February 2015 Archives
James Taranto thoroughly mocks John Kerry and Hillary Clinton for their flip-floppery on their support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and makes a keen observation:
Meanwhile, look at the list of prospective GOP presidential candidates (based on the polls we cited in yesterday's column): Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Not one of them was in Congress in 2002. That means there is a very strong likelihood the 2016 presidential election will pit a Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war against a Republican who didn't. The joke would be perfect if only the Democrat were John Kerry.
Federal investigators managed to find Lois Lerner's "lost emails" in two weeks and are now investigating whether any crimes were committed relating to their "loss".
The watchdog agency found the backed-up emails by consulting with IRS information-technology specialists, according to TIGTA Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Tim Camus.
"They were right where you would expect them to be," he said at the rare late-night hearing, which lasted until about 10 p.m.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress last year that the backups were no help in recovering Lerner's lost emails, in part because the IRS overwrites them every six months.
Camus said the IRS's technology specialists told investigators that no one from the agency asked for the tapes, raising doubts about whether the agency did its due diligence in trying to locate Lerner's emails, or possibly greater troubles.
"There is potential criminal activity," Camus said.
Come. On. The IRS can't be fixed -- it needs to be completely disbanded and we need a wholly new tax collection agency.
Rudy Giuliani said that he doesn't think President Obama loves America and was immediately vilified for it, but numerous surveys show that liberals themselves claim to be less patriotic than conservatives do.
A Pew Research survey last year found that 46 percent of "steadfast conservatives" believed that the U.S. stands above all other countries; only 11 percent of "solid liberals" believed the same. Seventy-two percent of steadfast conservatives said they often feel proud to be an American; only 40 percent of solid liberals said they do. Gallup headlined its write-up of a 2010 survey
"One in Three Americans 'Extremely Patriotic': Republicans, conservatives, and seniors most likely to say so." According to Gallup, 52 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of conservatives called themselves extremely patriotic; only 20 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of liberals did.
That's not to say that President Obama or any other specific liberal doesn't "love America", but there's definitely a patriotism gap.
The music and movie industries use scummy accounting to rake in huge profits, pay performers almost nothing, and evade taxes. Read both articles if you want to be shocked and appalled. Maybe Congress will crack down on this sort of scam?
If you follow the entertainment business at all, you're probably well aware of "Hollywood accounting," whereby very, very, very few entertainment products are technically "profitable," even as they earn studios millions of dollars. A couple months ago, the Planet Money folks did a great episode explaining how this works in very simple terms. The really, really, really simplified version is that Hollywood sets up a separate corporation for each movie with the intent that this corporation will take on losses. The studio then charges the "film corporation" a huge fee (which creates a large part of the "expense" that leads to the loss). The end result is that the studio still rakes in the cash, but for accounting purposes the film is a money "loser" -- which matters quite a bit for anyone who is supposed to get a cut of any profits.
And who is supposed to get a cut of the profits? Artists, actors, and the tax-man.
Not for the faint of heart, but here's a look into human sacrifice and cannibalism in the Aztec Empire. Unsurprisingly, much of it comes down to geography.
In the Old World, domestication of herbivorous mammals, such as cattle, sheep, and pigs, proceeded apace with that of food plants. By about 7,200 B.C. in the New World, however, ancient hunters had completely eliminated herbivores suitable for domestication from the area anthropologists call Mesoamerica, the region of the future high civilizations of Mexico and Guatemala. Only in the Andean region and southern South America did some camel-related species, especially the llama and the alpaca, manage to survive hunters' onslaughts, and thus could be domesticated later, along with another important local herbivore, the guinea pig. In Mesoamerica, the guinea pig was not available, and the Camelidae species became extinct several thousand years before domesticated food production had to be seriously undertaken. Dogs, such as the Mexican hairless, and wildfowl, such as the turkey, had to be bred for protein. The dog, however, was a far from satisfactory solution because, as a carnivore, it competed with its breeders for animal protein.
It seems that the whole Aztec Empire was organized around cannibalism:
At first glance, this prohibition against commoners eating human flesh casts doubt on cannibalism's potential to mobilize the masses of Aztec society to engage in wars for prisoners. Actually, the prohibition was, if anything, a goad to the lower class to participate in these wars since those who single-handedly took captives several times gained the right to eat human flesh. Successful warriors became members of the Aztec elite and their descendants shared their privileges. Through the reward of flesh-eating rights to the group most in need of them, the Aztec rulers assured themselves an aggressive war machine and were able to motivate the bulk of the population, the poor, to contribute to state and upper-class maintenance through active participation in offensive military operations. Underlying the war machine's victories, and the resultant sacrifices, were the ecological extremities of the Valley of Mexico.
With an understanding of the importance of cannibalism in Aztec culture, and of the ecological reasons for its existence, some of the Aztecs' more distinctive institutions begin to make anthropological sense. For example, the old question of whether the Aztecs' political structure was or was not an "empire" can be reexamined. One part of this problem is that the Aztecs frequently withdrew from conquered territory without establishing administrative centers or garrisons. This "failure" to consolidate conquest in the Old World fashion puzzled Cortés, who asked Moctezuma to explain why he allowed the surrounded Tlaxcalans to maintain their independence. Moctezuma reportedly replied that his people could thus obtain captives for sacrifice. Since the Aztecs did not normally eat people of their own policy, which would have been socially and politically disruptive, they needed nearby "enemy" populations on whom they could prey for captives. This behavior makes sense in terms of Aztec cannibalism: from the Aztec point of view, the Tlaxcalan state was preserved as a stockyard. The Aztecs were unique among the world's states in having a cannibal empire. Understandably, they did not conform to Old World concepts of empire, based on economies with domesticated herbivores providing meat or milk.
Or a young woman, of course! But if you're in your late 30s and you still spend the majority of your time at work writing code you'd better be really good.
They don't prepare you for this in college or admit it in job interviews. The harsh reality is that if you are middle-aged, write computer code for a living, and earn a six-figure salary, you're headed for the unemployment lines. Your market value declines as you age and it becomes harder and harder to get a job.
I know this post will provoke anger, outrage, and denial. But, sadly, this is the way things are in the tech world. It's an "up or out" profession -- like the military. And it's as competitive as professional sports. Engineers need to be prepared.
This is not openly discussed, because employers could be accused of age discrimination. But research, such as that completed by University of California, Berkeley, professors Clair Brown and Greg Linden shows that even those with masters degrees and Ph.Ds have reason to worry.
Basically as you get older you need to diversify your skills beyond coding. As a software engineer in my late 30s, I'm not sure this is "age discrimination" -- you can't keep doing the same work and get 5% raises every year. Sure, you've got a family to support now, but that doesn't entitle you to more pay: you've got to create more value! Integrate your deep experience with software development with some other skills and you'll be golden:
Move up the ladder into management, architecture, or design, and diversify your experience. Work with business executives in your company, in areas such as sales, finance, marketing/product management, legal, and operations. Develop a broader set of skills that make you more valuable to your employer and that differentiate you from others with just coding skills.
It seems like you're on precarious moral ground when you feel compelled to write laws that self-destruct if your opponents win an election. Looks like bad faith and sour grapes on the part of politicians who would take such a path.
The city's new municipal ID program allows for personal info provided by applicants to be destroyed at the end of 2016, in case a conservative Republican wins the White House and demands the data, the law's co-sponsor told The Post on Monday.
City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) said the measure was crafted so data submitted by those seeking the cards can be destroyed on Dec. 31, 2016.
The cards are aimed at undocumented immigrants.
"In case a Tea Party Republican comes into office and says, 'We want all of the data from all of the municipal ID programs in the country,' we're going to take the data," he explained.
Graeme Wood has produced a masterful dissection of how the Islamic State's religious devotion drives its strategy and tactics. It's a long piece, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in understanding what ISIS wants and how it views itself in the world.
Here is one small passage that describes how ISIS is forbidden from engaging diplomatically with anyone:
Choudary's colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State's propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.
One comparison to the Islamic State is the Khmer Rouge, which killed about a third of the population of Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. "This is not permitted," Abu Baraa said. "To send an ambassador to the UN is to recognize an authority other than God's." This form of diplomacy is shirk, or polytheism, he argued, and would be immediate cause to hereticize and replace Baghdadi. Even to hasten the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means--for example by voting for political candidates who favor a caliphate--is shirk.
There's a lot more, and a lot to think about.
The Islamic State's branding and media operations are critical for their recruitment and survival, and America is struggling to compete.
It's been less than a year since IS burst onto the stage, seizing large amounts of territory and shocking the world with its brutally violent tactics. During that time, the group has evolved into a highly sophisticated multimedia organization, boasting slick social media strategies that could give major corporate marketing teams a run for their money. IS knows how to package its extremist ideology in the form of well-produced videos, attractive graphics, polished magazines and strategic online posts. It's also strikingly savvy at spreading them online, tailoring their presentation and message to media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Vine. The messages are hypercustomized in language, tone and content to reach as many people possible and ultimately go viral. As Marshall Sella recently wrote in Matter, IS is "an entire brand family, the equivalents of the Apple logo's glow ... terrorism's Coca-Cola." There's no need to hold an IS-stamped watch or baseball hat in your hands to face the truth: IS is a powerful and terrifying brand that we were not prepared to reckon with. ...
"These videos of people killing themselves and joining terrorist groups around the world, they're conveying a narrative of authenticity," [Oren Segal, co-director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism] said. "When we're trying to come up with something that opposes that, how do we capture an authentic counternarrative that doesn't look like 'Say no to drugs'? We need something meaningful. At the end of the day, it's a battle for hearts and minds."
The lack of such philosophical/moral/religious focus is a weakness of the Western secular system. We hope our strengths can make up for it: wealth, size, technology, liberty. For the past couple of centuries our system has managed to beat our more ideologically-cohesive opponents.
Robots are complementing human care-takers in hospitals. The two most interesting aspects to me are:
- Administrators claim that no human jobs are at risk.
- The humans show natural deference to the robots.
Well, according to Pamela Hudson, the medical center's associate director of administration, their jobs are safe. In fact, she says that with such a massive new hospital, hiring in some departments is on the rise. The robots are about supplementing current jobs, she says, not eliminating them. "It would be a travesty for us to hire more techs who specialize in instrumentation but all they're doing is running around delivering trays," Hudson says. "That's not the best use of their skills--that's not a real job satisfier." As an added perk, she says, if staffers aren't pushing around huge carts, they're not straining themselves or mowing down their colleagues.
As for deference:
"We had to train on a lot of robot etiquette, you know," says operations director Brian Herriot as we walk the halls in search of Tugs, aided by a laptop that tracks their movements. "Which is, we train them to treat a robot like your grandma, and she's in the hospital in a wheel chair. If something's in their way, just move it aside, don't go stand in front of them." ...
It may have an adult voice, but Tug has a childlike air, even though in this hospital you're supposed to treat it like a wheelchair-bound old lady. It's just so innocent, so earnest, and at times, a bit helpless. If there's enough stuff blocking its way in a corridor, for instance, it can't reroute around the obstruction.
This happened to the Tug we were trailing in pediatrics. "Oh, something's in its way!" a woman in scrubs says with an expression like she herself had ruined the robot's day. She tries moving the wheeled contraption but it won't budge. "Uh, oh!" She shoves on it some more and finally gets it to move. "Go, Tug, go!" she exclaims as the robot, true to its programming, continues down the hall.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Congress have confidence in President Obama as commander-in-chief. And does anyone have confidence in Congress?
President Obama's request that Congress authorize military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was met with skepticism from both parties on Wednesday, raising questions about Capitol Hill's ability to pass a war measure.
The divide is largely centered on language prohibiting the use of "enduring offensive ground combat operations" against ISIS.
Democrats say this does too little to limit the White House from committing ground troops to the fight, while Republicans say the restrictions could handcuff the military.
How those views can possibly be reconciled isn't clear, even with Obama using his bully pulpit to call on Washington to unify against what he said was a "barbaric" terrorist network.
Obama characterized the legislation, known as an authorization for use of military force (AUMF), as the product of "a sincere effort" to consult with both Republicans and Democrats.
"I'm optimistic that it can win strong bipartisan support and that we can show our troops and the world that Americans are united in this mission," Obama said.
Yet that optimism seemed ill-founded given some of the comments about the AUMF from lawmakers.
Chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University Thomas F. Madden explains that the Crusades were defensive wars by Christians against centuries of Muslim aggression, and that Muslims ultimately won. It wasn't until World War I that the Muslim Ottoman Empire was dismantled. If anything, modern Muslims should brag about their ancestors' victories rather than playing the victim whenever the word "crusade" is uttered.
So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already by said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression -- an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.
Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity -- and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion -- has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.
With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt -- once the most heavily Christian areas in the world -- quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
The title of this video is mocking, but the rocket is very cool!
At NY Mag (and all over the internet) is a story about a father and daughter dating each other (sexually) and planning to live together in New Jersey where adult incest isn't a crime. It's easy to condemn this behavior for a host of reasons, spiritual and secular, but as I read the interview with the women mostly I just felt sadness and pity. It doesn't seem that she or her father would accept my sorrow or pity -- they seem thrilled -- but nonetheless my heart breaks for them.
So can you remember what it was like the moment you and your dad were reunited? Was there an instant attraction? It was so weird and confusing. I was seeing my dad for the first time in forever but it was also like, He's so good-looking! And then I was like, What the hell are you thinking? What is wrong with you? I saw him as my dad but then also part of me was like, I'm meeting this guy who I have been talking to over the internet and really connecting with and I find him attractive.
Was there a single moment you realized that you were sexually and romantically attracted to your dad?
After I had stayed with him for about five days.
Genetic sexual attraction is defined as "sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings or half-siblings, a parent and offspring, or first and second cousins, who first meet as adults", and apparently it's extremely common: GSA occurs up to 50% of the time that parent and child or siblings meet for the first time as adults. Your first reaction may be revulsion, but if you reflect on it you will probably see how tragic and painful GSA is for everyone involved.
The unexpectedly high number of reported cases of men and women struggling with sudden and terrifying emotions after a reunion has surprised and perplexed most post-adoption agencies. So far, because of the taboos surrounding GSA and its variable and complex nature, the frequency of these cases is almost impossible to quantify, although some agencies estimate that elements of GSA occur in 50% of reunions. Growing awareness of its potentially devastating implications, especially in cases where relatives embark on a sexual relationship, has prompted some organisations to warn all clients attempting to trace a relative about the phenomenon, while also training counsellors to recognise the warning signs and to help adoptees and their families cope with the damage.
GSA is an affliction that our civilization is largely unequipped to deal with -- we've undermined the spiritual foundation that would give us the moral authority to condemn adult incest, nurture the proper familial relationships that each of us needs, and love and care for the people who are suffering. In an age of egg and sperm donation and in vitro fertilization it seems likely that GSA will be a growing problem, and Christians especially should be prepared to care for the afflicted.
Ugh, this makes me embarrassed to be a UCLA graduate: UC student government votes to divest from America:
The University of California Student Association board - which represents all 233,000 students enrolled in the UC system's 10 campuses - approved a resolution on Sunday that calls on the system's leaders to financially divest from the United States.
The measure cited alleged human rights violations by America such as drone strikes that have killed civilians, and claimed the country's criminal justice system is racist, among other accusations.
The "Resolution Toward Socially Responsible Investment at the University of California" passed with an overwhelming majority vote of 11-1-3.
If the state and federal government divested themselves of the UC system it would vanish -- as with all public university systems, tuition and fees cover only a very small portion of the system's operating costs (not to mention research).
This has got to be the stupidest thing I've read in months. Good luck finding jobs outside the grievance industry when you graduate.
Lots more at Legal Insurrection, who sums it up:
I'm not glad that the Israel divestment passed, but at least it passed combined with a resolution which made the anti-Israel students and U. Cal student government look like fools.
Kyle Smith says Brian Williams' lie wasn't an innocent mistake. I think he's right to look at the direction of the deception:
What Williams' lie was about was what lies are always about: No one who actually scored the winning touchdown on the high-school football team misremembers it as sitting on the bench. The term "fish tale" does not mean you mistakenly tell people you caught a sickly 8-ounce catfish when actually you snagged a 95-pound monster marlin.
It's hard to tell the truth all the time, especially when you can personally benefit from lying just a little bit. If telling the truth were easy we wouldn't value it so highly.
As a society, we're wise to penalize a person who is caught in a single lie. We have to assume that 90% of lies won't be caught, and that a person who is caught is likely to lie more than most people.
Drug smugglers are using drones on America's southern border, and the response from the Border Patrol isn't very illuminating.
A recent incident on the Mexican side of the United States' southern border has shed new light on how drones are being used by both sides in the War on Drugs. Late last month a drone overloaded with meth crash-landed in a supermarket parking lot in Tijuana, Mexico, less than half a mile from the border, and was recovered by Mexican law-enforcement officials. The drone's existence provides a rare glimpse of the constantly evolving tactics of transnational smugglers, and it also raises questions about the U.S. federal government's surveillance of the border. The U.S. law-enforcement agencies in charge of policing the border claim to be ready for any threat posed by drones.
So obviously some drugs are being smuggled across the border via drones, but Customs and Border Patrol says:
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, on the other hand, is downplaying concerns about the potential for growing use of unmanned aircraft at the border. "To date, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not intercepted any drones smuggling narcotics across the borders into the United States," CBP spokesman Carlos Lazo said in a statement. "In collaboration with our federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners, CBP remains vigilant against emerging trends and ever-changing tactics employed by transnational criminal organizations behind illegal attempts to smuggle narcotics into the U.S."
We're supposed to be relieved that they haven't intercepted any drug smuggling drones? Whatever the CBP told Ryan Lovelace, their drone strategy isn't a counter-drone strategy in any sense.
Outwardly, the Border Patrol appears to be ready for drone-powered drug smugglers. Border Patrol agents would not comment on the counter-measures the agency might employ to combat drones that are threatening its agents or being used in the commission of crimes. But the Border Patrol has an arsenal of drones of its own. The agency's Unmanned Aircraft System has a fleet of nine Predator B drones that can fly for 20 hours straight and travel at speeds up to 276 miles per hour to help secure the nation's border. Predator B drones, which are also used by the military, are much more sophisticated and powerful than the drone that crashed in Mexico. The drug-smuggling drone was much smaller, slower, and less durable than the top-dollar equipment paid for by American taxpayers.
Possessing your own drones doesn't help you defeat enemy drones in any way, unless you've got air-to-air combat drones of some sort. Definitely not Predators, which are for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. So the fact that CPB's drones are more expensive and more capable than the smuggler drones is really not relevant to this matter.
If the White House can't be protected from hobbyist drones then the borders definitely cannot be protected from determined adversaries with drones.
-- asks Ann Althouse in response to President Obama's new proposed infrastructure spending.
Quite aside from the problem of new taxes on business, what bothers me here is that Obama's old and extremely expensive "stimulus" package -- back in '09 -- was presented as a transformation of the "infrastructure" -- with lots of talk of roads and bridges -- but where are all those improvements we were gulled into thinking we were getting for our money?
Of the $840 billion spent on the "stimulus" here's how it breaks down ($100 billion not shown):
- $300 billion for tax benefits (remember those $400 tax credits?)
- $220 billion for entitlements (Medicare shortfalls, unemployment insurance...)
- $190 billion for contracts, grants, and loans (retaining teachers, etc.)
- $33 billion for infrastructure