February 2016 Archives
This brings back a lot of memories from my high school days: "Argument Over Boy Prompts 30-Girl Fight At University Prep". Don't worry ladies, there's plenty of Michael to go around!
The fight allegedly began with two girls arguing over a boy. It escalated to about 30 girls being involved in total and involved screaming, kicking and punches being thrown.
Everyone knows about leap years, but why is February so short? Despite the awesomeness of the theory, it appears that Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus didn't steal days from February to pad his own month.
The truth about February is even stranger. The ancient Romans didn't even assign months to the winter season!
King Numa Pompilius thought that was stupid. Why have a calendar if you're going to neglect one-sixth of the year? So in 713 BCE, he lined the calendar up with the year's 12 lunar cycles--a span of about 355 days--and introduced January and February. The months were added to the end of the calendar, making February the last month of the year.
But no Roman calendar would be complete without some good old-fashioned superstition mixed in! The Romans believed even numbers were unlucky, so Numa tried to make each month odd. But to reach the quota of 355, one month had to be even. February ended up pulling the short stick, probably because it was simply the last month on the list.
Read the rest for more weirdness. Good job, history.
I mean "abortion clinics".
Abortion access in the U.S. has been vanishing at the fastest annual pace on record, propelled by Republican state lawmakers' push to legislate the industry out of existence. Since 2011, at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure, while just 21 opened.
At no time since before 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion, has a woman's ability to terminate a pregnancy been more dependent on her zip code or financial resources to travel. The drop-off in providers--more than one every two weeks--occurred in 35 states, in both small towns and big cities that are home to more than 30 million women of reproductive age.
Great job, Republicans!
California's loss of a dozen providers shows how availability declined, even in states led by Democrats, who tend to be friendly to abortion rights.
Great job, Democrats!
Most providers [in Texas] closed after the state became the largest and most populous in the U.S. to require that they become hospital-like outpatient surgical centers, which can cost millions to buy or build. The state also mandates that doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The drop-off in access has helped depress the abortion rate in the state by 13 percent, according to a July study, and providers there say full implementation of the law would leave almost a fifth of Texas women 150 miles or more from a facility.
Great job, Texas! Your baby-murder rate is down 13%. I'm sure we can all agree that it's good that we can protect the lives of these mothers with sensible medical standards while simultaneously reducing the murder of babies.
Putin continues to dominate world events despite his weak hand. Read the whole thing for a long analysis, but here's the nut. Don't forget: all this began under Hillary Clinton's watch as Secretary of State.
Already, Vladimir Putin looks to be one of the conflict's winners. When it comes to the war in Syria, he is now in control. Without his bombers, military advisors and special forces, the weakened Syrian army wouldn't be able to make any advances at all. Indeed, it was the looming defeat of Assad that pushed Putin to intervene at the end of September in the first place. At the time, Putin was still claiming that his goal was that of defeating IS -- and many Western governments hoped naively that perhaps Russia could finally impose order in Syria.
Since then, though, it has become clear that the opposite is true: In four-and-a-half months, Putin has reversed the momentum in the Syrian civil war in favor of dictator Assad and has increased the chaos -- all while largely ignoring Islamic State. What's more, Moscow has targeted exactly those rebels that the West had hoped would fight IS. Putin has embarrassed the US superpower, discredited the UN and transformed Russia into an influential power in the Middle East.
In addition, his brutal operation has driven tens of thousands of people to take flight, thus intensifying the conflict between the EU and Turkey, dividing Europe even further and propelling the Continent's right-wing populist parties to unprecedented heights. Those are all desired side-effects that conform to Moscow's calculus: Everything that hurts Europe makes Russia stronger.
Berlin, too, has become convinced that Putin's involvement in Syria is about more than merely providing support for his ally Assad -- and about more than just the Middle East. For Putin, it's about Europe, about ending the sanctions and about recognition of Russia's zone of influence. "Putin is intentionally aggravating the refugee crisis in order to destabilize the EU. That is part of Russia's hybrid war," says German parliamentarian Niels Annen, foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democrats (SPD).
It has become increasingly clear that Russia is not a partner in the fight against Islamic State, as some in Europe had hoped. Rather, Russia is an adversary that is willing to achieve its goals by way of violence if necessary.
The first victim of the Uber gunman threw herself in front of children when the gunman opened fire and gave police crucial information to track him down.
Tiana Carruthers was outside her Kalamazoo, Michigan, apartment with several youngsters on a playground at around 5:00pm on Saturday when the suspect, who's been named as Jason Dalton, pulled up in his Chevrolet.
Sensing trouble, the mother put herself between the attacker and the children, and was shot multiple times as a result, but survived and was able to give the police vital evidence that helped them catch the suspected killer.
Said Donald Trump as he concluded his victory speech last night in Nevada. That's exactly the sentiment that many voters want to hear. Trump isn't my first choice for the nomination, but I have to admit, his nationalism gets my blood pumping. I don't think he's really conservative -- most recently I've condemned his lack of support for strong encryption -- and I'm anxious about the policies he'll actually enact when he's president.
Wait, did I just write "when"? I guess I did. Yeah, I think it's pretty likely at this point. Of course, I didn't think America could possibly re-elect Obama after his disastrous first term, so my record of predictions is pretty bad. It's more a gut thing than a prediction: Trump will destroy Hillary, just like he dominated the Republican nomination process.
Even though I am skeptical about Trump's conservatism, this is the best kind of civil war for America to have: a political war. With the level of discontent and disconnect between the elites and the average citizen, the election of Donald Trump might cause enough institutional destruction to force our government to come back into alignment with us. Much preferable to a shooting war.
Yelp doesn't pay its employees enough to eat, says former employee Talia Jane. It's a sad story, but hopefully instructive. Miss Jane thought that moving to the Bay Area would be fun, but she didn't realize that California is basically a feudal system -- just because the dukes are having a blast doesn't mean it's fun to be a serf.
I haven't bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I'm lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I'm having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can't afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me, even though you've got a whole fridge full of it on the 8th floor. But we're not allowed to take any of that home because it's for at-work eating. Of which I do a lot. Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent. Isn't that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can't afford to buy food. That's gotta be a little ironic, right?
Miss Jane was (unexpectedly!) fired soon after posting this open letter. Naturally the Duke of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman, blames her predicament on the government, disavows all knowledge of her firing, and hides behind Human Resources.
"Late last night I read Talia's medium contribution and want to acknowledge her point that the cost of living in SF is far too high," Stoppelman tweeted.
He continued by noting that he's "been focused" on the high cost of living in San Francisco and has backed a group trying to bring awareness to the issue.
He added that there are "[t]wo sides to every HR story" and asked the "Twitter army" to put down its "pitchforks."
Laugh. Out. Loud. At least Miss Jane and Stoppelman Duke of Yelp have brought more awareness to the issue!
I'm disappointed (but not surprised) to learn that Donald Trump has condemned Apple for refusing to cripple its encryption system for the benefit of law enforcement.
Donald Trump slammed Apple on Wednesday for its refusal to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation of one of the iPhones of the San Bernardino shooters.
"I agree 100 percent with the courts. In that case, we should open it up," the Republican presidential candidate told "Fox & Friends," referring to a court order demanding the California-based tech company create a way for federal investigators to break into the iPhone of one of the perpetrators of the Dec. 2 terrorist attack. "I think security, overall, we have to open it up and we have to use our heads. We have to use common sense," Trump continued, echoing his recent common refrain. "Somebody the other day called me a common-sense conservative. We have to use common sense."
It's hard to imagine what can be learned from the iPhone in question that can't be otherwise discovered. The perpetrators are known, and dead. Their family, friends, and associates can be tracked down by a variety of methods. It feels to me that the terrible attack in San Bernadino is being used as a convenient "crisis" to justify a power grab by the government. It's difficult to balance freedom and security, but in this specific case it doesn't look to me like a difficult decision at all.
Good for Apple CEO Tim Cook for refusing the order to decrypt an iPhone.
Apple said on Wednesday that it would oppose and challenge a federal court order to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone used by one of the two attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.
On Tuesday, in a significant victory for the government, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to bypass security functions on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed by the police along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after they attacked Mr. Farook's co-workers at a holiday gathering.
Judge Pym ordered Apple to build special software that would essentially act as a skeleton key capable of unlocking the phone.
But hours later, in a statement by its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, Apple announced its refusal to comply. The move sets up a legal showdown between the company, which says it is eager to protect the privacy of its customers, and the law enforcement authorities, who say that new encryption technologies hamper their ability to prevent and solve crime.
There's no end to this rabbit hole once it gets opened. American citizens have a right to privacy, and a right to strong encryption.
It's not good when Democrats don't trust their "inevitable" nominee.
That point is driven home hard in the exit poll following Clinton's 22-point drubbing at the hands of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. More than one in three (34 percent) of all New Hampshire Democratic primary voters said that honesty was the most important trait in their decision on which candidate to support. Of that bloc, Sanders won 92 percent of their votes as compared to just 6 percent for Clinton.
Maybe the other 6% didn't understand the question.
People don't trust Hillary because she lies a lot. Sure, Republicans have amplified the issue, but the root of the mistrust is Hillary herself.
But politics isn't about dealing with the world as you would like it to be. It's about dealing with the world as it is. And as New Hampshire made clear, there is a strain of concern/distrust within the Democratic base when it comes to Hillary Clinton. She needs to first acknowledge that it's a real feeling as opposed to simply a Republican talking point. Then she has to figure out a way to begin changing that perception -- A major speech directly taking the idea on? A series of ads that show her being as good as her word? -- in the minds of Democratic primary and caucus voters.
How could Hillary possibly reverse a decades-old perception that she's dishonest? I don't see how a speech or some ads would do it. In real life, as opposed to politics, the way you rebuild trust is to first come clean: admit that you lied. Then you can clean the slate by individually confessing to all the deceptions, apologizing, and promising not to lie anymore. But of course that's impossible for a politician. Hillary can't take the first step and admit she lied, or her career would be over.
I've got all daughters, but I think they'd benefit from some male teachers also.
China's approach is wise and much needed, both in Asia and the West. Many female teachers are doing a wonderful job, but schoolboys are in desperate need of male teachers. Boys are by nature more rambunctious, distracted, hyperactive, and physical than girls. This is obvious to anyone with rudimentary observation skills and access to a playground, but I saw it firsthand a few years ago when I was a teacher. Bluntly put, sometimes it takes a male teacher to handle male students.
Experts can conduct all the studies they want to and the government can hand out blue-ribbon panel guidelines on equality in schools, but all a person has to do to be faced with the difference between girls and boys in school is to simply spend a couple weeks--or even a day--as a teacher.
It's no mystery why men are reluctant to become teachers: a false accusation of misconduct with a child will ruin your life. The vast majority of men, just like women, want nothing but the best for children; it's a shame that our sensationalist culture has made teaching so unappealing and risky for men.
According to the FBI, St. Louis is the most violent city in America. Great job!
A list of the most violent cities in each state has been released, with St. Louis, Missouri taking the top spot.
Compiled from data released by the FBI charting crime in the first six months of 2015, the 'Gateway City' is followed by Memphis, Tennessee, Detroit, Michigan, Birmingham, Alabama, and Rockford, Illinois, to round out the top five.
The violent crimes listed by the FBI include rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and murder. ...
While people may question whether St Louis' crime rates have been influenced by the turmoil after a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014, Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St Louis debunked the idea.
He told Forbes: 'Homicides were going up in 2014 quite a bit before Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. So it's hard to attribute it to a so-called Ferguson effect because we began to see those increases before August 9.'
Rosenfeld also pointed out that the figures do not track drug use or the crimes committed in subsequent turf wars.
As Ed Driscoll points out, there may be a pattern. St. Louis City has been exclusively electing Democrats for 73 years.
If you, like me, didn't watch the Super Bowl or any of the ads, well, here's the political angle you missed yesterday.
Doritos ran a hilarious ad in which an unborn baby ejects himself from the womb to buy a bag of Doritos. Naturally the pro-abortion people went crazy. Tweeted NARAL:
#NotBuyingIt - that @Doritos ad using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses
The doctor in the ad says that the baby is due "any day now", and I thought even the abortion profiteering industry acknowledged that full-term babies are human.
So, thanks Doritos! I can't eat you (too many carbs) but I'll buy a bag in support.
Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has two must-read pieces that describe some of the internal workings of the Department of Justice and explain what is likely going on with the investigation of Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information. The first piece explains why Hillary is not a "subject" or "target" of the investigation.
First, there is one other thing you should know about the designations "target" and "subject" -- one of those things so obvious it is easy to miss. These are not just random words. They indicate that a suspect is a target or a subject of something.
That something is a grand-jury investigation.
In an ordinary case, that would not be a point worth making. The FBI routinely conducts major investigations in collaboration with Justice Department prosecutors -- usually from the U.S. attorney's office in the district where potential crimes occurred. That is because the FBI needs the assistance of a grand jury. The FBI does not have authority even to issue subpoenas, let alone to charge someone with a crime. Only federal prosecutors may issue subpoenas, on the lawful authority of the grand jury. Only prosecutors are empowered to present evidence or propose charges to the grand jury. And the Constitution vests only the grand jury with authority to indict -- the formal accusation of a crime. In our system, the FBI can do none of these things.
The second piece claims that emails between Hillary and President Obama are enough evidence to convict Hillary. This is exactly the crime that General Petraeus was prosecuted for.
If the administration is refusing to disclose the Obama-Clinton e-mails because they involved the secretary of state providing advice and counsel to the president, do you think those exchanges just might touch on foreign-government information, foreign relations, or foreign activities of the United States -- deliberations on which are presumed classified?
Will anyone in the press corps covering the White House and the State Department ask administration officials whether this is the case?
I believe some, if not all, of the communications between Obama and Clinton should be classified. To classify them now, however, would imply wrongdoing on both their parts since they knew they were communicating via private, unsecured e-mail. Essentially, Obama is invoking executive privilege because the effect of doing so -- viz., non-disclosure of the e-mails -- is the same as the effect of classifying them would be . . . but without the embarrassment that classifying them would entail.
Of course, Petraeus did not get executive-privilege treatment. His communications with Obama were deemed classified and he was prosecuted for failing to safeguard them.
Obviously the corruption goes to the top. Seems ripe for a Constitutional crisis.
Megan McArdle, who I really like, says that Trump voters (and other angry Americans) should face reality: nothing in Washington can be changed. Very cynical of her, or as she says, "realistic". Yes, the federal bureaucracy has a huge amount of inertia, but McArdle neglects to mention a few things that a President has significant control over.
Washingtonians, unlike the people making the demands, actually have to analyze the feasibility of these various sorts of requests. When they do, they quickly see that they are impossible, and set about finding innovative ways to ignore them. The insiders who need to get elected nonetheless say, "Yup, I'll get right on that," and then ignore them.
This makes people think that Washingtonians don't care about them. This is false. Washingtonians do care. It's just that they seem to have misplaced their magic wand.
The second problem has to do with Item No. 4: Everything you do in Washington is a compromise. There are a lot of people in the country, and most of them don't care about what you want. To get money spent or unspent, taxes raised or lowered, you have to give those people something they do want. The result is an ugly mess with little resemblance to the original plan.
Don't like it? Welcome to representative democracy. If you have a plan to deal with this problem that doesn't involve fantasizing about the sudden (but nonviolent) disappearance of more than half your fellow citizens, we're all ears. Otherwise, this is what we're stuck with.
But the next president will be able to do lots of things that will have a huge effects:
- Appoint judges
- Appoint various commissioners
- Negotiate treaties and trade agreements
- Direct the military
- Issue (and negate) executive orders
- Set law enforcement priorities for the Department of Justice
- Use federal funding to pull strings on state and local governments
- Sign and veto laws
Food safety expert Bill Marler talks about food safety and gives a list of foods he'll never eat.
In a recent piece, published in Bottom Line Health, he lists six foods he no longer eats, because he believes the risk of eating them is simply too large. The list includes raw oysters and other raw shellfish, raw or under-cooked eggs, meat that isn't well-done, unpasteurized milk and juice, and raw sprouts.
Sometimes I don't get my meat well-done, but I probably will from now on.
"Look, there are a lot of sad stories in my line of work. I've been in ICUs, where parents have had to pull the plug on their child. Someone commented on my article about the six things I don't eat, saying that I must be some kind of freak, but when you see a child die from eating an undercooked hamburger, it does change your view of hamburgers. It just does. I am a lawyer, but I'm also a human."
Iowa caucus results make the Republican primary a three-man race.
Talk of Donald Trump's unstoppable momentum is over. As the race for the Republican nomination speeds into New Hampshire today, the campaign has morphed into a three-man contest.
Ted Cruz won Iowa in such a decisive manner that the Republican National Committeewoman for New Hampshire went so far as to call Trump the "underdog now" while another GOP operative said more donors are suddenly eager to fund an ad campaign against the New York billionaire.
I like Rubio, but I'm apprehensive of his lack of executive experience (see: Obama). I don't much like Trump, but I admire his executive experience. I like a lot of what Cruz says, but could he run the country?
Ezra Klein analyzes the interview styles of Trump and Rubio and concludes:
One reason Trump is ahead in the polls is that he's simply better at this than his opponents are -- he talks directly to the electorates' id, while his establishment-lane challengers keep trying to win over Washington's superego.
(HT: Scott Adams, who should get royalties from Vox.)