technologies – forcing the world’s poorest families to continue trying to eke out a living the old-fashioned way: turning forest habitats into firewood, cooking over wood and dung fires, and living with rampant poverty and disease.

This year, recognizing that people are no longer swayed by claims of climate cataclysms, Rio+20 organizers repackaged their little-changed agenda to emphasize "sustainable development" and the need to preserve "biodiversity." To garner support, they professed a commitment to poverty reduction, "social justice" and the right of all people to "fulfill their aspirations for a better life."

More here

Obama fake

Courtesy of David Maraniss' new book, we now know that yet another key prop of Barack Obama's identity is false: His Kenyan grandfather was not brutally tortured or even non-brutally detained by his British colonial masters. The composite gram'pa joins an ever-swelling cast of characters from Barack's "memoir" who, to put it discreetly, differ somewhat in reality from their bit parts in the grand Obama narrative. The best friend at school portrayed in Obama's autobiography as "a symbol of young blackness" was, in fact, half Japanese, and not a close friend. The white girlfriend he took to an off-Broadway play that prompted an angry post-show exchange about race never saw the play, dated Obama in an entirely different time zone, and had no such world-historically significant conversation with him. His Indonesian step-grandfather, supposedly killed by Dutch soldiers during his people's valiant struggle against colonialism, met his actual demise when he "fell off a chair at his home while trying to hang drapes."

David Maraniss is no right-winger, and can't understand why boorish nonliterary types have seized on his book as evidence that the president of the United States is a Grade A phony. "It is a legitimate question about where the line is in memoir," he told Soledad O'Brien on CNN. My Oxford dictionary defines "memoir" as "an historical account or biography written from personal knowledge." And if Obama doesn't have "personal knowledge" of his tortured grandfather, war-hero step-grandfather and racially obsessed theater-buff girlfriend, who does? But in recent years, the Left has turned the fake memoir into one of the most prestigious literary genres: Oprah's Book Club recommended James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," hailed by Bret Easton Ellis as a "heartbreaking memoir" of "poetic honesty," but subsequently revealed to be heavy on the "poetic" and rather light on the "honesty." The "heartbreaking memoir" of a drug-addled street punk who got tossed in the slammer after brawling with cops while high on crack with his narco-hooker girlfriend proved to be the work of some suburban Pat Boone type with a couple of parking tickets. (I exaggerate, but not as much as he did.)

More here

Australia fail

An Australian judge has taken the unusual step of writing a letter to two children purporting to explain why he ordered their father out of their lives forever. He shouldn’t have. Judge Tom Altobelli wrote the letter to the kids, ages 11 and six to be opened by them when each turns 14. In his order, Altobelli gave sole custody to the children’s mother and restricted the father’s contact with them to letters and birthday cards. That’s right, no weekends, no overnight visits, no face time at all, nothing – ever.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking "this guy must be a horrible father to lose custody completely." But you’d be wrong. Indeed, reading between the lines, if there was an abuser in the house, I suspect it’s the mother, but it’s impossible to know. But whatever the case, the judge deprived the children of their father for all time "because the court ruled she was the better parent." That’s it. The judge figured she did a better job of caring for the kids and so kicked the father out of their lives entirely. If there’s a clearer case of "winner take all," I’ve never seen it. Needless to say, according to all reputable social science, according to every possible notion of justice and fair play and according to the best interests of children, that’s a stupid, destructive and utterly unnecessary decision. But it’s worse than that.

It should come as no surprise that the mother leveled charges of child abuse at the father in the middle of their custody battle. Those are so common now that we’re surprised when they’re not made. And, as he’s required to do, Judge Altobelli looked into those charges and found them to be unsubstantiated.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Golf, and other distractions

George W. Bush played 24 rounds of golf in eight years. Obama recently completed his 100th round in less than four years. And we've now had 40 straight months with over 8% unemployment. Any connection?

Headline of the day...More Killed in Chicago This Year than Afghanistan

The FBI dispatched at least 10 special agents to Central Florida to investigate the Trayvon Martin shooting, records filed in Seminole County Court show. The agents interviewed up to a dozen firearms dealers, gun range employees and private investigators about George Zimmerman, according to a court document filed Friday by Assistant State Attorney Bernardo de la Rionda. Another 11 investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also joined the probe. Story

The National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 17,000 of the agency's non-supervisory agents, called for the resignation Monday of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for his role in the botched "Fast and Furious" gunrunning operation that resulted in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Story

Nine tall tales (lies) from Obama's memoir.

Two French policewomen were killed earlier this week by a purse snatching Islamic man who was released from prison late last year. Story

Racy photos of Obama's mother. Story

The Telegraph says that European leaders have agreed to bail out Spain and Italy to the tune of 750 billion Euros. "Under the proposed deal, two European rescue funds – the £400 billion (€500  billion) European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the £200 billion (€250  billion) European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) – will buy bonds issued by European countries. … Under the new plan, the money in these funds will not be given directly to governments but will instead be used to buy up debts on the financial markets." Story

Fracking slideshow.

The famous witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts resulted in 21 being convicted, of which 8 were men.

The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department has reversed a decision by its aquatics manager and decided to allow a woman who had a double mastectomy to swim topless. Story

Rush Limbaugh on the Democrats..."I don't know how often they pray, and to whom, but I bet you they were praying for a giant decision to distract everybody from this executive privilege business."

For a $9 billion investment, the administration created just over 900 new, permanent jobs. We could’ve had 20,000 jobs building a pipeline with not a dollar of taxpayer money being wasted. Story

Republican congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina called Nancy Pelosi "mind-numbingly stupid" and believes there is something medically wrong with her brain. Haven't we all been thinking something similar during the past few years?

Hugh Hewitt made an interesting comment about Obama..."this is an administration that discloses what should be kept secret, and which keeps secret that which should be disclosed."

The Georgia Democratic Party’s fifty percent reduction in ticket costs for a reception next week in which Georgians can press the flesh with Barack Obama has prompted some Republicans to ask if the president’s fundraising operation is slowing.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows Mitt Romney attracting 48% of the vote, while President Obama earns 43%. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate, and another three percent (3%) are undecided.

Gasoline prices have dipped below $3 at some stations in Houston and broader drops are expected because of a recent drop in the price of crude oil.

Get your free cell phone here

Getting rid of the elderly

NHS doctors are prematurely ending the lives of thousands of elderly hospital patients because they are difficult to manage or to free up beds, a senior consultant claimed yesterday.

Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly.

He claimed there was often a lack of clear evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country.

It is designed to come into force when doctors believe it is impossible for a patient to recover and death is imminent.

It can include withdrawal of treatment – including the provision of water and nourishment by tube – and on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours.

There are around 450,000 deaths in Britain each year of people who are in hospital or under NHS care. Around 29 per cent – 130,000 – are of patients who were on the LCP.

Professor Pullicino claimed that far too often elderly patients who could live longer are placed on the LCP and it had now become an ‘assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway’.

He cited ‘pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients’ as factors.

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Pension gaps

California's public retirement systems' pension obligations were a combined $112 billion beyond the value of their assets in 2010, according to a report released this week, with anticipated retiree health costs adding another $77 billion in unfunded liabilities.

The study issued by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Pew Center for the States, says that the combined pension and health costs are both a cause for serious concerns.

California's total long-term retirement and health costs two years ago totaled $593.7 billion, according to data collected by Pew, but the funds paid just 75 percent of the recommended contribution into pension plans and 29 percent of what the state should have paid to fund retiree health benefits.

Experts generally agree that healthy pension funds keep their unfunded liabilities to 20 percent or less.

Nationally, states continued to lose ground in 2010 to cover the long-term costs. In fiscal 2010, states fell a combined $1.38 trillion short of having saved enough to pay their long-term retirement bills, up 9 percent from the year before.

Pew found that only Wisconsin had fully funded its pension plan in 2010 and that 34 states were below the 80 percent threshold.

Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, and Rhode Island, with pensions funded under 55 percent in 2010, were the nation's pension funding cellar dwellers.

Along with Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Dakota and Washington were the best off, with pensions funded at 95 percent or better in 2010.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Eurozone fail

It will be no surprise to readers that the news coming out of the Eurozone just gets worse and worse. The reality is that Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Greece, and France (in no particular order) are all in debt traps from which there is no escape. A debt trap is sprung when bankruptcy becomes the only outcome. With corporations, this usually becomes readily apparent and directors are forced by law to stop trading, but countries conceal this reality by printing money. Otherwise there is no difference in the two cases, despite what politicians and neoclassical economists would have us believe. This is why we are painfully aware that the Eurozone is in trouble, since nation states are unable to cover and conceal their obligations by printing money, having surrendered this role to the European Central Bank (ECB).

The ECB is meant to be independent of politics and political pressures. But the reality facing any central banker is that s/he cannot stand by and let politicians drown in their own mess. The politicians know this, and it's what is behind current attempts to move away from austerity towards Keynesian growth. The plea is exactly the same as that of the spendthrift who tells his bank manager that the only chance he has of getting his money back is to increase the overdraft to allow him to trade his way out of difficulty.

So the ECB knows, in its role as bank manager, that the argument is flawed. But unlike spendthrift individuals, politicians have real power, and the ECB has an ultimate responsibility not to upset the apple cart. And that is why the election of a new socialist French president is important. President Hollande is leading the charge away from austerity in Europe, and he has powerful allies, including President Obama in his own election year.

Unfortunately, the ECB and the politicians lack a proper understanding of their economic condition because they continue to operate within the neoclassical framework that has led them into this mess. The lack of understanding of the relationship between the elements of hard-to-predict future consumer preferences, as well as the entrepreneurial function and the role of time in their calculations, has led to a reliance on sterile economic models. These leave no room for the dynamic and unpredictable creativity of human nature that gives us real economic progress. It is the difference between a proper understanding of the role of free markets, and thinking they can be manipulated to achieve an outcome preferred by the state without adverse consequences. An important consequence has been the creation of credit-induced business cycles leading to escalating levels of debt in both private and public sectors, which is why so many countries have become ensnared in debt traps. This statement of the obvious is not recognised by Keynesians and monetarists who continue to argue that the solution is yet more debt, more stimuli, and the avoidance of deflation at all costs. And it is neoclassical Keynesians and monetarists that populate the central banks and advise politicians.

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Executive privilege

President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege to prevent Attorney General Eric Holder from complying with congressional subpoenas on the Operation Fast and Furious fiasco will blow up in the White House’s face. But not for the reasons you’ve heard on the first day of this legal fight.

Some Republicans are saying—and some media commentators are reporting—that executive privilege only applies when the president himself is involved. That’s incorrect as a matter of law.

It’s important to get this right, because some are suggesting that today’s invoking of the privilege means Obama himself is involved, a smoking gun that could make this the next Watergate. Not true. The White House might be involved, but we don’t know one way or another… yet.

As I’ve written before, there are two types of executive privilege. One is a strong form rooted in the Constitution, called the presidential communication privilege. But there is another type, much weaker and rooted in common law instead of the Constitution, called the deliberative process privilege. That second, weaker variety is what President Obama invoked today regarding Holder.

It’s still the White House asserting the privilege, because only the president can assert executive privilege for his entire administration. (Except that the vice president can also assert it, but only for matters directly involving the VP.) So Obama has invoked it on Holder’s behalf.

Others are also incorrect in saying executive privilege only applies to military matters, diplomatic secrets, or national security situations. The courts have repeatedly held that executive privilege covers much more than that, most recently in 2004 in Cheney v. U.S. District Court, where the Supreme Court considered whether the VP’s conversations with energy industry leaders was protected by the privilege. Executive privilege is strongest when those three issues are on the table, but it’s broader than that.

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Windows

An oft-overlooked detail about Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame is that the attacks all targeted Windows machines in Iran even though Windows isn't allowed to be sold there under U.S. export restriction laws. Software smuggling and pirating are commonplace there, including for Windows.

"Piracy is rampant there -- 99 percent of software in that part of the world is pirated. I know because I spent a lot of time in that part of the world," says Ashar Aziz, CEO of FireEye.

Software piracy and smuggling are a big problem in countries, such as Iran, that are banned from many high technology imports under economic sanctions. Stopping those illegal activities in Iran and other trade-sanctioned countries is difficult and often unrealistic, leaving many U.S. vendors to come to accept that their software is pirated there.

The masterminds behind Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame -- who Obama administration officials say were government technologists and intelligence officials from the U.S. and Israel, according to reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post -- apparently were confident in Iran's use of Windows such that they targeted it. They used zero-day vulnerabilities and other methods for gathering intelligence on Iran's nuclear development program with Duqu and Flame, and then actually sabotaged the operation at the Natanz facility with a Windows worm that ultimately spread to a specific Siemens programmable logic controller that ran the centrifuges. The attack ultimately caused the centrifuges to spin out of control and fail.

Microsoft knows better than any software firm about the perils of pirated software and the difficulty in shutting it down. The software giant, which like other U.S. firms is banned from shipping software to Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria, pushes updates to all supported versions of Windows -- even pirated ones -- as a healthy security ecosystem practice. So even pirated Windows machines in Iran theoretically would receive up-to-date versions of Windows if users there apply the patches.

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In common

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hitler

In the very early 1920s, when Adolf Hitler was still only a local rabble rouser in Munich, two men from Munich’s American consulate made a point of observing his rallies: Robert Murphy, the young acting consul, and Paul Drey, a German employee who was a member of a distinguished Bavarian Jewish family.

"Do you think these agitators will ever get far?" Murphy asked his colleague.

"Of course not!" Drey replied. "The German people are much too intelligent to be taken in by such scamps."

Since the recent publication of my book "Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power," many people have asked me why American diplomats and journalists were often slow to recognize the threat that Hitler represented. It’s a legitimate question, requiring more than a simple answer. But an equally legitimate question is why many German and American Jews were often just as slow in waking up to the Nazi danger.

Or slower. In fact, some Americans living in Germany were more alarmed by what they were witnessing than German Jews appeared to be. In late 1932, as Hitler was close to taking power, Edgar Ansel Mowrer, the Chicago Daily News correspondent who was one of the most perceptive observers on the scene, attended a dinner at the home of a prominent Jewish banker. All the other guests were also Jewish bankers, and Mowrer was startled to hear that some of them had given money to the Nazis at the urging of non-Jewish German industrialists.

When Mowrer expressed his astonishment at his dinner companions’ "strong suicidal urge," his host insisted that Hitler shouldn’t be taken seriously. The implication: The Nazi leader would never act on his most extreme rhetoric, and besides, the donations would keep him reasonable. To Jews who were more willing to listen, Mowrer’s advice was unequivocal: "Get out, and fast."

True, many German Jews understood the danger early on and were all too eager for others to understand their dire situation, as well, including the relatively rare American Jewish visitor like labor organizer Abraham Plotkin. When Plotkin arrived in Berlin in November 1932, German Jews peppered him with questions about Jewish life in the United States. When he said there was anti-Semitism there, too, they scoffed at the notion that it was at all comparable. "Do they ever throw Jews out of subway cars in New York?" they asked, enumerating other acts of violence."There is hardly a Friday night that we pray without trembling."

And yet when Plotkin went, on December 16, 1932, to see a Nazi rally, which featured chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels, he found the event anticlimactic. "I confess my disappointment," he wrote in his diary. "I had come to see a whale and found a minnow." On January 30, 1933, Hitler was named chancellor.

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Lawyers in Love

Passing the bar isn’t the meal ticket it used to be.

Once the surest path to a six-figure salary and a life of luxury, a law degree in the aftermath of the Great Recession comes with far fewer guarantees, leaving many graduates with mountains of debt while confronted by a rapidly changing legal landscape.

"It was a wonderful life. And now it’s gone," said Andrew Morriss, a professor at the University of Alabama's School of Law and research fellow at New York University's Center for Labor and Employment Law.

"The financial crisis reshaped the legal industry. … Big firms stopped hiring more people," he said. "It’s a permanent change. Clients have discovered they can pay less for legal services, and firms have discovered they don’t need to have scores of associates working there."

About 85.6 percent of 2011 law school graduates have jobs, the lowest percentage in nearly 20 years. That number has dropped 2 percentage points since 2010 and more than 6 points since 2007, according to data from the National Association for Law Placement Inc.

Less than 65 percent of law school graduates hold positions requiring a legal degree, down from nearly 75 percent four years ago. Less than half of the 2011 class have jobs in the private sector, the association reported.

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Campaign spending

It's a good bet that there was an air of smug satisfaction in President Barack Obama's Chicago headquarters last month when both sides in the White House race posted their end-of-April cash-on-hand numbers.

Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee had a combined $139 million in the bank while the newly minted presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, and the Republican National Committee had a total of $44 million. And $35 million of that was the RNC's. Mr. Romney's coffers were nearly bare.

Fast forward to June 7. The Obama campaign announced the combined Democratic effort had taken in $60 million in May, primarily from an extensive schedule of presidential fundraisers (including $15 million from a dinner at actor George Clooney's).

That afternoon, Team Obama received an unwelcome surprise when the Romney campaign and RNC announced they raised a combined $76 million during May.

Once Mr. Romney became the GOP nominee, the Obama high command should have expected to be outraised for a month or two. That happens virtually every time after a challenger secures his party's nomination. For example, Sen. John Kerry outraised President George W. Bush from March to June 2004.

But the flurry of fundraisers on Mr. Obama's calendar (11 in May and 24 in June, according to CBS News's Mark Knoller) suggest Team Obama was trying to forestall that or minimize the disparity between its fundraising totals and Team Romney's.

The Democrats' official fundraising numbers, released on Wednesday, showed that the $95 million cash-on-hand advantage Obama and the DNC had over the Republicans at the end of April had been cut by two-thirds at the end of May to $33 million. This is in part because the Obama campaign is burning through its war chest so fast and in part because of the impressive $107 million that the Romney campaign and the RNC announced they had on hand at May's end.

More here

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rubio

Marco Rubio, a Republican who is the junior senator from Florida, has a full head of thick black hair and a movie star’s baby face. He speaks passionately and argues persuasively. Just forty years old, he has the youthful glamour of a Kennedy, with an attractive wife and four children. Tea Party activists love Rubio, and he is surely the most prominent Hispanic Republican in America. His longtime political mentor, Al Cardenas, who is the former Florida Republican state chairman, thinks Rubio’s most winning quality is his humility: "He’s the kind of young man you want as your own son." Rubio’s parents immigrated from Cuba during the Eisenhower years, and, in his first speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, in June, Rubio sounded a little like a certain former junior senator from Illinois, who soon went on to bigger things. "We should never forget who we Americans are," he said. "Every single one of us is the descendant of a go-getter. Of dreamers and of believers. Of men and women who took risks and made sacrifices because they wanted their children to live better off than themselves. And so, whether they came here on the Mayflower, on a slave ship, or on an airplane from Havana, we are all descendants of the men and women who built here the nation that saved the world."

National Republicans say openly that Rubio is a top contender to be the Party’s 2012 Vice-Presidential nominee. He could, they suggest, secure victory for the Party in Florida and win over Hispanic voters in other states, many of whom have been angered by the G.O.P. Presidential candidates’ harsh positions on immigration. Political betting markets list Rubio as many times more likely than anyone else to be the nominee. "Rubio is our superstar," Ed Rollins, a former Presidential campaign manager for Ronald Reagan, Mike Huckabee, and Michele Bachmann, says. "He would be my first choice. My premise is that if you can add someone to your ticket that gives you a state you don’t have you’re way ahead of the game. No Republican can win without Florida."

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Flame

Two weeks ago today, computer security labs in Iran, Russia, and Hungary announced the discovery of Flame, "the most complex malware ever found," according to Hungary's CrySyS Lab.

For at least two years, Flame has been copying documents and recording audio, keystrokes, network traffic, and Skype calls, and taking screenshots from infected computers. That information was passed along to one of several command-and-control servers operated by its creators. In all that time, no security software raised the alarm.

Flame is just the latest in a series of incidents that suggest that conventional antivirus software is an outmoded way of protecting computers against malware. "Flame was a failure for the antivirus industry," Mikko Hypponen, the founder and chief research officer of antivirus firm F-Secure, wrote last week. "We really should have been able to do better. But we didn't. We were out of our league, in our own game."

The programs that are the lynchpin of computer security for businesses, governments, and consumers alike operate like the antivirus software on consumer PCs. Threats are detected by comparing the code of software programs and their activity against a database of "signatures" for known malware. Security companies such as F-Secure and McAfee constantly research reports of new malware and update their lists of signatures accordingly. The result is supposed to be an impenetrable wall that keeps the bad guys out.

However, in recent years, high-profile attacks on not just the Iranian government but also the U.S. government have taken place using software that, like Flame, was able to waltz straight past signature-based software. Many technically sophisticated U.S. companies—including Google and the computer security firm RSA—have been targeted in similar ways, albeit with less expensive malware, for their corporate secrets. Smaller companies are also routinely compromised, experts say.

Some experts and companies now say it's time to demote antivirus-style protection. "It's still an integral part [of malware defense], but it's not going to be the only thing," says Nicolas Christin, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. "We need to move away from trying to build Maginot lines that look bulletproof but are actually easy to get around."

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Union thuggery

Labor unions are notorious for coercive, strong-arm tactics. They have a sordid history of intimidating workers to join a union and stifling members and non-members who oppose that union's agenda. The facts in Knox v. SEIU show that California's public employees' union is no exception to this general rule, resorting to trickery and gimmicks in order to suppress the First Amendment free speech rights of 28,000 non-union workers.

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Amnesty

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Political spending

There has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth as, in the spring, it appeared that forces supporting Mitt Romney would be able to raise about as much money as those supporting Barack Obama. There’s even more now that it seems likely that the pro-Romney side will raise and spend more money than the pro-Obama side.

Four years ago, the Obama forces heavily outspent those supporting John McCain. That made the Democrats spoiled. The prospect that the other side would have as much money as they do struck them as a cosmic injustice. The prospect that it would have more — heaven forfend!

They like to blame this situation on the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allows corporations and unions to spend money on political speech. They did so even after their defeat in the Wisconsin recall, in which Citizens United had no effect because fund-raising was governed by state law.

What’s really interesting is that, if current projections are right, this will be the third election in a row in which the party holding the White House will be outspent by the opposition.

In 2004, George W. Bush’s side was outspent narrowly by those favoring Democrat John Kerry. One reason was heavy spending by billionaire George Soros, about which we heard few complaints from those now decrying the billionaire Koch brothers’ spending as a threat to democracy.

In 2008, Barack Obama broke his promise to rely on public financing and raised and spent about $750 million. About half as much was spent on behalf of McCain, who accepted public financing.

Now, despite the clout any incumbent president has, Republicans are likely to outspend Democrats.

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Big SIS

James DeLong's book, Ending 'Big Sis' (the Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic is that rarest of books, the kind which tells you've long suspected about big government but had never systematically put together. DeLong does from the perspective of both a scholar and practicioner. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, member of the bars of the District of Columbia, the State of California, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and with long and wide experience inside and outside Federal bureaucracies, DeLong is now a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

His message is simple. The US Federal Government has become exactly what the the Founders feared the most and designed the Constitution to prevent: a Special Interest State.

The thesis of this book is simple. It is that U.S. politics has gone astray by losing this fundamental insight of the Founders. Rather than maintain a government designed to prevent and control the power of faction, we have allowed a wide variety of factions to capture parts of the government and then use the government’s powers to spend, to tax, to legislate, and to regulate for their own purposes. The term "factions" is not commonly used now, but "special interests" is a reasonable synonym. Thus, we can call our current political structure "Big SIS", which is short for "the Special Interest State".

The Founders were under no illusions that native-born Americans would be any different from the British bureaucrats against whom they had rebelled. They too in time would become like their like their tyrannical and corrupt predecessors within the imperial bureaucracy, handing out privileges to cronies and selected groups, which they had lately fought to end.

Their key defensive idea was simple. The Constitution would be designed to pit one set of politicians against the other. "If faction could not be prevented, it had to be neutralized. Even better would be to harness faction to provide stability to the republic." To that end powers were carefully parceled out and enumerated; checks and balances were established, from time to time augmented by amendments which even more radically circumscribed government. The extent to which the the Founders would go to keep the special interest or "factional" beast contained is illustrated by the Second Amendment.

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Coal

Coal is the fastest growing fossil fuel; it now accounts for 30.3% of global energy consumption, the highest share since 1969. Renewables still account for just 2% of the global total.

The 2012 BP Statistical Review of World Energy is now available for download. It reveals that worldwide demand for coal is growing significantly faster than worldwide demand for crude oil. And that is just the beginning.

Oil demand grew by less than 1%—the slowest rate amongst fossil fuels—while gas grew by 2.2%, and coal was the only fossil fuel with above average annual consumption growth at 5.4% globally, and 8.4% in the emerging economies.

...Emerging economies accounted for all of the net growth, with OECD demand falling for the third time in the last four years, led by a sharp decline in Japan. China alone accounted for 71% of energy consumption growth.

...Fossil fuels still dominated energy consumption with 87% market share, while renewables rose fastest but are still only 2% of the global total. The fossil fuel mix continues to change with oil, the world’s leading fuel at 33.1% of global energy use, losing share for 12 consecutive years.

In North America, natural gas is increasingly replacing coal for purposes of electrical power generation. As global natural gas prices decline, the same type of substitution should be seen in other areas which benefit from large scale tight gas deposits.

Worldwide, however, coal should continue to be in high demand for power generation and other industrial uses.

More here

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday's wash

Lawmakers are working to block an unprecedented power grab by the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Water Act (CWA) and control land alongside ditches, gullies and other ephemeral spots by claiming the sources are part of navigable waterways. Story

Meanwhile, last year, Barack Obama signed an agreement to create a "North American security perimeter" and most Americans never even heard about it because the mainstream news networks almost entirely ignored it. But this is exactly what the globalists want. They don't want people to become alarmed by these moves toward North American integration. In fact, a document uncovered by Wikileaks shows that those involved in the effort to integrate North America believe that an "incremental" approach is best. Apparently they believe that small moves toward integration are less likely to alarm the general population. Story

Senator Cornyn to Eric Holder...Resign, already

Headline of the day...President Obama plans to make climate change his top second term priority

Runnerup headline of the day...Putin to Hillary: Blow Me

Iran's oil exports have fallen by an estimated 40 percent since the start of the year as Western sanctions tear into the country's vital oil industry, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday. Story

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." - Voltaire

Hey, NBC finally reported on Operation Fast & Furious! Of course, it took a high-profile call for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder to get them to do so, but at least they mentioned the scandal, in which hundreds of Mexicans and two US law-enforcement agents have lost their lives. That’s at least a good start. Story

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. - C. S. Lewis -

California is the nation’s welfare queen: The state accounts for one-third of America’s welfare recipients, though it only contains one-eighth of the population, and there’s no good reason for it. Some of California’s welfare problem can be attributed to its particularly severe economic slump (California’s unemployment rate is 2.7 percentage points above the national average). But states in similar situations have significantly smaller caseloads; for example, Nevada, with the nation’s highest unemployment, at 11.7 percent, has a welfare-participation rate about one-quarter of California’s. In California, 3.8 percent of the population receives monthly welfare checks. In no other state is more than 3 percent of the population on the dole. Story

An overwhelming majority, 92 percent, of people in France want to see Barack Obama reelected president of the United States, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

Yes, we've all heard abourt Trayvon Martin, but have you heard about this story?

Rush Limbaugh on the NFL...Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers would not let his son play football. He says the game is gonna fundamentally change in ten years or less and says the NFL doesn't care about former players. He says he had six concussions, and nobody cares. And he said that if he had a son, he wouldn't let him play the game. He furthermore said (and I knew this was coming) this game isn't gonna be what it is in ten years. There's gonna be a time in the next decade we will not see football as it is.

Chicago teachers are demanding a 30% pay raise even though student test scores continue to decline and dropouts continue to increase.

Voter fraud...A Racine County Sheriff's Department official confirmed to the MacIver News Service that it is investigating the discovery of discarded election-related documents in the city of Racine. At issue are election registration forms and partisan political literature found in a dumpster behind the Cesar Chavez Community Center in the City of Racine. Upon hearing the allegations, the MacIver News Service contacted the Racine County Sheriff's department to confirm that they were looking into the matter. Story

Investors should buy assets in U.S. dollars and other currencies of strong developed nations because Japan may default within five years, said Takeshi Fujimaki, former adviser to billionaire investor George Soros. "Japan is likely to default before Europe does, which could be in the next five years," the president of Fujimaki Japan, an investment advising company in Tokyo, said in an interview yesterday. Japanese should hold foreign-currency products, such as those denominated in the greenback, Swiss franc, sterling, Australian and Canadian dollars, Fujimaki said. Story

ID required to attend campaign event...President Barack Obama's presidential campaign checked the identification of the supporters attending Obama's "framing" event at Cuyahoga Community College today.... Jessica Kershaw, the Obama campaign's Ohio Press Secretary, confirmed in a statement to BuzzFeed that the campaign checked every supporter's identification at the door. "We checked every ID at the door to make sure it matched with the name on the ticket that supporters filled out," she said. "We did this for every person who came in." Story

When conservatives struggle against the left-wing impetus toward more socialism and more statism, we have a fundamental problem because the odds are stacked against us. We are ourselves funding, through our taxes, the very same operations and organizations which constitute the real base of the democrat party. Story

The writer Vladimir Nabokov once declared that New York City is the only place in America fit for civilized living. The rest of America is good for cowboys, buffalo and Paleolithic savages. (he must have been referring to Texas)

2012

Breaches

What is happening with all these breaches of our national security? Why are intelligence professionals talking so much—divulging secret and sensitive information for all the world to see, and for our adversaries to contemplate?

In the past few months we have read that the U.S. penetrated al Qaeda in Yemen and foiled a terror plot; that the Stuxnet cyberworm, which caused chaos in the Iranian nuclear program, was a joint Israeli-American operation; and that President Obama personally approves every name on an expanding "kill list" of those targeted and removed from life by unmanned drones. According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama pores over "suspects' biographies" in "what one official calls 'the macabre 'baseball cards' of an unconventional war."

From David Sanger's new book, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power," we learn that Stuxnet was "the most sophisticated, complex cyberattack the United States had ever launched." Its secret name was "Olympic Games." America and Israel developed the "malicious software" together, the U.S. at Fort Meade, Md., where it keeps "computer warriors," Israel at a military intelligence agency it "barely acknowledges exists."

The Pentagon has built a replica of Iran's Natanz enrichment plant. The National Security Agency "routinely taps the ISI's cell phones"—that's the Pakistani intelligence agency. A "secret" U.S. program helps Pakistan protect its nuclear facilities; it involves fences and electronic padlocks. Still, insurgents bent on creating a dirty bomb, if they have a friend inside, can slip out "a few grams of nuclear material at a time" and outwit security systems targeted at major theft. In any case, there's a stockpile of highly enriched uranium sitting "near an aging research reactor in Pakistan." It could be used for several dirty bombs.

It's a good thing our enemies can't read. Wait, they can! They can download all this onto their iPads at a café in Islamabad.

It's all out there now. Mr. Sanger's sources are, apparently, high administration officials, whose diarrhetic volubility marks a real breakthrough in the history of indiscretion.

What are they thinking? That in the age of Wikileaks the White House itself should be one big Wikileak?

More here

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Doctor attitudes

The Doctor Patient Medical Association just completed a survey on doctors’ attitudes about the future of American medicine. They key findings included...

90% say the medical system is on the WRONG TRACK

83% say they are thinking about QUITTING

61% say the system challenges their ETHICS

85% say the patient-physician relationship is in a TAILSPIN

65% say GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT is most to blame for current problems

72% say individual insurance mandate will NOT result in improved access care

49% say they will STOP accepting Medicaid patients

74% say they will STOP ACCEPTING Medicare patients, or leave Medicare completely

Source

Decline

Fewer than half of young UK adults know butter comes from a dairy cow and a third do not know eggs come from hens, according to a survey.

More than a third of 16 to 23-year-olds (36%) do not know bacon comes from pigs and four in 10 (40%) failed to link milk with an image of a dairy cow, with 7% linking it to wheat, the poll of 2,000 people for charity Leaf (Linking Environment and Farming) found.

Some 41% correctly linked butter to a dairy cow, with 8% linking it to beef cattle, while 67% were able to link eggs to an image of a hen but 11% thought they came from wheat or maize.

A total of 6% of those questioned knew that salad dressing could come from rapeseed oil, compared with the national average among all age groups of 24%.

Although four in 10 young adults (43%) considered themselves knowledgeable about where their food comes from, the results revealed a "shocking" lack of knowledge about how the most basic food is produced, the charity said.

Leaf chief executive Caroline Drummond said: "We often hear reports that our food knowledge may be declining but this new research shows how bad the situation is becoming.

More here

Misquoting

The propensity to misquote the Constitution is an equal-opportunity affair, with both Democrats and Republicans mangling the document. In 2009, House Speaker John Boehner told a Tea Party rally that he was standing with the Founding Fathers, "who wrote in the preamble, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' "

Bleyer notes that the line drew big applause, then goes on to point out that those words aren't in the Constitution's preamble but make up the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.

The speaker of the House has plenty of company. A 1987 study found that 8 of 10 Americans believed the line was in the Constitution, as Bleyer notes.

Source

President Pinocchio

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gasoline

Understanding the stormy nature of gasoline prices takes many things, not the least of which is patience. Just two months ago the U.S. national average price of gasoline was approaching $4 per gallon and the media chorus repeatedly asked analysts, economists, and men and women on Main Street what the president needed to do and when.

Predictably, politicians eager to score points with voters made it clear that if they were in charge they'd hit the Strategic Petroleum Reserve faster than a college fraternity can tap a beer keg during Homecoming Week.

During the same period NYMEX crude oil fell from $109 per barrel in late February to its current price range at $82-$84 per barrel. The national average price of a gallon of gas has slipped to $3.55 and many oil industry observers believe it could shed another 15 cents per gallon before the summer is over.

How quickly the climate has changed. What happened? With virtually zero governmental intervention, the supply side of the equation strengthened while the demand side weakened, both globally and nationally. U.S. oil production, now at 7.84 million barrels per day, is at its highest level in 14 years. At the same time, the Saudis report that its oil production exceeds demand by 10 million barrels per day, so something's got to give. If you guessed that's the price, you're correct.

More here

Supremes

Those poor blokes on the U. S. Supreme Court are having a tough go of it in recent months. Several recent polls show that are large majority of Americans do not approve of the job they are doing, while three-quarters of those polled think the justices decisions are often influenced by their personal or political opinions. The Court’s standing with the public has taken a huge dip. Astoundingly, only one in eight Americans think that cases handed down by the Supremes are based on legal analysis. Columnists across the political spectrum continue to hold the Court in low esteem.

Typical are comments by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times: "This Court, cosseted behind white marble pillars, out of reach of TV, accountable to no one once it gives the last word, is well on its way to becoming one of the most divisive in modern American history. It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution. It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes."

The seedlings of high court distrust were sown twelve years ago with the "Off the Wall" ruling of Bush v Gore. States rights and the 14th amendment were thrown under the bus as the Court ripped away a legal challenge from the Florida Supreme Court in a procedure never before undertaken. The decision basically said that the U.S. Supreme Court will ignore all past decisions, disregard the Constitution regarding the separation of powers, hand the election to the loser, but make it absolutely clear that the decision would set absolutely no precedent in future decisions. Republicans would have been justifiably outraged if the same ruling had come down under similar circumstances on behalf of Al Gore, and they would have certainly called for impeaching those judges who completely disregarded the constitution.

Esquire Magazine’s Stephen Marche, in this month’s edition, summed up the growing feeling throughout the country. "The collapse of Americans’ faith in the Supreme Court has been recent but dramatic. The idea of the Court as an above-the-fray guardian of the Constitution is, by this point, strictly the stuff of civics classes and nostalgia. In ordinary life, the law has never been held in as much contempt as it is now. Quite simply, nobody follows it anymore."

The Court has been damaged not only by a series of questionable decisions, but just as much by the antics of the members themselves. Justices on the nation’s highest court complain about their low salary. But the plain truth is that the court as a whole just does not work very hard. Some 10,000 petitions are filed in the Supreme Court each year, and almost all of them are turned aside. This year, the court might consider some 60 cases. They never worked too hard in the past, but at least up until some 15 years ago, the normal load was 125 cases or more.

But no longer. The Supremes need more time for other pursuits. Come summer time, there are no thoughts of carrying out the constitutional responsibility of considering cases of those who feel they are aggrieved. No, it’s time to head off for speaking junkets and lucrative teaching posts far and beyond. Last summer, Justice Anthony Kennedy picked up extra bucks teaching law in Salzburg where he has hung out each summer since 1989. Justice Samuel Alito prefers the beach and teaches in Malibu at Pepperdine University’s Oceanside campus. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has bonded with the popular tourist town of Sorrento, Italy overlooking the Bay of Naples where she regularly teaches. And Chief Justice John Roberts was paid $15,000 to teach a one week course in Vienna last summer.

More here

more on Solyndra

On the day it closed, Solyndra said it was laying off 1,100 full-time and temporary employees.

But 1,861 workers lost their jobs as the solar panel manufacturer shut its doors, according to U.S. Labor Department documents provided to The Bay Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents also show the Fremont-based company increased production in 2011, even though it failed to sell all the panels it made the previous year.

By the time it closed last August, Solyndra had an unsold inventory of more than 23 megawatts – enough solar panels to power about 23,000 homes.

Analysts said the revelations are likely to add new fuel to the partisan fire surrounding the demise of Solyndra, which received a $535 million federal loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009.

More here

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Perestroika in California

When Jerry Brown was elected governor for a third time in 2010, there was widespread hope that he would repair the state’s crumbling and dysfunctional political edifice. But instead of becoming a Californian Mikhail Gorbachev, he has turned out to be something more resembling Konstantin Chernenko or Yuri Andropov, an aged hegemon desperately trying to save a dying system.

As with the old party bosses in Russia, Brown’s distinct lack of courage has only worsened California’s lurch toward fiscal and economic disaster. Yet as the budget woes worsen, other Californians, including some Democrats, are beginning to recognize the need for perestroika in the Golden State. This was most evident in the overwhelming vote last week in two key cities, San Diego and San Jose, to reform public employee pensions, a huge reversal after decades of ever more expansive public union power in the state.

California’s "progressive" approach has been enshrined in what is essentially a one-party state that is almost Soviet in its rigidity and inability to adapt to changing conditions. With conservatives, most businesses and taxpayer advocates marginalized, California politics has become the plaything of three powerful interest groups: public-sector unions, the Bay Area/Silicon Valley elite and the greens. Their agendas, largely unrestrained by serious opposition, have brought this great state to its knees.

California’s ruling troika has been melded by a combination of self-interest and a common ideology. Their ruling tenets center on support for an ever more intrusive, and expensive, state apparatus; the need to turn California into an Ecotopian green state; and a shared belief that the "genius" of Silicon Valley can pay for all of this.

Now this world view is foundering on the rocks of economic reality. The Soviet Union armed itself to the teeth and sent cosmonauts into space while the public waited on line for toothpaste and sausages. Similarly, Californians suffer from a combination of high taxes and intrusive regulation coupled with a miserable education system — the state’s students now rank 47th in science achievement — and a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure.

More here