2015-01-25

18:07

Beware Writer [According To Hoyt]

I’m sort of fried this morning — I will be entertaining guest posts, if any of you dreams of starring at ATH (your name in lights.  Or at least in WordPress!) — because we’re trying to get house ready for sale by my surgery date on March 16th.  (It’s not that there is anything major wrong with the house, but there are myriad little unsightly things.  My younger son said “Can’t we wait to paint till we have an offer?  If the buyer wants it painted, then we paint!” I had to explain the process of attracting a buyer.  Forgive him Lord, he’s an engineer.)

So…  Here I am packing and putting away excess books, and moving furniture to clean behind, and somewhere in the middle of this, the writer brain complains.  And starts making up carp.

See, we’re cheap (As I’ve said before — right? — writer and mathematician money only goes so far, even if the mathematician’s money is steadier) so instead of buying moving boxes to store books, etc, for … well, probably a year? — we’re watching craigslist ads and rushing out to grab boxes.

Unfortunately these boxes come with names and notations (actually as a side note, I found out why they are so expensive.  These boxes have notations of three moves, and some of the boxes that are recycled — Amazon, sharper image, etc, are from as far away as IL.)

There is a set of boxes that’s labelled Stormie.  Her brother has a perfectly normal name, Ethan, and I kept wondering why name a girl Stormie.  No, look, I understand creative naming and what have you, but teen girls?  Stormy enough, don’t encourage it.

So …

I was thinking about it, and suddenly, there she was.  You know, Stormie.

There she was, in the coffee shop, dressed head to toe in black leather.  It couldn’t be anyone else.  A beautiful face, the kind that could have posed for an angel in a renaissance painting, but it was framed in wild, black hair.

She wore too much makeup but not in a way that said “hey baby, baby.”  More in a way that said “My mascara warns you I have a knife collection.  And I don’t mean for cooking.”

I siddled into the seat opposite hers, feeling sheepish. She barely looked up from her double espresso extra grande.  There was a tear tattoo at the corner of her right eye.

“Stormie?” I asked.  “Stormie Jones?”

She nodded.

“That job?”

“Yeah.  You tell me what to rub out, I rub it out.”

I clear my throat “Er… are you sure?  It’s a difficult job.”

“Look, Mister, my parents named me Stormie.  My brothers are Ethan and Alan, and my sister is Lilly, but I’m Stormie.  You grow up with an eighties song being sang at you, you grow tough.  No job too difficult.  I want to rub things out, see?”  Suddenly I realized she was smoking, as she stubbed her cigarette on the table.  I looked around nervously.  I didn’t think you could smoke at starbucks, much less burn their tables.”

I really needed the job done.  “Er…” I said.  “Then, well, on Wednesday.”  I pass the address card to her.  “Here at three pm, for the price agreed.”

She looks at the card and sneers.  “I will be there.”  She pockets the card and swaggers out.

I watch her walk away and think, “Surely this is too big a production for hiring a cleaning lady.  But I really need that dirt scrubbed out.”

— and now you know that if you put up a craigslist ad for free moving boxes, you should add “Not to writers.  Not under any circumstances!”

 


Weekend Thread: War Reporting [Y-not] [Ace of Spades HQ]

Saw this neat picture from the Israeli Defense Force's twitter feed: It got me thinking about military correspondents. I'm sure many of you know more about this topic than I do, but I found this article interesting:...

Food Thread: Deflated Balls Edition [CBD] [Ace of Spades HQ]

In the absence in the news of anything other than interminable discussions of Tom Brady's 11 deflated balls, I suggest we look upon spherical foods as a metaphor for the media's vast appetite for stories that go nowhere. Or because...

Gaming Thread in AR [Ace of Spades HQ]

John Hill, father of the modern wargame passed away on the 12th. So many games can be traced back to his hit Squad Leader. Without him, the wargaming genre would be in worst shape....

Valerie! Bibi was mean to me! I HATE him! [CBD] [Ace of Spades HQ]

White House going nuclear on Netanyahu Our petulant man-child president will be making significant and far-reaching foreign policy decisions based on being called a poopy-head during recess. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half...

Secular Arguments for Life [Y-not] [Ace of Spades HQ]

Earlier this week there was quite a lot of back and forth on Twitter and elsewhere about abortion, including some challenges to the pro-life position based on secular arguments. The thesis appeared to be that there was no way to...

Sunday Morning Book Thread 01-25-2015: Science! [OregonMuse] [Ace of Spades HQ]

Paris - France National Library (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) (library photo stolen from the HuffPo who got it from this guy) Good morning morons and moronettes and welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The...

Early Morning Thread 1/25/15: Sunday Comics edition. [krakatoa] [Ace of Spades HQ]

Good Lord what a week. Anyone got a good joke? I'll accept any variation of the well-worn but timeless Boehner/Boner gags....

Overnight Open Thread (24 Jan 2015) [Ace of Spades HQ]

Dang it, this winter has been a bust here in the Hampton Roads area so far. Just rain, no snow. I blame the snow shovel I finally bought at the end of last season. I finally got the gear...

Chris had choice words for the upcoming Justin Bieber roast!... [@midnight]



Chris had choice words for the upcoming Justin Bieber roast! Check out the whole episode right here: http://on.cc.com/15ti5gN 

Old white party is in trouble. GOOD [Don Surber]

With all eyes on Iowa this weekend, where Citizens United held a cotillion for Republican presidential candidates, One sees that Republicans have a wide range of viable choices with varying hues of conservatives. I am not referring to their skin tones, but now that I think about it, the Republican field includes blacks, Indian-Americans and Hispanics, as well as white.

Democrats? White, whiter and whitest, although one candidate claimed she was 1/128th American Indian in order to land a job at Harvard.

The Democratic front runners are Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren. Average age? 68.

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker average 45 in age.
Throw in Chris Christie, Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush, and the average is still only 52. That's prime time for a presidential candidate, unless you are Ronald Reagan. If you see a Reagan among any of them, better switch to sarsaparilla, because you've been drinking too much.

But it gets worse for Democrats. They have no new ideas. In his sputtering State of the Union address, Barack Obama once again flogged equal pay for women. It has been the law of the land for 52 years, genius. While he was at it, why not introduce The Twist, because that was popular, too, in 1963.

There is something ghoulish about Joe Biden. As vice president, he is technically the President of the Senate. That means he has been in the Senate for more than 42, except for the five days between the end of his sixth term in the Senate on January 15, 2009, and the beginning of his vice presidency on January 20, 2009.

To put that in perspective, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were still in diapers when he entered the Senate. Someone should tell Joe that we ended the draft, recognized China, and found out who shot J.R. since then. Joe has been there so long that Elvis was still alive when he took the oath of office. Abortion was illegal in 46 states.

In that time, Joe Biden has not progressed.

Same for his party.

Republicans actually have new ideas. They don't always articulate them well, but they pretty much believe in having a middle class, private ownership of guns, and shrinking the government. That was not the way it was 42 years ago when Republicans really were the party of big business; companies have since switched allegiance to Democrats as companies realize regulations are a greater insulation from competition. Gun ownership was not a Republican issue 42 years ago, nor were Republicans particularly interested in reducing government. They were small growth government; many had voted for Medicaid, Head Start, and the rest of the LBJ Great Society road show.

Today's Republicans are different. They are young. They have ideas.

Democrats have ideas as well.

Unfortunately for them, their ideas are all from the last century.

Why not tax non-profits? GOOD [Don Surber]

Republican Governor Paul LePage of Maine has suggested ending the practice of exempting churches, hospitals, political parties, and other selected groups from property taxes. More than half the money to support local government comes from property taxes in New England, and throughout the United States, property taxes are the foundation of financing public education.

Conservatives who balk at expanding taxes overlook three problems with the non-profit tax exemption:

1. There is the constitutionally shady practice of the federal government telling states whom they may and may not tax.
2. There is the corrupt practice of allowing political appointees determine who is and who is not tax exempt, as we discovered in President Obama's harassment of tea party political groups.
3. There is the unfairness of allowing liberal billionaires dodge taxes by setting up foundations, as we see John Davison Rockefeller's money pass along to his great, great, great-grandchildren today.
The facts as reported by the National Center for Charitable Statistics of the Urban Institute:
In 2012, public charities reported over $1.65 trillion in total revenues and $1.57 trillion in total expenses.  Of the revenue:
21% came from contributions, gifts and government grants.
73% came from program service revenues, which include government fees and contracts.
6% came from "other" sources including dues, rental income, special event income, and gains or losses from goods sold.
So you have a fairly large segment of society -- roughly 10% of the economy -- that is exempt from taxation. But they do are not exempt from taking government money, are they?

It is not as if they do not have the funds. Consider what Daphne Kenyon, a fellow at the tax-exempt Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told the Wall Street Journal:
More than 200 localities in the U.S. have negotiated so-called payments in lieu of taxes from nonprofits instead, according to a report by the Lincoln Institute. Between 75% and 80% of such agreements are in the Northeast, with the largest share in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
So the money is there. They just do not wish to part it. The tax-exempt are a powerful lobby led not by the Little Sisters of the Poor, but by millionaire college presidents, and six-figured CEOs of unions, political activists, and well-heeled foundations. Harvard professors who decry a tax system that they say benefits the rich draw their fat paychecks from an institution that sits on a $35 billion pile of tax-exempt money.

What would Jesus do? Matthew 22:16-22 may hold the answer.
And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way.
I think that means he would pay. He was not into materialism.

Governor LePage is onto something. Conservatives should listen. It is not about money. It is about power. The way liberal billionaires hang on to power and pass it along to their progeny is through tax-exempt foundations. George Soros and the unions also set up foundations which in many cases call for raising taxes on others.

The argument for the tax exemptions is that hospitals and the like provide services. Well, so do McDonald's, gas stations, and grocery stores.

The power to tax is puny compared to the power to exempt from taxes. Good luck, Governor LePage, in getting legislators in Maine to voluntarily cede that power.

Palin is failing. EVIL [Don Surber]

In December 2007, I first learned of a movement to make the Governor of Alaska the Republican nominee for vice president. I checked her out and liked that she had traditional values and was a reformer who ousted the corrupt Governor Frank Murkowski. Eight months later, she was nominated. For a few days, it looked like she might lift Senator John McCain to the presidency. But a mean girls campaign of the politics of personal destruction was launched on NBC's Saturday Night Live and Governor Sarah Palin crashed and burned.

Two years later, she quit her job.

I still held out hope for her, but the last six years have not matured her as a candidate. She keeps being clever and not very smart. It's sad. And on Saturday, she made another unnecessary mistake in Iowa.



It pains me to say this, but get off the stage, Sarah Palin. While you were doing reality shows and bitching about the lamestream media, people like Scott Walker stepped up to the plate and proved their mettle. Governor Walker faced more heat than Sarah Palin did -- an actual recall election -- and not only survived, but he prevailed.

At the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Congressman Steve King and Citizens United, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Governor Walker rocked the joint. Pro-illegal alien Dreamers interrupted Rick Perry. Toby Harnden of the Times of London was there and tweeting:
Ouch.

He's a good guy who calls them as he sees them. The speech was called wide-ranging, which is journalese for unfocused.

And there was this:
Ouch again.

And this:
I get that she was screwed by the media in 2008. Royally. But she is all about victimhood now. Poor, pitiful me.

She was treated unfairly? Lots of people are. She played that into being a millionaire, just like Al Sharpton and tons of other hucksters. She's the female Mike Huckabee. Pretty much, if Roger Ailes put you on the Fox News payroll, your political career is over.

In 2008, I dismissed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as people who had never run anything in their lives but their mouths. Governor Palin ran Alaska for a while, but then she ran away, and now she runs her mouth.

It is time for conservatives to move on. The Iowa Freedom Summit may not have made anyone a winner, but it surely showed who the big loser is. In American election history, only one losing vice president was ever elected president.

FDR

Charles Curtis, the Indian who became vice president [Don Surber]

My American Vignettes on exceptional Americans looks at Charles Curtis, the first Indian elected to national office a President Hoover's vice president. Today marks the 155th anniversary of the birth of Charles Curtis on the Kaw reservation in what is now Topeka, Kansas.

[ccpic.jpg]
As the Cheyenne approached the frontier town in June 3, 1868, white settlers fled. The men of the local tribe of Kaw Indians mounted horses and rode to confront the invaders. What followed was military pageantry. Neither side really wanted to fight.

The Kaw dispatched Joe Jim, a mixed-blood Kaw interpreter, to get help from the governor 60 miles away. Joe Jim is credited with naming Topeka. A white settler asked him what the place was. He said a good place to grow prairie turnips -- To-pe-ka. The name stuck. The battle royale between the Cheyenne and the Kaw -- or Kanza, for whom Kansas is named -- proved to be four hours of military pageantry. Finally, the Cheyenne left with a few stolen horses, and coffee and sugar from the whites.

But Joe Jim's ride was historic. Joe Jim had lost his arm in a Comanche attack in the 1850s, but even as he approached 50, he could ride like the wind. He took with him another half-breed, an 8-year-old named Indian Charley.

The boy would go on to become one of the winningest Indian jockeys of his time. The boy's mother -- one-quarter Kaw, one-quarter Osage, one-quarter Potawatomi, and one-quarter French -- taught him Kaw and French before he learned English. He loved riding. It was easy money. He could become the next Joe Jim.

His grandparents had other plans. His father was strictly of European stock. While he abandoned his wife and his son, his parents and her parents took over the rearing of this youngster. They got him off the reservation and into school. When he tried to rejoin the old life, his maternal grandmother refused to let him travel with the Kaw to Oklahoma, where they were re-settling.

Years later, as vice president of the United States, Charles Curtis would recall:  "I took her splendid advice and the next morning as the wagons pulled out for the south, bound for Indian Territory, I mounted my pony and with my belongings in a flour sack, returned to Topeka and school. No man or boy ever received better advice, it was the turning point in my life."

He really needed the guidance from a true Indian. He really had a good life on the reservation, up to that point, according to his official Senate biography:
Curtis had learned to ride Indian ponies bareback and won a reputation as a "good and fearless rider." Back in North Topeka, his grandfather William Curtis had built a race track, and in 1869 Charles Curtis rode in his first race. He soon became a full-fledged jockey and continued to ride until 1876. A fellow jockey described Curtis as "rather short and wiry" and "just another brush boy jockey," explaining that eastern riders "called us brush boys because we rode in what would be called the sticks." As a winning jockey, Curtis was known throughout Kansas as "The Indian Boy." His mounts made a lot of money for the local gamblers and prostitutes who bet on him, and he recalled that after one race a madam bought him "a new suit of clothes, boots, hat and all," and had a new jockey suit made for him; others bought him candy and presents. "I had never been so petted in my life and I liked it," Curtis reminisced.
But had he remained Indian Charley, he would have been dead from alcoholism by age 50. Reservation life sucked in the 19th century, sucked in the 20th century, and still sucks in the 21st century.

Charles Curtis had enough of being Indian Charley. He assimilated and made good use of the opportunities set before him. He may have been the most Republican official of his era.

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

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

Senator Lodge was the opposite of Senator Curtis in so many ways. Lodge was strictly Beacon Hill. When he passed the Bar, he went straight to Ropes & Gray, one of the most prestigious law firms in the nation. Its lawyers over the years included Archibald Cox, the attorney general Richard Nixon fired for getting too nosy about Watergate.

But Senator Lodge did not live a pampered life. At age 10, he witnessed the kidnapping of a classmate. Young Lodge's testimony led to the arrest and conviction of the kidnappers.

The even before they reached puberty, the Indian boy and the boy from Beacon Hill had to prove their mettle as men.

In Congress, Representative Curtis pushed for assimilation. He sought to dissolve the tribes, distribute their land, and let Indians become Americans. The Kaw were among the first tribes dissolved. He received 1,625 acres as a member of that tribe when it dissolved.

But tribal leaders had power and opposed him. His legacy of assimilation is now mocked as selling out.

His real problem though was timing. In 1924, he lobbied hard to secure the vice presidential slot on President Coolidge's ticket. Coolidge instead chose Charles Gates Dawes, a banker who would share in 1925 a Nobel Peace Prize for the Dawes Plan for World War I reparations. The reparations of course led to a later collapse of the German economy, which gave rise to Hitler. History has longer arcs than man can see.

In 1928, Curtis challenged front-runner Herbert Hoover for the Republican presidential nomination. Hoover rewarded him with the vice presidency. By rewarded, I mean punished. Charles Curtis's successor as vice president, John Nance Garner, said the vice presidency wasn't worth a warm pale of piss. From Senate majority leader, Curtis fell to the No. 2 job in Washington. On top of that, the Hoover administration was a disaster. After winning in a landslide in 1928, Hoover lost in a bigger landslide in 1932.

With the loss of the presidency for Republicans came a loss of assimilation for Indians. FDR and the Democrats restored the tribes in 1934. Charles Curtis died two years later. Indian Charley had made his mark on history for the good, only to see it erased by those who believe the Indian's place is on the reservation -- not the White House.

Liberals can sneer all they want at assimilation, but tell me, is there any American Indian holding federal office today who grew up on a reservation? Only two Indians now serve in Congress,  Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin. Both are Republican congressmen from Oklahoma.

ArchersOmni: 2015-01-25 [The Archers Omnibus]

There's bad news for Ed, and a horrible shock for Lilian.

Tool-making may have made language genes more useful [Ars Technica]

It’s widely understood that human genetics can influence culture, but increasingly, the idea that culture can also affect genetics is gaining ground. The theory of gene-culture coevolution suggests that “the cultural practices we adopt change the costs and benefits of having certain genes,” explains Catharine Cross, a researcher at the University of St Andrews. “A gene that is advantageous under one cultural practice is not necessarily advantageous under another.”

For example, yam cultivation in West Africa led to deforestation and an increase in standing water, which creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes and malaria. This meant that yam farmers with a particular genetic resistance to malaria were more likely to survive than farmers with susceptibility to malaria. Yam farmers in the region have been found to have a higher incidence of this genetic trait than nearby groups—even speakers of the same language—who farm other crops.

A recent study published in Nature Communications has suggested that stone tool-making practices among the ancestors of modern humans may have put evolutionary pressure on individuals who weren’t very good at communicating, helping to select for the genes that would become involved in language. The study found that the use of verbal teaching, compared to learning by imitation, significantly improved the quality and speed production of stone tools. This suggests that individuals with gestural or verbal communication skills could have learned to make tools faster and better, giving them an advantage over individuals who could only imitate.

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Updated ice sheet model matches wild swings in past sea levels [Ars Technica]

It has been a bit of a head scratcher. Records of sea level during the last few million years tell us that there have been some warm periods where sea level may have been as much as 20 meters higher than it is today. When fed the conditions that prevailed at the time, however, our computer models of ice sheets haven’t been able to reproduce such a swelling of the ocean.

The models can simulate that much sea level rise, but it requires temperatures much higher than were seen during those warm periods. Realistic losses of ice from Greenland and the fragile, western part of Antarctica (the West Antarctic Ice Sheet) could only provide something in the neighborhood of 3 to 10 meters of sea level rise. That leaves 10 to 17 meters for the East Antarctic Ice Sheet—the largest and most stable ice sheet—to chip in. Convincing the miserly East Antarctic Ice Sheet to be that generous with its contents isn’t easy, which is why the models required such high temperatures.

Updating the models

So what are the models missing? Penn State’s David Pollard and Richard Alley, and University of Massachussetts, Amherst’s Robert DeConto had an idea for something to try. Two things to try, really. They added a pair of physical processes to an ice sheet model that weren’t simulated previously. The first was hydrofracturing. When water reaches the ice sheet from rain or ice melt at the surface, it fills crevasses in the ice.

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Gallery: Cars Technica visits Monaco, a car nerd’s nirvana [Ars Technica]

MONTE CARLO, Monaco—"A sunny place for shady people." That's how writer Somerset Maugham described the French Riveria early in the last century, and the description seems particularly apt for Monaco, a little principality that sits on the coast near the French border with Italy.

The place isn't all bad and, if you happen to like cars, it's actually a bit of paradise. Cars Technica happens to be on holiday at the moment, but given the depth and breadth of interesting vehicles around us we simply had to share. It just so happens our little vacation coincided with the Monte Carlo round of the World Rally Championship being in town, so vehicles spotted in the wild range from the energy-efficient (see the tiny, electric Renault Twizy) to the class of hypercars (see the Ferrari LaFerrari). There were even few cars that won't run you a hefty sum of Euros so, despite the race, you get the feeling this area has a certain breadth of gear to gawk at no matter what time of year.

At any rate, enough with the words—on with the cars!

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Don’t cry for the Google Play edition program; it was already dead [Ars Technica]

Earlier this week, the last of the Google Play edition Android phones in Google's online storefront were listed as "no longer available for sale." When contacted for comment, Google had nothing to say, but it's not hard to read between the lines here. The last new Google Play phone was introduced in the spring of 2014. Plans for a Galaxy S5 GPe phone made it far enough that official press photos leaked out into the wild, but the phone never materialized.

The program hit its peak early last year, when a full half-dozen devices were listed all at once: the Galaxy S4, the HTC Ones M7 and M8, the first-generation Moto G, the Sony Z Ultra, and the LG G Pad 8.3. Like doomed kids making their way through Willy Wonka's factory, they silently dropped out one by one. Now they're all gone, and it looks a whole lot like the program has wrapped up.

If so, it's a quiet, inconspicuous end to a quiet, inconspicuous program. Normally we'd say that fewer choices for Android shoppers would be a bad thing, but the changes Google has made to Android since the GPe program was introduced had already rendered it mostly irrelevant.

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SkyMall, killed by the smartphone [Ars Technica]

Yesterday came news that SkyMall, the in-flight catalogue of tchotchkes, is filing for bankruptcy. The cause? According to SkyMall, blame the FAA’s relaxation of its ban on the use of personal electronic devices by airline passengers.

Could it ever have ended any other way? We’re not so sure. SkyMall worked because it had a captive audience with nothing else to look at; now that we can keep browsing or playing Cwazy Cupcakes how could it compete? Perhaps the more surprising thing—to us, at any rate—was the fact that until now, the power of boredom evidently made a decent business model.

How else to explain why people would pay $99.95 for a zombie lawn ornament or $2250 for a statue of a yeti? Or a framed print spelling out the name of a university, each letter a photograph of an architectural feature? OK, perhaps we’re being a little mean-spirited. Mixed in among the weird and impractical offerings, there were usually things that people would pay good money for even if they hadn’t seen them while trapped in seat 25E. The Cat Genie robotic litter box, for example. And if you were a Batman or Harry Potter fan, then SkyMall had your wand or batarang needs covered.

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Signs of progress: One month with Android Wear 5.0 [Ars Technica]

Android Wear 5.0 came out last month—it was the third noteworthy update to the wearable OS, following versions 4.4W.1 and 4.4W.2. It's not a significant enough update to merit its own standalone review, but it's been a while since our last check-in with the platform. Plus, the launch of the Apple Watch is just a few months away at most.

Google also recently sent us another Android Wear watch we hadn't seen before—LG's G Watch R, the round version of the regular square G Watch we looked at back when Android Wear launched. It looks more like a finished product today, where as the first G Watch looked like no-frills development hardware. The G Watch R also doesn't use the old power-hungry internals that give the Moto 360 so many problems.

So armed with a new watch and new software, we spent a full month wearing Android Wear to get a sense of how far it's come since its original release a little over six months ago. While not all of our initial complaints have been addressed, not by a long shot, there are definitely signs of progress.

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How an Internet trolling victim bonded with her worst troll [Ars Technica]

[This article contains spoilers about the radio episode in question.]

On Friday, public radio series This American Life dedicated an episode to stories that revolved around anonymous Internet complaints and abuse. Titled "If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT IN ALL-CAPS," the episode touched upon online feedback in various forms: some sent to the operators of a "momzilla" zoo webcam, some sent to This American Life's producers, and some sent by a robot to its creator.

Most of the stories focused on the recipients of "bile and hate," but one turned the tables by calling an apologetic ex-troll on the phone, at which point he catalogued and apologized for his use of anonymous, hurtful speech.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

WTF My Tax Reform, @GOP? [The Other McCain]

by Smitty Wow, BHO's tax ideas sure are stinky. If only there was an alternative political party to speak of. (1/2) — HireThisGuyIn2016 (@smitty_one_each) January 25, 2015 Such a party would require a capitalist platform. The @GOPs would be a good starting point for #Reform, but they'd have to mean it. (2/2) — HireThisGuyIn2016 (@smitty_one_each) […]

Props To Prof. William Jacobson And Judicial Watch [The Other McCain]

by Smitty Legal Insurrection does the Founder’s Work: The short version is that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department warned NBC News that it could not possess an actual high-capacity magazine, but NBC News went ahead and did it anyway. The MPD recommended a warrant for Gregory’s arrest, but that request was nixed by the D.C. […]

FMJRA 2.0: Rip & Tear [The Other McCain]

– compiled by Wombat-socho Rule 5 Sunday: Cinnamon Girl Batshit Crazy News Average Bubba Ninety Miles from Tyranny A View from the Beach Proof Positive Crazy? Yes, But Also Evil Regular Right Guy Batshit Crazy News Da Tech Guy Political Rift The Pirate’s Cove Feminist Author @PennyRed Quotes Bolshevik Commissar’s Anti-Love Advice Political Hat Batshit […]

"This city of over two million people was attacked beginning late Saturday night from at least two directions by the militants from the Islamist insurgency..." [Althouse]

"... which effectively controls the territory surrounding the city. Loud explosions were heard in the center of the city, and small-arms fire and artillery in its suburbs."

Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Nigeria.

The attack on Maiduguri coincided with a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry to Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, for meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan and his challenger in the coming presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general. Mr. Kerry was expected to focus in part on the Boko Haram threat amid mounting friction between the United States and Nigeria over how best to deal it....

After a meeting with his British counterpart, earlier this month, Mr. Kerry said that the attacks by Boko Haram constituted war crimes and asserted that the United States was planning a “special initiative” to counter the group. But Mr. Kerry has not provided details of what that initiative is, when it might be undertaken or how the cooperation between the American and Nigerian militaries might be improved.

The NSFW Rick Owens Fall 2015 Menswear Collection. [Althouse]

Scroll through the whole thing.

From the comments:

This is deeply unerotic.

Yes, and that may be partly the point.

Interesting, in light of all the flesh that female models are made to expose. I like a lot of the ideas here and wonder how they'd translate to ready-to-wear. This is timely, too, after the discussion on the Gucci post about androgyny in fashion. This is far more innovative and thought-provoking than pussy bows and lace on men.

I've never seen penis look so unappealing. Well, next to the Brett Favre penis pics.

I've never though that when womens genitalia are on display in shows it was supposed to be erotic. Why was this supposed to be?

I call it sick! 
ADDED: NYT fashion writer Guy Trebay handled the genitalia with exquisite delicacy:
[I]t was the flashing that the show will be remembered for, even though it came at a time when in art or movies or onstage genital display has largely lost the power to shock. Seldom in memory have traditional notions of what constitutes gender been so strenuously contested. By deliberately exposing a few pendant bits of flesh, Mr. Owens seemed to be suggesting how tenuous and vulnerable are the basis for what we think of as masculinity.
So gender is contested because the few pendant bits are tenuous and vulnerable.

50 years ago today: Annie Lee Cooper punched Sheriff Jim Clark in the face. [Althouse]

"In January 1965, Cooper stood in line for hours outside the Dallas County Courthouse to register to vote until Sheriff Jim Clark ordered her to vacate the premises. Clark prodded Cooper in the neck with a billy club until Cooper turned around and knocked the sheriff in the jaw. Deputies then wrestled Cooper down as Clark continued to beat her repeatedly with his club. Cooper was charged with 'criminal provocation' and was escorted to the county jail, and then held for 11 hours before being allowed to leave. She spent the period of her incarceration singing spirituals. Some in the sheriff's department wanted to charge her with attempted murder."

"They are animals. Never delude yourself for even a moment that animals exist for anything other than the support of, and use by, Humans." [Althouse]

"That's it. They are tools humans use. Like all tools they need to be cared for, respected, and most important, used...by humans, at their discretion. Any attempt by a person to impart human attributes on animals, signals that persons slip from reality."

Says iowan2 in the comments to the post about using cats in medical experiments.

And I say:

Ah, but you're missing something: imparting human attributes to animals and slipping from reality are also purposes we have for animals. When we make the dog our baby or whatever, we are using it. That IS the use of pets. So I think you are mostly just disapproving of one of the uses. Is fantasy wrong? Children play with dolls and imagine them to be alive. We read books and identify with the characters described in the words. We take LSD and turn the world into a surreal fantasy land. It's one of the main things people do. You can say it's bad, but it is something we do, and we do it with animals a lot of the time.

How to transform your selfies with drawing. [Althouse]

Sébastien Del Grosso has this tutorial, with some cool examples that are in a rather slick "Take On Me" style that I would recommend deviating from.

"In predominantly African-American neighborhoods of U.S. cities, far too many killers have gotten away with far too many crimes for far too long, fueling a disastrous murder epidemic." [Althouse]

"Solving these murders and other serious crimes of violence in black communities should be a top goal for law enforcement—and it deserves to take priority over much more widely discussed issues such as racial profiling and the excessive use of force by police in black neighborhoods, from Ferguson to Staten Island."

So begins a Wall Street Journal article titled "The Underpolicing of Black America/Despite controversies like Ferguson, police are better at stopping African-Americans at random than at halting an epidemic of murder."

"If I had to do it all over again, I'd be a schoolteacher... Probably Roman History or theology." [Althouse]

Said Bob Dylan.

MEANWHILE: In Wisconsin:

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday announced that he is proposing that people with work experience be allowed to take a competency test to gain a teacher license. Walker's spokeswoman says the Department of Public Instruction will be charged with creating a competency exam that will allow someone with "real life experience" to gain a teacher license.
It's not too late, perhaps, for Bob and all the many others who look at their career and say "If I had to do it all over again, I'd be a schoolteacher..." You never have it to do it all over again. You can only do the next thing. How many people with real life experience would like to take that experience and bring it into the classroom? Too many, of course, but if we have the right exam (and other screening), maybe some highly competent and skilled individuals could flow into teaching.
A spokeswoman for the statewide teachers union... did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

"The unfulfilled promise of the Crock-Pot, an unlikely symbol of women’s equality." [Althouse]

That's a Washington Post headline for a piece written by Max Ehrenfreund — "a blogger on the Financial desk [who] writes for Know More and Wonkblog." Didn't you assume they'd have a woman writing such a thing? This promise-of-the-Crock-Pot stuff is under the heading "Wonkblog," which I think of as Ezra Klein, but Ezra Klein relocated to that place that I've forgotten the name of... oh, yes, Vox. I wonder what's... cooking at Vox?

I have no idea who ever took the Crock-Pot seriously as a "symbol of women’s equality," and the idea that it made a promise — like a political candidate — is truly silly, though I feel as though I've seen political cartoons depicting a candidate for office as an inanimate object, a toaster perhaps. In Bill Bryson's wonderful memoir about growing up in the 1950s, he talks about the simple, post-war enthusiasm for household appliances that took on a certain anthropomorphism:

Suddenly [Americans] were able to have things they had never dreamed of having, and they couldn’t believe their luck. There was, too, a wonderful simplicity of desire. It was the last time that people would be thrilled to own a toaster or waffle iron. If you bought a major appliance, you invited the neighbors around to have a look at it. When I was about four my parents bought an Amana Stor-Mor refrigerator and for at least six months it was like an honored guest in our kitchen. I’m sure they’d have drawn it up to the table at dinner if it hadn’t been so heavy.
But what did the refrigerator say? Did it make any promises, like the upstart appliance from the 1970s, which aped the spirit of the time and boasted of its activism in the Women's Liberation Movement?

The Wonkblog piece is kind of all over the place, not focused on the "unfulfilled promise" and "unlikely symbol[ism]" in the silly headline. There's quite a bit about how much men like to use slow-cookers. But the most interesting thing about the Crock-Pot is its origin in Judaism:
Nachumsohn, who went by the surname "Naxon," invented the slow cooker to be able to cook cholent, a traditional stew eaten by Jews in eastern Europe on the Sabbath. Since they were forbidden from cooking, the Jews would bring pots of stew to a nearby bakery the day before. They would cook slowly in the residual heat from the ovens, his daughter Lenore told NPR last year.
So a Crock-Pot was immensely useful for people with a religious need not to work during the part of the day when they wanted a nice, hot meal. With no such need myself, I never believed fussing with an appliance and dinner foods was a good use of time in the morning. You can cook quick dinners in the evening right before you want to eat — all that pasta and stir frying. Come on. That was easier than paying attention to what you were going to eat long before you were going to eat it. I like stew and pot roast too, but that was always easy to make the night before and then reheat.

I never bought a slow cooker in my life. I always thought of it as another junky appliance to clutter up the counter. The 1970s were the heyday of countertop appliances — a device that did nothing but heat hot dogs, the ludicrous "Salad Shooter," the (cannibalistic?) "FryDaddy." Who believed these things would fulfill any promises of liberation?

Does The Washington Post think we women of the 1970s imagined that smoking a menthol cigarette would change the weather?

"PETA's campaign and the intense public pressure it brought to bear on UW-Madison have ended this horrendous laboratory's legacy of cruelty at last." [Althouse]

Said the PETA press release on the occasion of the closure of UW's cat research lab, which was "quietly closed" last month.

Neuroscience professor Tom Yin had run the lab for nearly 40 years, and said it closed Dec. 1 when his research funding ran out. Yin said he is on a path to retirement and did not apply to renew his research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Yin researched how auditory and visual stimuli affect the brain....

The university issued a statement Friday that said the closure had nothing to do with PETA. Yin said he simply decided to retire for personal reasons.

"That was actually a regret I had when I decided to retire, that they would think they had forced me to close down," Yin said of PETA. "Nothing could be farther from the truth."
At the link — to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — there's a photograph of a man, but it's not Professor Yin. It's the actor James Cromwell, who was arrested in 2013, protesting at a meeting of the university's Board of Regents. There's also a photo of a Madison bus with a bus-sized ad featuring a cat and the words "I am not lab equipment."

There is no photo of Professor Yin or a word of explanation as to why cats were the animal of choice for neuroscience research. Let's look elsewhere for that. Here, in Isthmus, we learn that Yin studied hearing, and cats and human beings have similar auditory systems. The question was whether deaf human beings would benefit from having 2 rather than one cochlear implants, and the cats were deafened and fitted with cochlear implants. Much more at that link about the details of the experiment and the aggressiveness of the PETA campaign.
Eric Sandgren, director of UW-Madison's Research Animal Resource Center, says what is happening to Yin is a case study in the outsized power of activist groups like PETA.

"Underpinning this whole story is this tremendous pressure that PETA put on the regulatory agencies and UW-Madison," he says. PETA "besmirched" the UW's reputation, he adds, and "did so in a way that had no basis of fact.... Animal researchers are less willing to participate in [the UW-Madison Forum on Animal Research Ethics] or any similar public event in the face of PETA's misleading public campaign."
Sandgren says he received a razor blade in the mail recently.... "The letter inside said 'Doctor Sandgren, UW School of Veterinary Torture -- Use this razor blade to slit your wrists.' "I work with activists, I talk with activists and I try and have this dialogue, acknowledging the things we have in common... It's just sad when it comes to this.""

Distribution Release: 4MLinux 11.0 [DistroWatch.com: News]

Zbigniew Konojacki has announced the release of 4MLinux 11.0, an updated version of the project's lightweight desktop Linux distribution built from scratch and featuring a customised JWM window manager: "The status of the 4MLinux 11.0 series has been changed to stable. Major changes in the core of the....

Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering? [hogewash]

I think so, Brain … but how will we get the pond scum off of the lens?


Forming a Black Hole [hogewash]

This simulation shows a pair of neutron stars colliding to form a black hole.

Video Credit: NASA


Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering? [hogewash]

I think so, Brain … I tried reading some of this guy’s books, but I can’t finish them. The covers are too far apart.


Team Kimberlin Post of the Day [hogewash]

The Dread Pro-Se Kimberlin has included an admission that he has no case in his opposition to Lee Stranahan’s motion to dismiss the Kimberlin v. The Universe, et al. RICO Madness.ECF 249-p12Unfortunately for TDPK, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and applicable Supreme Court decisions require that his case be pleaded with particularity. He needs to say that Defendant A took action B on date C and caused damage D. Furthermore, since TDPK is alleging fraud, Rule 9 applies; it states “a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud …”

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), was a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States involving civil procedure. It heightened the pleading requirement for Federal civil cases, requiring that plaintiffs include enough facts in their complaint to make it plausible—not merely possible or conceivable—that they will be able to prove facts to support their claims. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) the Court clarified and tightened the pleading standard set forth in Twombly. “Threadbare” recitations of the element of a tort with no connection to what happened in the real world are not acceptable. A well-pleaded allegation says who did what to whom, when it occurred, and what the resulting damage was. With particularity.

* * * * *

popcorn4bkYou know, TDPK’s opposition to Lee’s motion amounts to a surreply to my motion, and the Local Rules don’t allow for surreplies without leave from the Court. I could try to have it thrown out on that basis. Or I could let it stand with its admission that Kimberlin has no case.

Decisions. Decisions.


Quote of the Day [hogewash]

Either something is authentic or it is unauthentic, it is either false or true, make-believe or spontaneous life; yet here we are faced with a prevaricated truth and an authentic fake, hence a thing that is at once the truth and a lie.

—Stanislaw Lem


Does economic freedom lead to greater tolerance? [Marginal REVOLUTION]

Mostly, yes, although with some caveats (the headline of the piece doesn’t exactly capture this).  That is the topic of my latest column for The Upshot.  Here is one excerpt:

Niclas Berggren…and Therese Nilsson…have produced a fascinating series of papers on these questions, sometimes writing singly, sometimes together or with the collaboration of a variety of co-authors. Their most notable study is perhaps a paper they wrote together, “Does Economic Freedom Foster Tolerance?

…One of their most striking findings is that societies characterized by greater economic freedom and greater wealth do indeed exhibit greater tolerance toward gay people, a tendency suggesting that gay rights, including gay marriage, will spread globally as national economies liberalize and develop.

Some metrics of economic freedom count more than others:

This greater tolerance is strongly associated only with certain features of what has often been defined as economic freedom. For example, a smaller government, measured as a share of gross domestic product, is often included in so-called economic freedom indexes as an objective measure of freedom. But the data show that smaller government has a slight negative correlation with tolerance of gay people by heterosexuals. One implication is that many conservatives may be overly preoccupied with the size of government as a measure of how free societies actually are.

On the other hand, the data shows that when a society has impressive scores on property rights security and low inflation — two other components of economic freedom indexes — these characteristics are strongly and positively correlated with tolerance of gays. It’s possible that low inflation, and the behavior of a central bank, are stand-ins for the general trustworthiness of a nation’s government and broader institutions, and such trustworthiness helps foster tolerance.

The results for race are not nearly as strong, namely both freedom and prosperity are less clearly associated with higher levels of racial tolerance, although the correlation is still a positive one.

And there is this:

We are often told that education is an important remedy, yet it does not register as a meaningful factor in the cross-country data in this paper. Higher levels of education simply have not correlated significantly with higher levels of tolerance across countries.

Do read the whole thing.

Is Greece already seeing some fiscal collapse? [Marginal REVOLUTION]

Kerin Hope from the FT reports:

A reluctance to pay taxes was much criticised by Greece’s creditors as one reason why the country needed a big international bailout. Now many Greeks are again avoiding the taxman as they bet the radical left Syriza party will quickly loosen fiscal policy if it comes to power in Sunday’s general election.

A finance ministry official confirmed on Friday that state revenues had collapsed this month. “It’s normal for the tax take to decline during an election campaign but this time it’s more noticeable,” the official said, avoiding any specific figures on the projected shortfall.

However, two private sector economists forecast the shortfall could exceed €1.5bn, or more than 40 per cent of projected revenues for January.

File under “In case you had not been paying attention…”  And here is Antonio Fatás with a Grexit scenario.  That is still not what most people expect, however.

An inconvenient law [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

There is a humane, transparent, truthful — and constitutional — way to address illegal immigration. Unfortunately, President Obama’s unilateral plan to exempt millions of residents from federal immigration law is

Ferguson Obscures Much Bigger Problems in the ‘Black Community’ [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

From the very beginning, this was much ado about an aberration, a tragic aberration to be sure, but an aberration nonetheless. Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police

This Thanksgiving, have an attitude of gratitude [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

If Thomas Jefferson could be faulted for one thing in composing the Declaration of Independence, it might be his inclusion of the words “the pursuit of happiness” in the text.

Pelosi’s Grip Seems to Have Weakened [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

No one in Washington much cares what House Democrats do these days. House rules tend to ensure that the main job of members of the minority is to show up,

Ferguson a lesson lost on race [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Of all the wild talk coming out of Ferguson and the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer — and all that angry and predictable

Don’t Let Lame Ducks Spend Your Money [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

On November 4, voters fired the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, replacing it with a GOP majority that campaigned against Obamacare and big spending. But the Democrats who lost

Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie Fails to ask Michael Brown’s parents how they feel about their Son stealing cigars [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

The Today Show did their part in perpetuating the myth that Michael Brown was an innocent teenager instead of a common thief and drug user. Here’s a rundown some of

The New Axis of Evil Waging Unconventional Warfare [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

NoisyRoom.net For years, we have warned about the solidifying new Axis of Evil between Russia, China and Iran. It is now fully formed and growing in strength. Already Russia and

If Amnesty is not stopped the Republican Party and America are over [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Now that justice has been served in Ferguson Americans can refocus their attention on the real issue at hand. That is that America is on the brink of becoming a

Liberal Grinch Tries to Steal Thanksgiving [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

A traditional Thanksgiving features a turkey dinner with the family and thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to create such bounty. But in case this is too politically

What God Wants YOU to Know This THANKSGIVING! [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Every year my family has a tradition at Thanksgiving called the five kernels of corn. Each plate gets five kernels of popcorn and we go around the room presenting each

Chuck Schumer Reacts to Election Drubbing: Dems Must Double Down on Leftism [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Voters are not liking liberal rule very much, to judge by the massive anti-Democrat landslide earlier this month. Yet here is how Chuck Schumer, one of the most powerful Democrats

35 year old woman who committed statutory rape on a 15 year old says she’s the victim [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Abigail Simon, a 35-year-old former tutor, apparently suffers from some serious delusions. She took advantage of a 15-year-old boy and had a sexual relationship with him, yet somehow, she thinks

Grieving Mother Takes Bloody Revenge by Killing 25 Militants During Seven Hour Battle After They Gunned Down Her Son [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

The Taliban made a big mistake when they killed Reza Gul’s son. The grief-stricken mother, along with her daughter and her daughter-in-law, immediately took revenge, killing 25 of the terrorists

VIDEO: Man Claims He Was Unable to Pay His Child Support Because He Died in a Car Accident [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Deadbeat parents will come up with any excuse to get out of taking responsibility for their children. But one dad, John McCroy, might just take the case for the most

AMAZING VIDEO: Deep Sea ‘Black Sea Devil’ Anglerfish Caught Live on Film For First Time Ever [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Over the years, scientists have seen numerous dead Black Sea Devil fish, of course. But this is the very first time deep sea divers have caught video of a Black

Obama’s Amnesty Gives Employers a $3,000 Incentive to Hire Illegals Over Real Americans [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Not only has Obama unconstitutionally given some 5 million lawbreaking illegal immigrants sudden legal status, but now he is giving employers a $3,000 incentive to hire illegals instead of hiring

‘Time’ Magazine runs a piece DEFENDING rioting [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Time Magazine thinks that the violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri are a good thing. Yes, you read that right. Instead of criticizing the “protesters” who are burning their own neighborhood

The city of Atlanta suspends fire chief for writing book with biblical beliefs on homosexuality [Video] [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

So, because he wrote about his religious beliefs, the Fire Chief of Atlanta has been suspended without pay for 30 days. Now, I understand he should have gotten permission first,

A mother, 29, who scammed a community out of $25,000 after lying about her son, 6, having terminal bone cancer is sentenced to probation [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

I have known people throughout my life who live in a world wholly in their own imagination. This woman convinced herself, everyone around her and even the child himself that

Incredible Fan Made Video: Batman vs. Darth Vader. [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Well, I always root for the good guys, but in today’s culture, the villain wins. The Dark Side seems to be very strong indeed and is snapping the neck of

Hey, Here’s How To Talk About “Climate Change” At Thanksgiving [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Of course, when you, the Warmist, start yammering on about Hotcoldwetdry, I would hope you are not actually eating turkey, because turkey itself is bad for “climate change”. In fact,

Time Magazine Defends Rioting [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Is this article by Darlene Cuhna clickbait? Trolling? Or a serious piece which is enabling for the looter class? Ferguson: In Defense of Rioting The violent protests in Ferguson, Mo.,

10 Of The Most Disturbing Pictures And Videos From The Ferguson Rioting Tue Night [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

* Raw: Mace used during protests in Ferguson, courtesy of KMOV * WATCH: Ferguson Protestor Grabs, Breaks Fox News Camera Live On-Air, courtesy of Pat Dollard (This appears to be

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke suggests that Barack Obama encouraged Ferguson rioting [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Wow, this is a pretty harsh shot at Obama. Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is suggesting that President Barack Obama encouraged rioting in Ferguson, Mo., in the wake

Two New York Times Reporters Posted Darren Wilson’s Home Address. Look Here To See THEIR Home Addresses. [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Since the Grand Jury verdict in Ferguson, there have been riots, looting, assaults, guns fired and cars and businesses burned to the ground. Meanwhile, all the criminals and thugs doing

What Obama’s Ferguson Sermon Left Out [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

In his 967-word statement to the nation about the Ferguson grand jury decision on Tuesday night, President Obama devoted precisely one sentence to the risks and sacrifices police officers make

Thanks, Property Rights! [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for something our forebears gave us: property rights. People associate property rights with greed and selfishness, but they are keys to our prosperity. Things go

Elite Contempt for Ordinary Americans [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Jonathan Gruber, MIT economist and paid architect of Obamacare, has shocked and disgusted many Americans. In 2013, he explained to a University of Pennsylvania audience: “This bill was written in

Amnesty Will Force Layoffs [John Hawkins' Right Wing News]

Obama’s amnesty for illegal immigrants will produce a disaster of unparalleled magnitude when the Obamacare employer mandate kicks in. Those granted amnesty will not be eligible for Obamacare. Amnesty will

The Kids are Back in Charge in Greece [The PJ Tatler]

The logic of the Greek voter escapes me. Their economy and debt spun out of control because of their reliance on runaway socialism. So, in order to fix it, they elect a party that promises…runaway socialism.

The radical socialist party Syriza has won a decisive victory in Greece today. They ran on a platform promising to end responsible spending, renege on their debt, and give all citizens the “dignity” of a free ride once again.

The adults have been overthrown and the children have been put back in charge.

Free ice cream for everyone!

Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza brushed aside Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s party to record a decisive victory in Greece’s elections, after riding a public backlash against years of budget cuts demanded by international creditors.

Tsipras’s Coalition of the Radical Left, known by its Greek acronym, took 36.5 percent compared with 27.7 percent for Samaras’s New Democracy in Sunday’s election, according to official projections. The far-right Golden Dawn placed third with 6.3 percent followed by To Potami, a potential Syriza coalition partner, with 5.9 percent.

While the projected victory was by a wider margin than polls predicted, it remains unclear whether Syriza will be able to govern alone. Even with a razor-thin majority or in a fragile coalition, the result still hands Tsipras, 40, a clear mandate to confront Greece’s program of austerity imposed in return for pledges of 240 billion euros ($269 billion) in aid since May 2010. The challenge for him now is to strike a balance between keeping his election pledges including a writedown of Greek debt and avoiding what Samaras repeatedly warned was the risk of an accidental exit from the euro.

“The Greek people punished New Democracy for governing in the petty manner of the old regime’s political parties,” Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens, said by phone. “Most Greeks voting Syriza don’t expect a spectacular change but a marginal one. A marginal one would be significant for them.”

European policy makers including German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his Dutch counterpart, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, warned Greece against diverting from its agreed bailout program. Finance ministers from the 19 countries that share the euro are due to discuss Greece when they meet in Brussels on Monday. Germany’s Finance Ministry said in a statement that Schaeuble’s position was unchanged after the result and “the agreements reached with Greece remain valid.”

How badly does the rest of Europe want Greece to remain in the eurozone? Not as much as 4 years ago when dire predictions of Armageddon were made if Greece defaulted. This time, the dominoes aren’t lined up so neatly. Spain, Portugal, and Ireland are doing better, and Italy is also on sounder fiscal footing.

The problem for Greece and her EU creditors is that any alteration through negotiations in the terms of the bailout will draw instant whines from Ireland, Spain, and Portugal for a similar restructuring. No doubt there would be a willingness to alter the bailout terms at the margins, but wholesale changes would be out of the question.

This is what Samaras meant when he spoke of an “accidental” exit from the EU for Greece. Tsipras’s actions may initiate another financial crisis that would see bond holders flee and ordinary Greeks running for the banks.

The markets assume that the risk of Greece exiting the euro is small, but officials close to the situation are not complacent. Some fear that the compromises required on both sides may prove too difficult.

These people believe that debt relief for Greece is now a political necessity. They argue that the eurozone can’t demand that Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras abandon his campaign promises and respect Greece’s existing commitments without offering something in return.

Indeed, some officials fear that the eurozone poses the bigger risk to a deal. It is not just rich Northern European countries such as Germany and Finland that are opposed to debt relief for Greece; so too are Eastern countries such as Slovakia and Estonia, whose citizens are less well off than those of Greece, and the governments of crisis countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland, whose leaders are paying a high political price for complying with the terms of their bailout programs.

There are risks whatever the eurozone does. Policy makers are privately in little doubt that failure to agree a deal with Greece would catastrophically destabilize the eurozone, playing into the hands of anti-EU fringe parties. But a deal that delivers Mr. Tsipras a big dividend for his years of opposition to reform and fiscal discipline in Greece risks sowing the seeds for future instability by undermining support for pro-reform governments.

Syriza’s victory is a warning for the rest of the EU. It is painfully obvious that the free citizens of Europe, when given the choice of doing what is right, but at a painful cost, and doing what is easy by listening to politicians who play on their emotions, will choose easy every time. It’s always more fun to be an irresponsible teenager than a responsible adult and the adolescents who will be running Greece will now be able to deliver their “radical” reform — a return to the good old days when no one cared about the budget deficit or how much debt they were piling up.

Always appearing on the verge of breaking up, the idea of a United Europe has survived every attempt to kill it over the last few decades. The next few months will show just how bulletproof the EU really is.

Netanyahu: ‘I Will Go Anywhere I am Invited’ to Defend Israel’s ‘Existence’ [The PJ Tatler]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced his upcoming address to a joint session of Congress in remarks at today’s cabinet meeting, stating that he has a duty without borders to keep Iran from going nuclear.

“In the coming weeks, the major powers are liable to reach a framework agreement with Iran, an agreement that is liable to leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, which would endanger – first and foremost – the existence of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said at the outset of the meeting. “This is the same Iran that has taken over Lebanon and Syria and is now taking over Yemen and Iraq. This is the same Iran that is preparing an active front against us both on the Golan Heights and in southern Lebanon. This same Iran cannot advance toward nuclear weapons.”

Iran’s Press TV reported Saturday that a Revolutionary Guard commander threatened to open a new front against Israel across the West Bank.

“We will certainly consider a special retaliation for this issue,” IRGC’s second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, told al-Alam of the recent strike that killed six Hezbollah members and an Iranian general in the Golan Heights. “This is part of a new reality that will gradually unravel.”

“As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel,” Netanyahu continued. “This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel’s position and in order to defend its future and its existence.”

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough insisted on CNN this morning that the administration wouldn’t get into the “blame game” over the Netanyahu invitation, extended by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“This is the most important relationship we have in the world. This is something that ought to be and will continue to be, as far as we’re concerned, above partisan politics,” McDonough said. “This is a relationship, given its importance, that stretches across many different things, from values straight through intelligence cooperation to defense and security assistance.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CBS the situation highlights “that relations have never been worse between ourselves and the only genuine democracy in the entire Middle East.”

“They believe, they are convinced that these negotiations with Iran will lead to Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon, which will then nuclearize the entire Middle East and that will be a direct threat to the existence of the state of Israel,” McCain said.

“I regret that the relations have deteriorated to this degree. But I do believe that it’s important that Prime Minister Netanyahu speak to the American people. And, by the way, we need congressional ratification of any agreement that is made. This is too big to be left — to not be treated as a treaty.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at Friday’s briefing that the Iran pact is “an agreement” and “not a treaty,” thus doesn’t need congressional approval.

“We want to have a constructive working relationship with Congress, but you know, steps that undermine the talks or steps that put in place additional sanctions in this diplomatic negotiating period while talks are ongoing aren’t constructive and aren’t going to further our efforts to resolve what’s a pretty serious national security priority for the United States of America,” Earnest said.

Top Lawmakers: Argentine Prosecutor’s Death Must Shine Light on Iran’s Deeds During Nuke Talks [The PJ Tatler]

Members of Congress are calling for a robust investigation into the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman — and for the continuation of his work that had linked the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center to Iran, and the cover-up of Iran’s involvement to the Kirchner government.

Nisman, 51, was scheduled to testify the day after his death before a congressional inquiry into the alleged protection of suspects by the presidential palace. Nisman had long been the target of death threats, and said four days before his death that someone in the Argentine government was leaking information contained in his inquiry to the Iranians.

The bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires killed 87 people and injured more than 100, and Nisman lived and breathed his dogged pursuit of bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Nisman had a security detail of 10 federal officers who have now been suspended; Iranian media is highlighting the theory that “rogue agents” killed Nisman. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner quickly said the prosecutor committed suicide, but now says he was murdered in an effort to frame her government as evidence mounts showing that Nisman did not shoot himself in the forehead at close range.

Initial reports from the crime scene said a key was wedged in the front door lock from the inside, but the locksmith called to the scene said the service door was open and a third secret door to the apartment was found as well.

Jewish journalist Damian Pachter, who first reported Nisman’s death, has fled Argentina because of threats over the past week. He detailed the tale in a column for Haaretz after arriving in Israel. “I then had to consider the best thing to do, because when an Argentine intelligence agent is on your tail, it’s never good news. He didn’t just want to have a coffee with me, that’s for sure,” Pachter wrote. “I have no idea when I’ll be back in Argentina; I don’t even know if I want to. What I do know is that the country where I was born is not the happy place my Jewish grandparents used to tell me stories about.”

“After I left Argentina I found out that the government was still publishing wrong information about me on social media,” the journalist continued. “The Twitter feed of Casa Rosada, the Argentine presidential palace, posted the details of the airline ticket I had bought, and claimed that I intended to return to Argentina by February 2 — in other words, I hadn’t really fled the country. In fact, my return date is in December.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Kirchner’s announcement that Mr. Nisman’s death was not a suicide “raises troubling new questions.”

“His investigation – which promised to shed light on new evidence about Iran’s role in the bombing – must continue and his findings must be made public to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Menendez said. “The increasingly suspicious conditions surrounding Mr. Nisman’s death, just hours before he was scheduled to testify before the Argentine Congress, demand a thorough and transparent investigation. I urge the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires to take all possible steps to support an open and credible investigation.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry stressing that the administration “should press for a thorough and impartial international investigation into his death, and the serious allegations of Argentine collusion with Iran that Nisman was poised to unveil before the Argentine legislature just hours before his body was found.”

“Mr. Nisman’s investigations uncovered a web of corruption, impunity, and the irrefutable hand of the Iranian regime and its proxy Hezbollah in the 1994 bombing. However, neither Iran nor Hezbollah have been held accountable for this horrific act,” Royce wrote. “In fact, Nisman’s latest allegations point to a conspiracy at the highest levels of the Argentine government to cover up Iran’s involvement in the bombing as part of a deal to trade Argentine grain for Iranian oil.”

Royce tied Nisman’s death to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, telling Kerry “we must not forget Iran’s clear, long-standing commitment to obtaining a nuclear capability at all cost—an effort which once benefited from Argentinean cooperation.”

“We must also not ignore Iran’s continued use of proxies, such as Hezbollah, to perpetrate terror worldwide,” Royce said. “…Assigning an independent, international panel to examine Nisman’s evidence of Iranian involvement in the 1994 terrorist attack and Argentinian collusion in its cover-up would be a major step toward finding his killer and finally bringing the perpetrators of this deadly terrorist attack to justice.”

The administration has said little about Nisman’s death. State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said “we’re not going to speculate in any aspect of his death” when pressed Friday about potential Iran involvement.

Menendez said thoughts also need to be with Argentina’s Jewish community “as it once again suffers the frustrations of not seeing justice served for the victims of the brutal 1994 attack.”

“It has been said that Mr. Nisman is now the 86th victim of the AMIA terror attack and we must ensure that all questions surrounding their deaths are answered and that justice prevails.”

Doomsday Clock Ticks Two Minutes Closer to Midnight [The PJ Tatler]

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to the end of the world.

The clock now stands at three minutes to midnight — the closest it’s been to doomsday since 1984.

“Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. And world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe,” said Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a news release. “These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth.”

The Bulletin’s Science and Security Board looks at global issues on a regular basis and decides whether to move the minute hand of the clock, with particular stress on the status of nuclear arms and reaction to climate issues.

In recent years, the clock has moved the wrong direction for humanity. After standing at 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 — the furthest it’s ever been from the end of the world — it’s gotten closer each time it’s been changed since, with the exception of 2010, when it was pushed back by one minute to 11:54 p.m.

The last time the clock was moved was in 2012, when it was moved up one minute to 11:55.

The scientists expressed disappointment at the latest developments.

Noting that nuclear trends are moving backwards, the Science and Security Board’s Sharon Squassoni pointed out that weapons modernization programs and disarmament have “ground to a halt.”

And action on climate change? “Efforts at reducing global emissions of heat-trapping gases have so far been entirely insufficient to prevent unacceptable climate disruption,” said the Bulletin’s Richard Somerville. “We all need to respond now, while there is still time.”

The Doomsday Clock was first put out in 1947. The closest the clock has been to midnight was in 1953, when it was set at 11:58 p.m.

Left unmentioned by the scientists is that the leadership of the United States is in the hands of a weak, bumbling, naive president whose policies over the last six years have led to a more dangerous, more unstable world. That might be worth a minute closer to doomsday alone.

In fact, smart, patient, and consistent leadership is far more important to the safety of the world than superficial agreements to cut nuclear arsenals. Few could argue that Vladimir Putin or any European leaders, much less President Obama, fits that profile of a steady, capable leader.

And climate change? Human civilization could end in an hour if there’s a significant nuclear exchange. But it will be a hundred years before global warming is at its peak, if you accept the modeling. The idea that we have to drastically alter our economy and civilization now in order to save ourselves is a guess and shouldn’t have any bearing on where the hands of the Doomsday Clock are positioned.

But what fun is that — especially when the competition for non-profit dollars is intense. Including global warming in calculations for the Doomsday Clock is political, not scientific.

But then, the scientists have always been political. In 1984, they made this assessment of the relationship between the U.S. and Soviet Union:

In 1984, as the United States began a major defense build-up that included the pursuit of a potentially destabilizing ballistic missile defense system, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union reached an icy nadir. “Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off. And arms control negotiations have been reduced to a species of propaganda,” the Bulletin wrote then, in explaining why the hands of the Doomsday Clock had been moved to three minutes to midnight, the closest they had been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing.

The U.S. did not “begin” a defense buildup in 1984. By that time, it was well underway, having begun under Jimmy Carter in FY 1978.

And the reason arms-control negotiations were going nowhere was because the Soviet Union walked out of SALT talks because the U.S. would not agree to shelve its plans to deploy Pershing missiles in Europe. All the “propaganda” was coming from the Soviets.

The Doomsday Clock has always been a useful tool for the left to hit Republican administrations with. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, today with the clock sitting at the closest to midnight in 30 years, that there wouldn’t be a whisper of criticism directed at President Obama.

Dueling Visions of Masculinity at the Box Office: Johnny Depp’s Goofy Mortdecai Vs Bradley Cooper’s Sniper Hero [The PJ Tatler]

What happened to Johnny Depp? Was the Oscar nomination for the first Pirates something he had to sell his soul to the devil to get? Was the price that he had to perpetually play lamer and lamer versions of the same flamboyant persona?

“What are you watching?” my wife asks just now as I play the trailer above of the embarrassing new Depp movie that’s flopped. I tell her and she answers, “I’m so over Johnny Depp, I never really liked him.”

“Can I quote you on that?”

“What?”

“On what you just said about Johnny Depp.”

“Yeah.”

“Are we still going to try and go see American Sniper before it’s out of theaters?”

“Yeah!”

More on American Sniper at PJ Lifestyle last week:

The Secret Reason for American Sniper‘s Breakout Success

Are Brown People Capable of Evil?

American Sniper and the Billion Dollars That Hollywood Leaves on the Table Each Year

Chris Kyle’s Righteous Indignation

Why American Sniper Is One of the Greatest War Movies Ever

ISIS Demands Prisoner Exchange to Spare the Life of Second Japanese Hostage [The PJ Tatler]

Islamic State has apparently executed one of the Japanese hostages the terror group was holding, according to a video posted online showing the second hostage holding a picture of the other prisoner’s severed head.

ISIS is now demanding an exchange of prisoners for the other hostages life — a Jordanian woman who was convicted of assisting in a terrorist attack against several hotels in 2005.

CNN:

The static image, shown in a video file posted by a known ISIS supporter, shows surviving Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, alone, in handcuffs and dressed in orange, holding a photo of what appears to be beheaded compatriot Haruna Yukawa.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that the video is “highly credible.” U.S. authorities said they had no reason to doubt its authenticity.

Abe told Japanese broadcaster NHK that the killing was “abominable” and “unforgivable,” demanding the immediate release of Goto.

NHK also reported comments from Yukawa’s father.

“I still don’t want to believe it,” Shoichi Yukawa said, his face not shown in the report. “If I can see him again, I’d like to hold him in my arms.”

Saturday’s posting, came four days after an ISIS video demanded that the Japanese government pay $200 million within 72 hours for the two hostages’ release.

In the video released Saturday, the voice of a person claiming to be Goto says in English that Abe is to blame for Yukawa’s death.

“You were given a deadline,” he says.

The voice then relays the apparent new demand from ISIS — the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman arrested in Jordan in 2005 on suspicion of trying to take part in an attack in which others killed dozens at Jordanian hotels.

“They no longer want money, so you don’t need to worry about funding terrorists,” the voice says. “They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abe talked by phone on Saturday, according Jordanian state news agency Petra.

The news agency did not detail what the two discussed beyond saying they “reviewed the latest developments in the Middle East.”

Will Abdullah help? It appears that ISIS carefully chose the subject for its prisoner swap. Sajida al-Rishaw is a failed suicide bomber who took part in a horrific series of attacks on 3 major hotels in Amman, Jordan in 2005. Her husband was one of the attackers killed when his explosives belt blew up.

Most significantly, according to Jordanian authorities, she is also thought to be a sister of a close aide to the deceased leader of the forerunner to ISIS, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed during the war but many of his aides survived to create Islamic State.

The 2005 attacks in Amman killed 60 people, so it’s doubtful King Abdullah would let such a dangerous person go. There was no deadline set in this latest message, but if Abdullah, as expected, denies the request of ISIS for the swap, Mr. Goto’s days will be numbered.

Fox News Criticizes Netanyahu for Not Bowing to Obama [The PJ Tatler]

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

The Fox news segment, on the show “Shepard Smith Reporting,” began with a response to a quote from Martin Indyk from The New York Times on Thursday wherein the former US ambassador to Israel and the former US envoy to the peace process says: “Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign and the Republicans are using Bibi for their campaign against Obama…Unfortunately the US relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours.”

Wallace said he agreed completely with Indyk and that he was “shocked” by the whole affair.

Smith queried whether Netanyahu would back out of  the speech because, “Members of his own Mossad have come out and said this is a horrible idea and so have members of his own political party. Of course his political opponents are  screaming up and down, the newspapers over there are going wild over this,” he added.

“It just seems that they think we don’t pay any attention and that we are just a bunch of complete morons, the US citizens, like we wouldn’t pick up on what is happening here,” Smith said.

…”For Netanyahu to do something that is going to be seen as a deliberate and a really egregious snub of President Obama, when Obama is going to be in power for the next year and three quarters, seems to me like a pretty risky political strategy for Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Wallace said.

“For Netanyahu to come here and side with Boehner against Obama on Iran seems to me like very dicey politics,” he said.

That’s right, Shep Smith and the Fox News crowd have officially joined the ranks of the anti-Israel mainstream media, purporting that the Mossad and Israeli media somehow think American citizens are “a bunch of complete morons.” Apparently Shep and Chris Wallace have remained blind to the fact that Bibi and Barry have hated each other since the beginning. They’ve also ignored the fact that Obama’s administration, through various unnamed sources, has worked hard to hack away at any relationship the two leaders may have ever claimed.

Looks like Kathy Shaidle is right, we’ve all got to be our own Churchills now.

Palin’s Trial Balloon [The PJ Tatler]

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has fueled speculation that she is seriously considering a run for the GOP nomination in 2016.

Palin told the Washington Post, “You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested” in running for president. She also told ABC News earlier in the week, “Yeah, I mean, of course, when you have a servant’s heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested.”

When asked about the familiar names already popping up in the potential GOP primary, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, neither of whom will attend the Iowa Freedom Summit, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee quipped, “I can’t wait for new energy.” She added there had “better be a competition and not a coronation,” making it clear she thinks that’s the only way Republicans can beat Hillary Clinton, if the former first lady and secretary of state emerges as the Democratic nominee.

“Big competition, and that competition in the GOP … will surface that candidate who can take on Hillary, be ready for Hillary and show the nation what it is going to take to get the country back on the right track — because we can’t afford status quo, because status quo lately has been Latin for, ‘We are getting screwed,’ and status quo has got to go,” she said.

As for who she wants to see as that “right candidate,” she described the person as someone who will “turn things around, someone who will, in some respects, I don’t know, maybe be considered a bit avant garde, to the establishment anyway, because this next person has got to realize this is war, this is war for our hunters’ future.

“I want to help find that candidate that realizes that [their standing in the next election is] not what matters, that’s not what is at stake,” Palin said. “What’s at stake is our children and our grandchildren’s future.”

Palin sounds like a candidate to me. And she’s teeing off on Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, implying that their establishmentarianism is no better than the status quo — a potent theme that will resonate with the conservative base.

She also implies that Bush/Romney aren’t strong enough to get in the trenches with Hillary and the Clinton machine to duke it out. She certainly describes herself when she says she thinks the GOP candidate should be “considered a bit avante garde.” In fact, the way she describes the ideal candidate is like she’s looking in a mirror.

There is no GOP candidate with a more enthusiastic, loyal base of supporters. But there is also no GOP candidate whose numbers are more underwater and who carries as much baggage as Sarah Palin.

A recent CBS Poll told the story. Even Chris Christie’s numbers are better.

Only 29 percent say they’d like to see Christie launch a bid, while 44 percent say otherwise. (Only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s numbers are more underwater: 30 percent of Republicans say they’d like to see her run, but 59 percent disagree.)

Allahpundit recently penned an interesting post at Hot Air regarding the path to the nomination open for Marco Rubio. He suggested the odds favoring Rubio are long and there didn’t appear to be a viable road that the Florida senator could take to win the GOP nomination.

The same might be said of Palin. Enthusiastic as her supporters may be, there simply aren’t enough of them. She has improved her standing within the Republican Party thanks to her high-profile support of several successful candidates, but her numbers are still lousy with independents. And while a wide open field suggests someone with support in the low to high teens may be able to compete for the nomination for a while, once the field is winnowed out, it’s hard to see where Palin would get additional support.

But Palin may have other reasons for running, including denying Romney and Bush a cakewalk to the nomination. Her favorability ratings may be a liability, but her name recognition is far better than any other conservative candidate. Her entrance in the race would be a wild card that could peel off support from both establishment and conservative candidates alike.

If Palin was floating a trial balloon to gauge reaction to her possible candidacy, it was certainly a success with her supporters. However, motivating her base is the easy part. Lining up donors, creating an organization, and fielding a staff is the hard part. And that has yet to come.

Walmart's $25 Vudu Spark streaming stick is now available to the masses [PCWorld]

Media streaming sticks like the Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV have some more company. GigaOm reports that Walmart is now selling its Vudu Spark media streaming dongle through its online store and “select Walmart locations.”

The Vudu Spark, like other, similar dongles from Google and Amazon, is a $25 Wi-Fi-equipped USB device you plug into your HDTV. Using it, you can rent, purchase, and watch any of the movies or TV shows available through the Vudu service. 

The Vudu Spark surfaced in the FCC’s online database back in November, so its release isn’t a complete surprise. Citing a Walmart spokesperson, GigaOm also reports that the Vudu Spark is available in about 2400 Walmart stores.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

2014 Was One of the 3% Coldest Years in the Last 10,000 [Power Line]

(John Hinderaker)

Climate alarmists play a number of tricks to try to make their catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory seem plausible. One of the most important is that they focus on a ridiculously short period of time, beginning either in the late 19th century or at the beginning of the 20th. This is, of course, not even the blink of an eye in geologic time. Given that the Earth began emerging from the Little Ice Age in the mid to late 19th Century, it is hardly surprising–and a very good thing–that from then until now, temperatures have tended to rise.

Alarmists shriek that 2014 was the warmest year ever! But that claim is absurd if put in the context of the Earth’s recent history. As Dr. Tim Ball writes:

In fact, 2014 was among the coldest 3 percent of years of the last 10,000, but that doesn’t suit the political agenda.

This chart shows Northern Hemisphere temperature changes over the last 10,000 years, based on ice core data. Dr. Ball explains: “The red line, added to the original diagram, imposes the approximate 20th century temperatures (right side) against those of the last 10,000 years.”

clip_image0211

If the Earth continues to be warm, temperatures will be more nearly aligned with what they have generally been over the last 10,000 years.

There are many other problems with global warming alarmism, of course, and Dr. Ball touches on several of them. For one, the quality of the surface temperature record is terrible, nowhere near good enough to support the alarmists’ claims of precision. For another, the surface temperature record has been corrupted. The records are maintained by alarmist organizations, which have repeatedly “adjusted” historical data to make the past look cooler and the present warmer. This is one of many examples; it relates to New Zealand, where historical temperature records have been “adjusted” by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research:

clip_image0082

Typically these adjustments are carried out surreptitiously, and only come to light when someone comes across contemporaneous temperature records from, say, the 1930s, and finds that the temperatures reported at the time are different from the ones now claimed by the same agencies. If you are willing to spend many billions of dollars, as the world’s governments are, you can buy a lot of rewriting of history.

So next time one of your liberal friends tells you that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and therefore we must turn what is left of our economy over to the Obama administration, you can tell him that actually, 2014 was one of the 3% coldest years of the last 10,000.

Who killed Albert Nisman? part 3 [Power Line]

(Scott Johnson)

The death of Alberto Nisman in his Buenos Aires apartment continues to give rise to troubling revelations something other than the suicide that appeared to be the cause of his death. Nisman was of course the Argentine prosecutor who charged the Iranian regime with the bombing of the 1994 Jewish community center; 85 Argentinians were killed in the bombing, the worst terror attack in the country’s history.

Nisman was killed on the eve of explosive testimony he was to give on the government’s collusion with Iran to shield Iranian suspects and therefore suppress his investigation into the 1994 bombing. The circumstances of Nisman’s death are, to say the least, highly suspicious.

The Washington Post recaps the story to date in the editorial “An independent probe must investigate a prosecutor’s death in Argentina.” Picking up where I left off in part 2, the Post editors write:

THAT THE mysterious death of an Argentine prosecutor has rattled President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is all too evident from the president’s own postings on her Facebook page. Last Tuesday, Ms. Kirchner claimed in a rambling, 2,000-word post that Alberto Nisman, who was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head the night before he was due to publicly charge Ms. Kirchner with illicit dealings with Iran, had killed himself. On Thursday, she maintained in an even longer Facebook post that Mr. Nisman had been murdered as part of an elaborate plot against her government.

In fact, Mr. Nisman appears to have compiled considerable evidence that Ms. Kirchner and several other top officials attempted to strike a deal between 2011 and 2013 under which Iran would supply Argentina with oil in exchange for food, and Ms. Kirchner’s government would seek the removal from an Interpol arrest list of eight Iranians wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Both the charges and the prosecutor’s death call out for an independent, internationally-backed investigation.

The stakes of the case extend well beyond Argentina. Mr. Nisman has alleged that senior Iranian officials were involved in planning or approving the community center bombing. According to Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald, Mr. Nisman said he had testimony that now-president Hassan Rouhani was one of the members of a committee that signed off on the attack. He told Mr. Oppenheimer, as well as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, that he was looking forward to testifying to the Argentine Congress last Monday about a 280-page report he had delivered to a judge outlining the secret dealings between the two governments. No suicide note was found in his apartment following his sudden death last Sunday.

The evidence Mr. Nisman compiled included transcripts of phone conversations between Argentine and Iranian representatives. The sanctions-busting deal they were trying to arrange, the prosecutor charged, broke down when Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman was unable to persuade Interpol to remove the Iranians from its arrest list.

Ms. Kirchner’s claim that this case was fabricated by rogue intelligence officials is undermined by the fact that her government subsequently announced an accord with Iran under which the 1994 bombing would be investigated by a joint commission — which would have neutered the judicial process. This travesty did not go forward only because the Argentine Supreme Court declared it illegal.

Ms. Kirchner, whose populist, quasi-autocratic rule has badly damaged Argentina’s economy and soured its relations with the United States and other democracies, is a political lame duck who is due to leave office following an election later this year. However, she, Mr. Timerman and other close associates should be held accountable for their dealings with Iran. The cause of Mr. Nisman’s death must also be established. Only a probe with international sponsorship or participation is likely to produce a credible result. If Ms. Kirchner really believes herself to be the innocent target of a conspiracy, she should welcome it.

In the latest news emerging from the investigation of Nisman’s death, it is reported that Nisman “was killed by a bullet fired from point-blank range into his forehead[.]” The AFP report continues:

Prosecutor Viviana Fein who is leading the investigation said staff were waiting for ballistics analysis, including a DNA comparison, and to see whether the bullet taken from the body matched the .22-calibre weapon found at the scene.

Ms Fein told local television the shot was fired “from a distance no greater than a centimetre” while repeating her view that there was no evidence third parties took part in the actual shooting itself.

“We are still awaiting the toxicological and tissue testing, which can take a bit longer,” she said.

And then we have this:

The journalist of the daily Buenos Aires Herald, Damian Pachter, who last Sunday announced on his Twitter account the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, left Argentina Saturday in fear after finding that he was being followed, the Argentine Journalism Forum, or Fopea, said.

“Fopea reports that journalist Damian Pacter left the country because he feared for his safety,” the journalism association said on the social network Twitter.

“Pacter told Fopea yesterday, Friday, that he was being followed and thought he had better leave the country,” it said.

* * * * *

“I’m leaving because my life is in danger,” the journalist said on the Infobae Web site, minutes before leaving the country on Saturday.

“Since all this began, someone who has been a close, trustworthy source for years and who knows how to move in the world of intelligence, has been sending me hints,” he said.

“I don’t known when they started following me” Pachter said on Infobae, but from a tweet he received from within the government, “today it was all confirmed. ‘Leave because they’re looking for you.’”

“I never imagined that after that tweet, in five days I’d have to leave the country on the basis of real evidence,” the journalist said.

“I don’t believe this solves Nisman’s death. Power covers its tracks,” he said.

After the news was made public, in a communique posted on the Web site of the daily Ambito, which belongs to the same media group as the Buenos Aires Herald, the company said that the journalist “at no time” expressed his fears to his superiors.

As Alice cried in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Lessons of the Risen case [Power Line]

(Scott Johnson)

We have written several times here about the case of James Risen. Called to testify in the government’s prosecution of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for violation of the Espionage Act, Risen declined to testify; Sterling had laundered his exposure of a Bush-era operation intended to undermine Iran’s nuclear program (I rashly infer from the circumstances, under a promise of confidentiality) through Risen in one of his recent books. The Times itself had acceded to the imprecations of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice not to let Risen blow the program in its pages.

Risen challenged the subpoena compelling his testimony in Sterling’s prosecution. He asserted a privilege not to testify to Sterling’s role in disclosing the program reported in Risen’s book. Risen pursued his claim of privilege in proceedings up to the Supreme Court. When the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Risen’s claim of privilege, the Supreme Court declined to review the ruling. The New York Times story on the Supreme Court’s order declining review is here.

Risen presented the government with a choice: force Risen to testify or be held in contempt if he refused, or abandon its claim to his testimony. Rather than putting Risen to the test, the government has now abandoned its efforts to secure Risen’s testimony. You (I) could see the surrender coming from a mile away; I predicted it this past June in “James Risen would prefer not to.”

Now come the editors of the New York Times to celebrate and to offer the presumed “Lessons of the James Risen case.” The lessons are about what you would expect in the sodden style of the Times’s narcoleptic effusions: “First, dedicated journalists like Mr. Risen are willing to stand up to protect the identity of their sources. The second is the need for a strong federal shield law broadly protective of reporters who do that under the pressure of a high-profile leak investigation.”

The Times omits to mention in this editorial look back on the Risen case that it passed on Risen’s story. Times editors found the public harm it would do by publication to outweigh any good disclosure might entail. In fact, Risen’s story accomplished no discernible public good and likely did serious damage to the national security of the United States. See, e.g., my recurring footnote below.

Note also that the Times’s point 2 purports to limit the desired federal shield law to “high-profile leak investigation[s].” As formulated by the Times, the shield law is inane. The editors prefer not to say what they meaan; they want a shield law according reporters with a privilege against disclosing confidential sources, period. (Let’s leave the definition of “reporters” for another day.)

Here are a few unstated lessons that a reader can infer from the Times editorial. Reporters are citizens subject to the same rights and obligations as other citizens of the United States. Risen and the Times have no more immunity to disclose confidential matters of national security protected by the Espionage Act than Jeffrey Sterling does. They are subject not only to the same criminal laws as the rest of us, they are subject to the same testimonial obligations.

The Times characterizes the Fourth Circuit ruling rejecting Risen’s claim of privilege as “an atrocious legal precedent[.]” The Times implies that the Fourth Circuit ruling is some kind of outlier, but it comports with precedent. The Supreme Court has never recognized “any reporter’s privilege in the First Amendment or common law[,]” as the Times editorial puts it. That is most likely why the Supreme Court declined to review the Fourth Circuit ruling in Risen’s case.

NOTE: I wrote about the legal issues in the Times’s publication of national security information protected under the Espionage Act in the Weekly Standard column “Exposure,” but Gabriel Schoenfeld owns this story. For a full understanding of what Risen has wrought here I urge interested readers to read Schoenfeld’s Weekly Standard articles “Not every leak is fit to print” (2008), “What gives?” (2010), and “A privileged press?” (2014) as well as Schoenfeld’s Power Line post “A Risen in the sun.”

When Hitler didn’t meet Churchill [Power Line]

(Scott Johnson)

Our observation of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill yesterday put me in mind of Winston Churchill’s failed meeting with Adolf Hitler. It’s a story I’ve mentioned here before and ask your indulgence in mentioning again as the occasion warrants.

Among the many qualities that made Churchill a man out of joint with his times was this one: he frequently wrote and spoke favorably of the Jews and in support of the creation of a Jewish homeland. In his book Eminent Churchillians, the prominent historian Andrew Roberts pauses in his chapter on Churchill’s politically incorrect statements on race to observe:

Not all Churchill’s racial characterizations were negative…He believed the Jews to be “the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.” He felt an instinctive affinity for their genius as well as a historian’s respect for their trials, and he supported Jewish aspirations wherever they did not clash with those of the Empire. He may have inherited his philo-Semitism from his father, but he certainly gave it new lustre in his own life.

(Roberts’s quote derives from Churchill’s famous essay “Zionism versus Bolshevism.”)

One striking example of Churchill’s sympathy for the Jews derives from Churchill’s work on his monumental biography of the Duke of Marlborough during Churchill’s “wilderness years.” In 1932 Churchill’s research on the Marlborough biography took him to the European battlefields on which his ancestor had staked his claim to greatness. Churchill continued to Munich and a possible meeting with Adolf Hitler. Gilbert retells this story in Churchill and the Jews: A Lifelong Friendship, prefaced with this revelation:

Every biographer tries to find the key to his subject’s personality, and above all the flaws and weaknesses which are an indispensable part of any biographical presentation. I remember how pleased, actually thrilled, I was some twenty-five years ago, talking to one of those who had been close to Churchill in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties. He said to me: “You have to understand, Gilbert, that Winston did have one serious fault.” As a biographer, my ears pricked up and my pen was poised to record and then to follow this up. This gentleman continued, “He was too fond of Jews.” Whether this was a serious fault for some of his contemporaries, for his biographer it was an extraordinary window into his life.

Then the story:

When in November 1932, shortly before Hitler came to power, and Churchill was in Munich doing some historical research about the First Duke of Marlborough,…an intermediary [Putzi Hanfstaengl] tried to get him to meet Hitler, who was in Munich at the time and had high hopes of coming to power within months. Churchill agreed to meet Hitler, who was going to come to see him in his hotel in Munich, and said to the intermediary: “There are a few questions you might like to put to him, which can be the basis of our discussion when we meet.” Among them was the following question: “What is the sense of being against a man simply because of his birth? How can any man help how he is born?”

Gilbert comments:

This may seem a simple sentiment to us now, but how many people, distinguished people from Britain, the United States and other countries, who met or might have met Hitler, raised that question with him? So surprised, and possibly angered, was Hitler by this question that he declined to come to the hotel and see Churchill.

Churchill relates this story himself as “a personal digression in a lighter vein” over two pages in The Gathering Storm, concluding with this characteristically Churchillian flourish: “Thus Hitler lost his only chance of meet­ing me.”

Has Loretta Lynch violated the rights of crime victims? [Power Line]

(Paul Mirengoff)

Although, we have criticized the nomination of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General on a number of grounds, there’s one substantial criticism that I’m not sure we have raised. Lynch appears to have made plea deals with white collar criminals that violated the rights of crime victims.

A group of conservative leaders and activists have raised this concern in a letter to Senator Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They state:

We write to you today to express our concerns that Loretta Lynch, the President’s nominee for attorney general of the United States, and prosecutors in her employ in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, may have violated the rights of crime victims while making plea deals with defendants in so-called “white collar” cases. We believe that this is emblematic of a larger problem – to wit, the failure of the executive branch to enforce laws as written, and indeed the deliberate circumvention of the laws as written.

The issue is of respect for the law. For example, under federal sentencing law, specifically the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, restitution is “mandatory” as to defendants who are sentenced for certain designated crimes. The statute, 18 U.S.C. 3663A(a)(1) begins, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law….” a defendant who is convicted of certain crimes must have a sentence of restitution imposed.

In Dolan v. United States, 560 U.S. 605, the Supreme Court held in 2010 that sentencing errors or omissions that result in a failure to award restitution may later be corrected, so holding because Congress made its intent clear when it used that language, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law.” But it appears to be the pattern and practice in the Eastern District to allow cooperators to keep the money they’ve pled guilty to stealing, in exchange for “good” cooperation.

The letter provides an example:

In one case, the Felix Sater matter, Ms. Lynch’s office stands accused of having failed to notify the victims in a $40 million stock swindle – as is clearly required by the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. 3771 – that a guilty plea had been obtained from one of the defendants in the case and that a sentencing agreement had been worked out. While the plea in 1998 preceded Ms. Lynch’s first tenure as the EDNY prosecutor, and the sentencing a decade later preceded her second tenure, after Ms. Lynch took office, she continued the concealment of the case, and failed to notify victims of any further proceedings in the case, notwithstanding her obligations under the CVRA.

Moreover, after Ms. Lynch’s first tenure commenced, she used Mr. Sater as a cooperating witness against many co-conspirators who pled guilty, and repeatedly adjourned Mr. Sater’s sentencing, never revealing to his victims any of the proceedings, and failed to reveal to the co-conspirators, it seems, that he would be permitted to keep the money he stole in exchange for his cooperation, implicating, of course, grave issues of prosecutorial misconduct – to wit, the failure to disclose Brady materials.

According to an investigation conducted by the Washington Times’ Jim McElhatton, Mr. Sater’s plea resulted in a minimal fine, no order of restitution, and no incarceration. If the victims in this case had been given proper notice — indeed any notice, again as required by law under the CVRA — that a settlement was in the offing they would have had the opportunity to find representation, submit restitution claims, seek recompense from the defendant and insure justice was done.

To make matters worse, Lynch’s office apparently tried to cover up its action:

[W]hen news of the deal began to leak, Ms. Lynch’s office (during her tenure) took what appear to be extraordinary steps to keep the whole business under wraps. If her office cut secret, sweetheart deals with cooperative defendants that allowed them to profit from their crimes, while depriving victims of their legal right to pursue the recovery of losses, then she has violated the law in the name of enforcing it.

The failure to order restitution is now a matter of public record, yet Ms. Lynch’s office has still not sought to have Mr. Sater resentenced to make restitution to the victims, as Dolan v. United States permits.

The letter concludes:

We ask that you to take the opportunity to use her confirmation hearing to raise this issue with her. If a satisfactory explanation cannot be found and if, indeed, she admits that her office deliberately and knowing ignored the requirements of federal law to secure a conviction and that they then obstructed efforts to keep that information from coming to light, the committee needs to consider long and hard her fitness to lead the United States Department of Justice.

The Holder Justice Department has consistently and willfully ignored and/or flouted the law. It is imperative that Holder’s successor demonstrate a strong commitment to the rule of law.

If the substantial allegation that Lynch has been unwilling to follow the law regarding restitution for victims of white collar crime turns out to be true, then Lynch can’t make this showing and should not be confirmed for this reason alone.

Illegals Don’t Want to be Americans, So Keep Them Out [Wizbang]

One of the things that the far left always says to excuse lawbreaking illegal immigrants is that they just want to be “like Americans” and attain the American dream just like immigrants to the US always have. This, however, is a lie. Many immigrants no longer have any desire to become Americans and just want our money so they can send it back home. The old American dream was the promise that a “foreigner” could immigrant to the US, become a citizen, get a job, save their money, and make a life for them and more especially for their children.

Should Republicans Try to Pass Obama’s Tax Proposals? [Ed Driscoll]

That’s what Glenn Reynolds argues, linking to Megan McArdle’s article at Bloomberg News on Obama’s trolling State of the Union address. “This is a win-win: He gets the blame, or he vetoes it,” Glenn writes.

The problem though is that Obama might not get the blame.

As with Democrats talking George H.W. Bush into raising taxes in 1990, one huge danger to this sort of game is that Democrats will play along in 2015 and then run ads like the above the following year directed towards the individual GOP senators and congressmen who raised taxes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnUv7y4U2T0&feature=youtu.be/p>

They would also receive a very painful, albeit well-deserved reminder from one of Senator Blutarsky’s colleagues.

The Theory of Moral Relativity Defined [Ed Driscoll]

Shot:

Chaser:


Shot:

Chaser:

Hangover:


Paul Johnson, call your office.
Update: “You know, Robert Conquest once wrote, ‘The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies,’ but that statement is striking a little too close to home lately.”

‘Professor Shocked, Shocked To Find Out Prominent Nazi Was An Anti-Semite’ [Ed Driscoll]

Heh. At Patheos, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry notes that “The chair of Germany’s Martin Heidegger Society resigned in genuine horror after some of Heidegger’s private papers were released and showed that, surprise, surprise, he was an anti-semite.”

Go figure. Or as the lunatic stage director hired by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel’s characters in Mel Brooks’ The Producers says after perusing the script for Springtime for Hitler, “Did you know, I never knew that the Third Reich meant Germany. I mean it’s just drenched with historical goodies like that!”

Here’s more from Gobry; read the whole thing:

The immense awkwardness that is Heidegger’s Nazi affiliation is always quite a thing to behold. The simple fact of the matter is that, in terms of influence and also perhaps quality, Heidegger is a giant of 20th century philosophy, and one whose influence was felt primarily on the “Left.” The fact that a man who exercised such a tremendous influence on postmodern and progressive philosophy was also a Hitler supporter obviously raises eyebrows.

Only to those who haven’t been paying attention, or who have deliberately looked away. As I said, read the whole thing. And don’t miss the quote on relativism near the end of Gobry’s article from “Benito.”

Update:Education: 2010: U. Topia: Liberals envision a perfect world, and it looks a lot like campus,” Jonah Goldberg wrote in a 2010 issue of National Review:

There’s a certain kind of elite student who takes himself very, very seriously. Raised on a suite of educational TV shows and books that insist he is the most special person in the world — studies confirm that Generation Y is the most egocentric and self-regarding generation in our history — he is away from home for the first time, enjoying his first experience of freedom from his parents. Those same parents are paying for his education, which he considers his birthright. Shelter is provided for him. Janitors and maids clean up after him. Security guards protect him. Cooks shop for him and prepare his food. The health center provides him medical care and condoms aplenty. Administrators slave away at finding new ways for him to have fun in his free time. He drinks with abandon when he wants to, and the consequences of his bacchanalia are usually somewhere between mild and nonexistent. Sex is as abundant as it is varied. If he does not espouse any noticeably conservative or Christian attitudes, his every utterance in the classroom is celebrated as a “valuable perspective.” All that is demanded of him is that he pursue his interests and, perhaps, “find himself” along the way. His ethical training amounts to a prohibition on bruising the overripe self-esteem of another person, particularly a person in good standing with the Coalition of the Oppressed (blacks, Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, et al.). Such offenses are dubbed hate crimes and are punished in a style perfected in Lenin’s utopia: through the politicized psychiatry known as “sensitivity training.”

Heidegger would approve, of course. But then, he was the modern campus’s inspiration.

Amjad Bashir Accused of Lying Over Respect Party Links + Told Tories He Has ‘Never Had Anything to Do With Them’ + Respect: Application Form and 5 Witnesses Prove He is Lying + Also Claimed He Was a Labour Member in 80s [Guido Fawkes]

UKIP-MEP-BASHIR-DEFECTS

Amjad Bashir has been accused of lying about his links to the Respect Party after evidence emerged tonight apparently disproving his claims to have never had anything to do with the party. Earlier today, George Galloway accused Bashir of being a member of Respect in 2012, claiming he was deselected as a council candidate for the party in Bradford. This allegation was denied by Bashir in a conversation with Tory party officials this afternoon, where he “denied he’s ever had anything to do with Respect… Amjad denies it”. Yet tonight the Respect Party claims to have unearthed an application form filled in by Bashir to join the party. In a statement to Guido, Respect alleges:

The UKIP MEP who jumped from Nigel Farage’s party to join the Conservatives is revealed as a liar about his political past.

Amjad Bashir denies that he has ever had anything to do with the Respect party but an application form he filled in and is still held by the party proves that isn’t the case. The new Conservative MEP gives his date of birth on the form as September 17, 1952. But he also claims on the form that in the 1970s and 1980s he was a Labour party member and helped the then Bradford West MP Marsha Singh (now deceased). He also claims to have been heavily involved, and led a membership drive in Bradford, for Imran Khan’s Pakistan party the PTI (Party of Justice).

For Labour Bashir claims: “I attended ward and regional meetings, I carried out door to door canvassing on election days…I also carried out telephone campaigns.”

Respect’s Bradford West MP George Galloway hit out: “Not only has this man not got a shred of principle, his acquaintance with the truth is distant to say the least. He joined Respect, now he’s lying about it. I don’t know if what he is saying about Labour and the PTI is correct but his denial that he joined Respect, was selected as a candidate and then de-selected, is a shameful and damning untruth. If the Tories are prepared to embrace this man then I think it says even more about them than it does him.”

Galloway would not reveal why the party had decided to drop Bashir. “But probably for the first time ever I have to agree with Nigel Farage that there are grave concerns about things in this guy’s past.”

He added that not only was the application form in the party’s hands but at least five witnesses, who were part of his interview panel, were prepared to confirm that he had joined the party and then been sacked as a council candidate for Bradford Moor.

The date of birth on the application form is Bashir’s date of birth. The Tories have been approached for comment as we go to pixel…


Tagged: Respect, Tories, UKIP

Quote of the Day [Guido Fawkes]

George Galloway says of his former Respect candidate the UKIP MEP turned Tory, Amjad Bashir…

“Clearly Bashir does not have any real political principles or commitment, only naked opportunism and self-interest. He represents the revolving door principle in politics. The Tories are welcome to him because he will cause them embarrassment. Fortunately Respect was able to act before he did it to us.”


Tagged: Respect, Tories, UKIP

WATCH: Farage on Bigots and Defector [Guido Fawkes]

Nigel Farage seemed to pretty much take today’s negative headlines in his stride. Coolly saying the Tories are welcome to their defecting UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir and that the UKIP General Secretary’s joke about there being “a lot of bigots in this country, and they deserve representation too” was just that, a joke. A joke Guido first heard told by Tory MP Eric Forth…  


Tagged: GuyNews.TV, Tories, UKIP

Read Guido’s Column in the Sun on Sunday Online [Guido Fawkes]

Blair is back: see Guido’s column in today’s Sun on Sunday to read all about Tony’s return to frontline politics as he begins a fundraising drive for gay Labour candidates. Also in today’s column:

  • After Penny Mordaunt’s Cockgate, Tory MPs mock Chris Bryant with James Blunt lyrics in parliamentary debate

GOVE

  • The evidence Michael Gove is a secret teeny bopper
  • Lynton Crosby tells Tory MPs: don’t mention ‘Labour’, just say ‘Ed Miliband’ over and over again

Head down to your nearest newsagents for four extra Guido stories only in the print edition:

  • Inside Labour’s ‘Lash Club’
  • Farage’s men-only hustings
  • Nannying Jane Ellison slammed by Tory colleagues
  • Splitter Jacqui Smith pleads for loyalty

Click here to read Guido’s column for free with a free 30-day trial…


Tagged: Dead Tree Press, Media Guido, Sun

UKIP Spinning Bashir ‘Met With Terror Organisation’ [Guido Fawkes]

UKIP-MEP-BASHIR-DEFECTS

David Cameron says he is “absolutely delighted” UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir has returned* to the Tories, as it emerges Bashir allegedly met with what UKIP are claiming is a “terror organisation“. UKIP sources claim concerns arose when they saw the video above purportedly showing Bashir meeting with Pakistani group MQM, which the courts in Canada have twice ruled meets the legal definition of a terrorist organisation. Publicly UKIP are also spinning that that Bashir was suspended following the uncovering of unspecified financial irregularities.  Funny that all this only came out after he joined the Tories…

UPDATE: UKIP have dumped a batch of correspondence suggesting that Amjad’s office was involved an attempt to rig a selection in Bradford. See correspondence here.

UPDATE II: According to the Muslim Labour peer Lord Ahmed, MQM have been clasified as a Tier III terror organisation by the US authorities:

Tier III
These organizations are defined by law as “a group of two or more individuals, whether organized or not, which engages in, or has a subgroup which engages in,” terrorist activity. Tier III organizations are also called “undesignated terrorist organizations” because they qualify as terrorist organizations based on their activities alone without undergoing a formal designation process like Tier I and Tier II organizations.

Instead, the determination of whether a group can be considered a Tier III organization is made on a case-by-case basis,  in connection with the review of an application for an immigration benefit.  Tier III organizations arise and change over time. 

The London Metropolitan Police have MQM leaders under investigation in relation to money laundering.

*Amjad Bashir was apparently a Conservative supporter 15 years ago.

UPDATE III (Sunday, 18:07): UKIP release new attack video asking if Tories properly vetted Bashir:

It is claimed by George Galloway tonight that Bashir was booted out by Respect in 2012.

UKIP suggest there is more to come…


Tagged: UKIP

Link of the Day: Satire – Obamacare Official to Quit if Resign.gov Ever Works [IMAO]

[High Praise! to ScrappleFace]

Obamacare Official to Quit if Resign.gov Ever Works

[Think you have a link that’s IMAO-worthy? Send it to harvolson@gmail.com. If I use your link, you will receive High Praise! (assuming you remember to put your name in the email)]

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Also, Trying to Get Logged Into HealthCare.Gov [IMAO]


[MAZES] (Viewer #997,616)

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There’s an Easy Way [IMAO]

Iran claims that it’s built “the world’s first missile-evading drone”.

How’s it do that? Comply with uranium enrichment restrictions?

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Fast and Farsious [IMAO]

A new report shows that US weapons intended for Iraq’s military are ending up in the hands of Iranian insurgents.

Great. Who’s transporting the weapons? Eric Holder?

[Title reference link]

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Your Pension According to Justin [Freelance Conservative]

Justin and his gaggle are eyeing your pension money as their personal spending slush fund.  And make no mistake, once it is taken and spent, it will never been seen again. Like his father who managed to hurl the debt of this country into the stratosphere by spending like a billionaire prince on a weekend […]

The post Your Pension According to Justin appeared first on Freelance Conservative.

Gov. Paul LePage (R, Maine) wants to impose property taxes on colleges, nonprofits, other Democratic party affiliates. [Moe Lane]

I don’t know whether this is demonic, inspired, or both: “A sweeping proposal to cut taxes for Maine families and businesses could upend one of the most widely accepted practices in the country: the property-tax exemption for nonprofit organizations… A recent budget plan by Republican Gov. Paul LePage calling for an overhaul of individual, corporate and sales taxes also would make Maine the first state in the nation to require colleges, hospitals and other large charities to go on the property-tax rolls in their municipalities.” This proposal – which specifically exempts “churches and government-owned entities” - would be the first of its kind in the country, and will probably not pass without a bloody brawl in the state legislature.

Is it a good idea, though? Depends. On the one hand, it’s a tax hike. On the other hand, it’s a tax hike that would be part of a more comprehensive series of tax simplification and reform (which is the way to get conservatives to sign off on a tax hike). On the gripping hand, it’s a tax hike that is aimed squarely at academics and NGOs… which is to say, it’s aimed at people who typically instinctively get upset when a Republican wins an election. There’s no real reason for us to pretend that that last point isn’t a legitimate one for consideration.  Hey, some people like governmental intervention and oversight, right?  … So, here: have some.  Right between the eyes.

Via TaxProf Blog and Instapundit.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: I would be remiss if I did not note that this sort of thing is actually likely to happen in the rest of the Northeast, too. There are a lot of Blue-Model state governments strapped for cash, and they’re going to need to raid somebody for it. Non-church* groups enjoying property tax exemptions are going to be a tempting target.

PPS: As a matter of practicality: if I was the governor I’d give ground on the hospitals. Assuming that’s not the plan all along.

*Churches will, much to the disgust of the more fundamentalist secularists, enjoy favored status for quite a bit longer.  And when I say ‘disgust’ I probably should have typed out ‘impotent disgust:’ said fundamentalist secularists will undoubtedly protest mightily, and angrily, and with just the faintest connotation of incomprehension about why nobody seems to care about the logic of their position. I maybe could explain it to them, but I don’t really want to.

…Snow. Oh, look, it’s a four-letter word! [Moe Lane]

This may be honestly the first time I’ve ever noticed that… nah, probably not.  But, anyway: I’m looking at having the kids home from school for another major part of the week!  Wow! Isn’t that great!?!

all i want to do is have a couple of days so that i can clean things and maybe take a nap

So it looks like the Greeks are about to put into office… [Moe Lane]

…the hard Left party* who promised to renegotiate Greece’s extremely unpopular bailout. Private scuttlebutt among those of my peers who follow European news more closely than I do is divided over whether the Germans EU will sign off on that, but don’t be surprised if they at least try. The alternative is… well, the alternatives to austerity are as follows:

  • A bailout.
  • Removing Greece from the EU.
  • Placing Greece under direct political and economic control of Brussels.

As you might imagine, the Germans and the French these days get very, very nervous when any suggestion of a possibility of a hint arises that something like that third alternative might become necessary. Of course, they get even more nervous about continent-wide economic depressions and political instability, for much the same reason. Heck of a thing to have to worry about, ja?

Moe Lane

*By my people’s standards, at least; and, frankly, I’m a cultural chauvinist when it comes to America.

Democratic Election season in Iowa off to a slow start. [Moe Lane]

At least, that’s the impression that I’m getting here. Admittedly, back in 2007 the fun didn’t really start until the second half of the year, but the general take from that piece seems to be …Ehh. Hillary will show up, and we’ll go rah-rah, and then she’ll win and that’ll be that. It’s not that they’re jumping up and down for her; it’s that nobody apparently really expects that Hillary Clinton will be seriously challenged in Iowa this go-round, so she might as well take it slow.

I would normally at this point note that a dynamic and exciting alternative candidate might take advantage of this lack of agency on Hillary’s part.  The problem for the Democrats is, they don’t actually have one of those mythical beasts handy. The closest substitute is an elderly college professor/first-term Senator from Massachusetts who has about as much real-life experience as Barack Obama does…

Moe Lane

PS: I love it when my opposite numbers are kind of ‘meh’ about a state that I hope to win in an election. Love it, love it, love it.

‘Shake It Off.’ [Moe Lane]

Screw it.  This should be the official theme song for the GOP in 2016.

Shake It OffTaylor Swift

Whether Ms. Swift is particularly happy about it, or not: then again, as I understand it she signed over distribution rights to the label, so her emotional state over this would be largely irrelevant anyway.

 

I’m starting to think that there’s going to be no DLC for Dragon Age Inquisition. [Moe Lane]

Normally by now there’d be at least a hint of it, surely. I suspect that Bioware would rather do multiplayer expansions, which admittedly would make the people who like to do multiplayer happy. I’m just not one of those people.

Ach, well. Still a great game. Once you accept the limitations of the tactical camera.

This band wrecked my productivity today. [Moe Lane]

Postmodern Jukebox.

Do NOT try to buy any of their stuff on Amazon, though.  They only have samples there. It’s iTunes or nothing.

Scott Walker at the Iowa Freedom Summit. [Moe Lane]

If you’re looking for the Scott Walker speech, here you go*.  Come, I will conceal nothing from you: I skipped it at first myself. But reports came in that he was kicking it, and… yeah, Scott Walker did. A lot of emotion under control, there. Can’t say that I’m surprised about either: in retrospect, the Left may have miscalculated in allowing its pro-death-threat wing to drive anti-Walker sentiment in the Wisconsin recall and re-elections. You want to get a man focused and driven? Threaten to murder his wife.

The speech was not perfect, mind you. Scott Walker can tell a joke for just a bit too long. But he also can hit the right notes, especially when it comes to life experiences that he shares with the rest of America. It would be highly enjoyable to watch the Democratic candidate try to match that…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: This is not an endorsement of Scott Walker. No coronations: if he wants to be President, he’s gotta get in the scrum and earn it.

*Or here.

Yet another demonstration of a possible link between hardcore gun control views… [Moe Lane]

…and damaged cognitive ability: “A recent gun buyback event in Oregon, aimed at curbing the number of weapons on the street, turned into a planned profit making opportunity for a group of firearms enthusiasts.” Basically, the gun buyback people were offering too-high prices for some firearms, so certain gun enthusiasts simply sold them clapped-out pieces of junk for a profit.  The buyback also offered to trade ‘high capacity magazines’ for $25 gift cards for a store that happens to sell ‘high capacity magazines’… for $8.  Yes, that worked out pretty much as you’d expect, too: they ran out of gift cards.  It’s a shame I don’t live in Oregon; there was clearly money in that.

But the best part? At least one person said Hey, wait, I know precisely where people who want to sell firearms are going to gather – and so he waited outside in order to make a better cash offer for the firearms that were worth more than the buyback value. How did it go?

“I picked up five weapons including a Model 11 Remington SemiAuto 12-gauge from 1926, a Mossberg bolt-action 20-gauge from 1947-1950… AND a pre-1900, 12-gauge breech action with Damascus barrel……AND……. a couple of 22 pistols,” wrote the member.

Because this is America, that’s why.  And it shouldn’t surprise anybody that the system was so easily gamed, here. I think that sometimes we forget that we largely don’t trust governmental competence for a reason.

Via PJ Tatler.

Barack Obama calculated that calling for 529 tax hikes was safe enough. [Moe Lane]

Megan McArdle put her finger on precisely why Barack Obama floated the oh-heck-no proposal to tax people’s 529 college funds: “About the only people I saw defending this particular idea were blue-state singles who haven’t yet confronted the monstrous expense of shepherding their progeny into the new mandarin class to which they belong.” …And that’s who Barack Obama was trying to back-channel pander to, of course. In 2012 single voters broke strongly for Obama – single women more so then men – and since a tax hike on college fund earnings wouldn’t affect them too much (especially the ones without kids), Obama probably figures that it’s a ‘safe’ tax hike to have*.

This is, of course, a mistake.  Despite our worries about falling birthrates, the truth of the matter is that most people still want to have kids. And virtually all parents want their kids to do as well in school as they can. And so most people are going to be worried about looming educational costs.  Which, of course, is why (as Megan notes) this proposal isn’t going anywhere. Then again, it doesn’t have to. It merely has to be, because if the President is offering policy proposals that would have a significant impact, then clearly the President matters.

And that’s what this is about. President Barack Obama is used to mattering, and he is going to his level best to try to keep mattering for as long as his own party will let him get away with it. Personally, I hope that they never get him under control; it’d be really useful for us in the 2016 election if the eventual Democratic candidate has to shove Obama away from the microphone every time he started talking.

Moe Lane

*As Megan later notes, a major reason why Obama’s trying to get this tax revenue is because six or so years of grabbing all the low-hanging fruit has left the tree mighty lean, to mix a metaphor or two.

So right now Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign hinges on whether there are pictures. [Moe Lane]

Oh, dear.

Former President Bill Clinton took a romantic jaunt in 2002 to convicted pedophile pal Jeffrey Epstein’s “orgy island” with “two young girls” from New York, according to a shocking new interview.

Virginia Roberts, who’s accused Epstein of turning her into a “sex slave” at age 17 and forcing her to sleep with his powerful friends, claimed Clinton stayed in one of the many villas on Epstein’s US Virgin Islands estate — where group sex was a “regular occurrence.”

No, really, if there are pictures then it’s over for Hillary Clinton. I really don’t want to believe that a former President of the United States ever had sex with an underaged girl, and if Bill Clinton has any brains at all he’d have demanded to see ID before he shtupped anybody – but put him on that island, and Hillary Clinton will look like an enabling fool. And thus she won’t win the Democratic primary.

If there are pictures.

Moe Lane

PS: I understand the need for healthy pessimism, or at least the desire for it, but too much is just as bad as too little. If the Left was as good as some people seem to think it is they would have won already and we wouldn’t be having this conversation in this particular form.

The first challenge PR I received [Perlsphere]

I received my first pull request (PR) originating from the PR challenge today. NGLENN had been assigned HTML::ParseBrowser, a module I adopted a couple of years ago. He did the thing I've most been meaning to do, but never got around to. Unprompted. Aces!

My January's Pull Request Challenge (part 1) [Perlsphere]

While I was focused on the social aspects of the PR Challenge, such as the IRC channel (opping literally everyone), the guides (wrote several), the repo (plus organization), and lately even a small parser for the web page Neil created (which will appear in another post), I still had my own responsibilities - mainly, my own PR challenge, and taking care of others' PR challenge contributions that fell under my purview.

I received Maroš Kollár's MooseX::App.

I looked at several angles: docs, bugs, major improvements (speed, practices, etc.), and big blinking "what the hell is this?" lights. Unfortunately none were available. The project was maintained well, had a really decent code-base, good practices, clear - it was terrible. :)

I emailed Maroš to ask how I could help. He emailed me back and we talked about a few options. I ended up providing the following very simple pull request.

I wouldn't say I made a major contribution to MooseX::App. I didn't. Some things are now immutable (a quality I'm close to tattooing on my body - and there's a joke there on read-write mode) and coderefs are used for values. This isn't something that affected performance, no bugs were fixed, and no features were added. The code is simply more consistent and can now avoid accounting for more variables changing in run-time. Meh.

I had planned out to do more. Maroš and I discussed a few more ideas and he updated the TODO file to reflect them. Unfortunately I had no time to do so. I had more and more projects coming in and January turned out to be far from the care-free month I had hoped it would be.

However, I did earn a new insight into meta programming with Moose - a topic I never had the need to delve into deeply. Reading other people's code (especially good code) teaches you a lot. I also had the pleasure of interacting with another CPAN author and get the sense of "we're all in this together" feeling that I enjoy so much on CPAN.

Even though my time was sparse, I enjoyed providing the ever-so-little help I did, and I look forward to my February challenge, which I hope I could contribute more to.

My next post will be about work others have contributed to me during their January PR Challenge.

Wie sag ich's meinem Kind... [Perlsphere]

Zoe hat sich schon vor über einem Jahr ein Baby gewünscht, genau als ihre beste Freundin erfahren hat, dass sie eines bekommt. Trotzdem haben wir überlegt, wie wir ihr am schonensten beibringen, dass sie Mama und Papa bald mit (noch) jemandem teilen muss, der mehr Aufmerksamkeit braucht als sie. Schließlich habe ich die Sache in die Hand genommen und ihr ein kleines Rätsel aufgegeben...

Richard Hartmann: KDE battery monitor [Planet Debian]

Dear lazyweb,

using a ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Debian unstable and KDE 4.14.2, I have not had battery warnings for a few weeks, now.

The battery status can be read out via acpi -V as well as via the KDE widget. Hibernation via systemctl hibernate works as well.

What does not work is the warning when my battery is low, or automagic hibernation when shutting the lid or when the battery level is critical.

From what I gather, something in the communication between upower and KDE broke down, but I can't find what it is. I have also been told that Cinnamon is affected as well, so this seems to be a more general problem

Sadly, me and anyone else who's affected has been unable to fix this.

So, dear lazyweb, please help.

In loosely related news, this old status is still valid. UMTS is stable-ish now but even though I saved the SIM's PIN, KDE always displays a "SIM PIN unlock request" prompt after booting or hibernating. Once I enter that PIN, systemd tells me that a system policy prevents the change and wants my user password. If anyone knows how to get rid of that, I would also appreciate any pointers.

Chris Lamb: Recent Redis hacking [Planet Debian]

I've done a bunch of hacking on the Redis key/value database server recently:

  • Lua-based maxmemory eviction scripts. (#2319)

    (This changeset was sponsored by an anonymous client.)

    Redis typically stores the entire data set in memory, using the operating system's virtual memory facilities if required. However, one can use Redis more like a cache or ring buffer by enabling a "maxmemory policy" where a RAM limit is set and then data is evicted when required based on a predefined algorithm.

    This change enables entirely custom control over exactly what data to remove from RAM when this maxmemory limit is reached. This is an advantage over the existing policies of, say, removing entire keys based on the existing TTL, Least Recently Used (LRU) or random eviction strategies as it permits bespoke behaviours based on application-specific requirements, crucially without maintaining a private fork of Redis.

    As an example behaviour of what is possible with this change, to remove the lowest ranked member of an arbitrary sorted set, you could load the following eviction policy script:

    local bestkey = nil
    local bestval = 0
    
    for s = 1, 5 do
       local key = redis.call("RANDOMKEY")
       local type_ = redis.call("TYPE", key)
    
       if type_.ok == "zset"
       then
           local tail = redis.call("ZRANGE", key, "0", "0", "WITHSCORES")
           local val = tonumber(tail[2])
           if not bestkey or val < bestval
           then
               bestkey = key
               bestval = val
           end
       end
    end
    
    if not bestkey
    then
        -- We couldn't find anything to remove, so return an error
        return false
    end
    
    redis.call("ZREMRANGEBYRANK", bestkey, "0", "0")
    return true
    
  • TCP_FASTOPEN support. (#2307)

    The aim of TCP_FASTOPEN is to eliminate one roundtrip from a TCP conversation by allowing data to be included as part of the SYN segment that initiates the connection. (More info.)

  • Support infinitely repeating commands in redis-cli. (#2297)

  • Add --failfast option to testsuite runner. (#2290)

  • Add a -q (quiet) argument to redis-cli. (#2305)

  • Making some Redis Sentinel defaults a little saner. (#2292)


I also made the following changes to the Debian packaging:

  • Add run-parts(8) directories to be executed at various points in the daemon's lifecycle. (e427f8)

    This is especially useful for loading Lua scripts as they are not persisted across restarts.

  • Split out Redis Sentinel into its own package. (#775414, 39f642)

    This makes it possible to run Sentinel sanely on Debian systems without bespoke scripts, etc.

  • Ensure /etc/init.d/redis-server start idempotency with --oknodo (60b7dd)

    Idempotency in initscripts is especially important given the rise of configuration managment systems.

  • Uploaded 3.0.0 RC2 to Debian experimental. (37ac55)

  • Re-enabled the testsuite. (7b9ed1)

Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppArmadillo 0.4.600.4.0 [Planet Debian]

Conrad put up a maintenance release 4.600.4 of Armadillo a few days ago. As in the past, we tested this with number of pre-releases and test builds against the now over one hundred CRAN dependents of our RcppArmadillo package. The tests passed fine as usual, and results are as always in the rcpp-logs repository.

Changes are summarized below based on the NEWS.Rd file.

Changes in RcppArmadillo version 0.4.600.4.0 (2015-01-23)

  • Upgraded to Armadillo release Version 4.600.4 (still "Off The Reservation")

    • Speedups in the transpose operation

    • Small bug fixes

Courtesy of CRANberries, there is also a diffstat report for the most recent release. As always, more detailed information is on the RcppArmadillo page. Questions, comments etc should go to the rcpp-devel mailing list off the R-Forge page.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

Jonathan Dowland: Frontier: First Encounters [Planet Debian]

Cobra mk. 3

Cobra mk. 3

Four years ago, whilst looking for something unrelated, I stumbled across Tom Morton's port of "Frontier: Elite II" for the Atari to i386/OpenGL. This took me right back to playing Frontier on my Amiga in the mid-nineties. I spent a bit of time replaying Frontier and its sequel, First Encounters, for which there exists an interesting family of community-written game engines based on a reverse-engineering of the original DOS release.

I made some scrappy notes about engines, patches etc. at the time, which are on my frontier page.

With the recent release of Elite: Dangerous, I thought I'd pick up where I left in 2010 and see if I could get the Thargoid ship. I'm nowhere near yet, but I've spent some time trying to maximize income during the game's initial Soholian Fever period. My record in a JJFFE-derived engine (and winning the Wiccan Ware race during the same period) is currently £727,800. Can you do better?

Joey Hess: making propellor safer with GADTs and type families [Planet Debian]

Since July, I have been aware of an ugly problem with propellor. Certain propellor configurations could have a bug. I've tried to solve the problem at least a half-dozen times without success; it's eaten several weekends.

Today I finally managed to fix propellor so it's impossible to write code that has the bug, bending the Haskell type checker to my will with the power of GADTs and type-level functions.

the bug

Code with the bug looked innocuous enough. Something like this:

foo :: Property
foo = property "foo" $
    unlessM (liftIO $ doesFileExist "/etc/foo") $ do
        bar <- liftIO $ readFile "/etc/foo.template"
        ensureProperty $ setupFoo bar

The problem comes about because some properties in propellor have Info associated with them. This is used by propellor to introspect over the properties of a host, and do things like set up DNS, or decrypt private data used by the property.

At the same time, it's useful to let a Property internally decide to run some other Property. In the example above, that's the ensureProperty line, and the setupFoo Property is run only sometimes, and is passed data that is read from the filesystem.

This makes it very hard, indeed probably impossible for Propellor to look inside the monad, realize that setupFoo is being used, and add its Info to the host.

Probably, setupFoo doesn't have Info associated with it -- most properties do not. But, it's hard to tell, when writing such a Property if it's safe to use ensureProperty. And worse, setupFoo could later be changed to have Info.

Now, in most languages, once this problem was noticed, the solution would probably be to make ensureProperty notice when it's called on a Property that has Info, and print a warning message. That's Good Enough in a sense.

But it also really stinks as a solution. It means that building propellor isn't good enough to know you have a working system; you have to let it run on each host, and watch out for warnings. Ugh, no!

the solution

This screams for GADTs. (Well, it did once I learned how what GADTs are and what they can do.)

With GADTs, Property NoInfo and Property HasInfo can be separate data types. Most functions will work on either type (Property i) but ensureProperty can be limited to only accept a Property NoInfo.

data Property i where
    IProperty :: Desc -> ... -> Info -> Property HasInfo
    SProperty :: Desc -> ... -> Property NoInfo

data HasInfo
data NoInfo

ensureProperty :: Property NoInfo -> Propellor Result

Then the type checker can detect the bug, and refuse to compile it.

Yay!

Except ...

Property combinators

There are a lot of Property combinators in propellor. These combine two or more properties in various ways. The most basic one is requires, which only runs the first Property after the second one has successfully been met.

So, what's it's type when used with GADT Property?

requires :: Property i1 -> Property i2 -> Property ???

It seemed I needed some kind of type class, to vary the return type.

class Combine x y r where
    requires :: x -> y -> r

Now I was able to write 4 instances of Combines, for each combination of 2 Properties with HasInfo or NoInfo.

It type checked. But, type inference was busted. A simple expression like

foo `requires` bar

blew up:

   No instance for (Requires (Property HasInfo) (Property HasInfo) r0)
      arising from a use of `requires'
    The type variable `r0' is ambiguous
    Possible fix: add a type signature that fixes these type variable(s)
    Note: there is a potential instance available:
      instance Requires
                 (Property HasInfo) (Property HasInfo) (Property HasInfo)
        -- Defined at Propellor/Types.hs:167:10

To avoid that, it needed ":: Property HasInfo" appended -- I didn't want the user to need to write that.

I got stuck here for an long time, well over a month.

type level programming

Finally today I realized that I could fix this with a little type-level programming.

class Combine x y where
    requires :: x -> y -> CombinedType x y

Here CombinedType is a type-level function, that calculates the type that should be used for a combination of types x and y. This turns out to be really easy to do, once you get your head around type level functions.

type family CInfo x y
type instance CInfo HasInfo HasInfo = HasInfo
type instance CInfo HasInfo NoInfo = HasInfo
type instance CInfo NoInfo HasInfo = HasInfo
type instance CInfo NoInfo NoInfo = NoInfo
type family CombinedType x y
type instance CombinedType (Property x) (Property y) = Property (CInfo x y)

And, with that change, type inference worked again! \o/

(Bonus: I added some more intances of CombinedType for combining things like RevertableProperties, so propellor's property combinators got more powerful too.)

Then I just had to make a massive pass over all of Propellor, fixing the types of each Property to be Property NoInfo or Property HasInfo. I frequently picked the wrong one, but the type checker was able to detect and tell me when I did.

A few of the type signatures got slightly complicated, to provide the type checker with sufficient proof to do its thing...

before :: (IsProp x, Combines y x, IsProp (CombinedType y x)) => x -> y -> CombinedType y x
before x y = (y `requires` x) `describe` (propertyDesc x)

onChange
    :: (Combines (Property x) (Property y))
    => Property x
    => Property y
    => CombinedType (Property x) (Property y)
onChange = -- 6 lines of code omitted

fallback :: (Combines (Property p1) (Property p2)) => Property p1 -> Property p2 -> Property (CInfo p1 p2)
fallback = -- 4 lines of code omitted

.. This mostly happened in property combinators, which is an acceptable tradeoff, when you consider that the type checker is now being used to prove that propellor can't have this bug.

Mostly, things went just fine. The only other annoying thing was that some things use a [Property], and since a haskell list can only contain a single type, while Property Info and Property NoInfo are two different types, that needed to be dealt with. Happily, I was able to extend propellor's existing (&) and (!) operators to work in this situation, so a list can be constructed of properties of several different types:

propertyList "foos" $ props
    & foo
    & foobar
    ! oldfoo    

conclusion

The resulting 4000 lines of changes will be in the next release of propellor. Just as soon as I test that it always generates the same Info as before, and perhaps works when I run it. (eep)

These uses of GADTs and type families are not new; this is merely the first time I used them. It's another Haskell leveling up for me.

Anytime you can identify a class of bugs that can impact a complicated code base, and rework the code base to completely avoid that class of bugs, is a time to celebrate!

Uzair Shamim: Configuring A DNS Server On CentOS 6.6 [Planet openSUSE]

After a long silence I have finally had some time to leave a post on my blog. This one is on how I set up a DNS server in CentOS 6.

The setup was pretty simple, I used KVM/Virt-Manager to setup 3 VMs. Two of them were CentOS 6, one being the primary server and the second being a caching only server while the third was an openSUSE 13.1 client who I would use to test out my two servers. One handy feature most virtual machine management tools have is the snapshot feature. I made use of this by taking snapshots every time I got a certain feature working. This meant that I could mess around without fear of losing a working set of settings.

72

The network setup was simple too, I created one isolated virtual network which would not allow the devices connected to it to see the outside world, and another NAT virtual network which would connect only to my primary DNS server so that it could send queries out to the router.

Now to configure the primary server I had to install the bind package, which was easy enough.

yum install bind
cp /etc/named.conf /etc/named.conf.BAK
vim /etc/named.conf

Once in named.conf, I configured the file to reflect my needs. I wont go over the details though as you can easily search them up.

//
// named.conf
//
// Provided by Red Hat bind package to configure the ISC BIND named(8) DNS
// server as a caching only nameserver (as a localhost DNS resolver only).
//
// See /usr/share/doc/bind*/sample/ for example named configuration files.
//

options {
    directory &amp;quot;/var/named/&amp;quot;;
    allow-query {127.0.0.1; 192.168.19.0/24;};
    recursion yes;
    forwarders { 8.8.8.8; };
};
zone &amp;quot;localhost&amp;quot; {
    type master;
    file &amp;quot;localhost.zone&amp;quot;;
    notify NO;
};
zone &amp;quot;19.168.192.in-addr.arpa&amp;quot; {
    type master;
    file &amp;quot;mydb-for-192-168-19&amp;quot;;
    notify NO;
};
zone &amp;quot;ushamim.org&amp;quot; {
    type master;
    file &amp;quot;mydb-for-ushamim-org&amp;quot;;
    notify NO;
};

Once that is done, all that remains for DNS to work is the files for forward/reverse lookups. These can be created in /var/named/. Here are the contents of mine:

# mydb-for-192-168-19
$TTL 3D
@ IN SOA vm1.ushamim.org. webmaster.ushamim.org. (
    1 ; Serial
    8H ; Refresh
    2H ; Retry
    1W ; Expire
    1D ; Negative Cache TTL
);
@ IN NS vm1.ushamim.org.
53 IN PTR vm1.ushamim.org.
@ IN NS vm2.ushamim.org.
166 IN PTR vm2.ushamim.org.
@ IN NS vm3.ushamim.org.
3 IN PTR vm3.ushamim.org.
# mydb-for-ushamim-org
$TTL 3D
@ IN SOA vm1.ushamim.org. webmaster.ushamim.org.(
    1 ; Serial
    8H ; Refresh
    2H ; Retry
    1W ; Expire
    1D ; Negative Cache TTL
);
@ IN NS vm1.ushamim.org.
vm1 IN A 192.168.19.53
@ IN NS vm2.ushamim.org.
vm2 IN A 192.168.19.166
@ IN NS vm3.ushamim.org.
vm3 IN A 192.168.19.3

I also created a localhost.zone file in /var/named/

$TTL 3D
@ IN SOA vm1.ushamim.org. webmaster.ushamim.org. (
    1 ; Serial
    8H ; Refresh
    2H ; Retry
    1W ; Expire
    1D ; Negative Cache TTL
);
@ IN NS localhost.
IN A 127.0.0.1

With that done, all that needed to be done now is to ensure our config is correct and that the service starts properly. I did that with the following commands:

named-checkconf /etc/named.conf # check config file to make sure there were no errors
service named start # starts the DNS service
chkconfig named on # ensures the service will start on boot

And with that the primary DNS server has now been configured. In the next post I will go over how I setup the caching-only server as well as the DNS client.


Michael Meeks: 2015-01-24 Saturday [Planet openSUSE]

  • Up in the dark & cold, trains, on an Intercity and well on the way to Cardiff by 9am; pleased with laptop power there too.
  • Struggled with CMake - gdcm refusing do as its bid, configuring from a build directory, but still it fails; turns out configuring in the source directory pollutes things to the point that it then fails to configure even if you're elsewhere: funky. Stuck into some interactive CMake thing that would't let me build the makefiles, despite a clean configure and no errors: wow; eventually tweaked around the un-reported error.
  • Arrived, walked to the venue; missed the pitches. Met Malcolm and various others; long discussions about paper vs. electronic records - didn't get any DICOM work done - instead started on some QR code pieces.
  • Building closed early, out to a bar to meet other interesting parties around the place.

Michael Meeks: 2015-01-23 Friday [Planet openSUSE]

  • Into Cambridge for Quarterly meetings; good to catch up with Philippe, Tracie & Guy; go over the positives & areas for improvement together - had lunch as we worked, drew up some projections.
  • Home earlyish. Tea - Naomi B. over to play, babes watched Moonacre, put them to bed, watched the next Harry Potter in the series with the biggers.

Pasi Lallinaho: Simple desktops with Xubuntu [Planet Ubuntu]

In 2012, I wrote an article about default configuration for an operating system and the challenges involved with it. For a related, but slightly different topic, I thought it would be useful to share some of my experiences in setting up environments for more or less technically limited people.

Please note that this is just a pointer and a suggestion and the needs and wants of real people may and will vary.

Relevant visual elements

Panel

The first thing I would suggest to do is to remove any unnecessary panel applets (and panels, where appropriate). Automatically hidden panels can be really hard to use, especially for those users who have limited experience with mice or other problems that affect hand-cursor coordination. These can vary anywhere from bad eyesight to difficulties with accurate movement or simply having a hard time understanding the concept of a cursor.

What is relevant in the panels for a simple desktop experience? If you are striving for the simplest possible configuration, I would say that you only need launchers for applications, window list of open applications, a clock and a shutdown button with no choice of logout, suspend or other actions. With this setup, I recommend using the confirmation dialog to prevent unwanted shutdown cycles.

When deciding which launchers to show, please remember that you can enable access to the full application menu on right-clicking the desktop. Because of that option, it’s not always worth the trouble to try to add a launcher for every application, especially if they are used only rarely. Consider picking ones that users need daily, weekly or monthly, depending on how much you want to avoid right-clicking.

I believe people that want or need a simple desktop want to see anything that they think is irrelevant. This is especially true to indicators, because they use symbols that are more or less hard to understand for a technically limited person.

There are a few exceptions: If you’re setting up a laptop that’s actually unplugged now and then, you might want to show the battery indicator. If you have a laptop that needs to be used in various locations, you’ll want to show the network manager as well. If controlling volume is necessary, you might want to consider whether the sound indicator or shortcut keys (Fn+Fx in laptops) are the better choice.

Desktop

In addition to the panel launchers, it’s wise to add launchers for the desktop as well along with a shutdown button. Make sure the launchers user generic names instead of application names eg. Email instead of Mozilla Thunderbird. It’s usually wise to bump up the icon and label size up as well. If the users will not run several applications at a time, you can simply drop the panel and only use the desktop icons. If you want to show the clock without a panel, you can use a simple Conky setup. Conky is available in the Ubuntu repositories.

Other accessibility considerations

If the users have problems with their eyesight, there are a few things that can help make the system more usable for them.

The first one is adjusting the font and DPI settings. Bumping up the font size by just one step and increasing the DPI value makes the text more easily readable. Xubuntu has a very legible default font, even in smallish fonts, but it’s good to remember you can change the font as well

The other thing you can do is change the window border theme. The default Xubuntu theme is designed to be elegant and keep out of the way, but sometimes this is not ideal. If the user has a hard time seeing where a window ends and the other starts, it might be a good idea to try another window border theme. On the other hand, if too many buttons is the problem – or you simply don’t need or want to enable some features – you can remove some of the window buttons as well.

There is also many accessibility congifuration options under the Accessibility tab in Window Manager Tweaks found in the Settings Manager. The one I tend to turn off is rolling up windows with the mouse wheel. This prevents the accidentally “disappearing” windows.

Accessibility version of Greybird?

Currently, Greybird, the Xubuntu default theme, ships two window border themes: a regular and a compact one. It has been brought up to discussion by me and others that we should ship an accessibility version as well. This accessibility version would sport bigger window buttons as well as a bigger border to grab for resizing the window.

So far, the accessibility on the drawing board phase and not much has been done yet, as it’s currently one of the most low priority items for the development teams of Xubuntu and Shimmer. That being said, all constructive feedback is welcome. Furthermore, if we see a lot of people asking for the accessibility version, it’s likely that its priority will be bumped up at least a little.

Smoother user experience

Since we are talking about a simple desktop experience, I can assume at least part of our target group is people who don’t either understand or want to understand why updating is important or how to install updates. For this reason, I’d simply turn on the automatical security updates but turn off all manual updates.

Depending on the situation, I would make sure apport will not pop up and ask to send new bug reports. It’s self-evident that bug reports are important, but if the user doesn’t understand or want to understand the importance, it’s better to turn any reporting that needs user input off. The possibility that these users with the simplest possible desktops would run into bugs that haven’t been already found is really rare. Moreover, the possibility of developers getting further information from these users are really slim.

While I don’t use autologin myself and can’t suggest using it for security reasons, setting it up might save a lot of frustration. But please, only use autologin after a good assessment of the situation and understanding the security considerations related to that.

Manual maintenance needs

Even though a system can run smoothly without daily maintenance, manual maintenance is sometimes required. I’ve been maintaining a few computers for family remotely during the years, and the two tools I’ve needed the most are an SSH server and remote desktop viewing ability – for which I’m currently using an X11vnc setup.

While SSH is usually fine for most of the regular maintenance, being able to view (and use) the desktop remotely has been an invaluable help in situations where the user can’t describe the issue accurately enough via text or voice based communication. This is even more useful if the computer is far from you and you have limited possibilities to access it physically.

Naturally, you need to take security considerations into account when accessing a computer remotely. Making servers listen on unusual ports and securing with them firewalls is highly encouraged.

Summary

There are numerous opinions on the best desktop configuration, both in the look and feel. However, if you are setting a system up for somebody else, you will need to consider how they usually use the computer and how you could support their workflow to make the experience smoother.

Xfce allows a great deal of customizability by default. On top of that, the Xubuntu team has worked to bring the users even more tools that can help them configure their system. The options brought by these alone give you a vast amount of different things you can control. This article is just scratching the surface for even those options. If you want to go deeper, there is always more software on the Ubuntu repositories that can help you set up the system in the way you like it.

If you have other ideas and suggestions for simple and/or accessible desktops, feel free to drop them in the comments. If you write (or have written) a blog article about customizing Xubuntu, especially ones that cover accessbility issues, I’d like to hear back from those as well.

Happy configuring!

Oliver Grawert: Porting Ubuntu Snappy to a yet unsupported armhf board [Planet Ubuntu]

With the appearance of Snappy Ubuntu steps into the world of embedded systems. Ubuntu Snappy is designed in a way that will make it safe to run in critical environments from drones over medical equipment to robotics, home automation and machine control. The automatic rollback features will prevent you from outages when an upgrade fails, application confinement prevents you from apps, servers and tools doing any evil to your system and the image based design makes upgrades happen in minutes instead of potentially hours you are used to from package based upgrade systems.

By its design of separating device, rootfs and application packages strictly Snappy provides a true rolling release, you just upgrade each of the bits separately, independent from each other. Your Home Automation Server software can just stay on the latest upstream version all the time, no matter what version or release the other bits of your system are on. There is no more “I’m running Ubuntu XX.04 or XX.10, where do i find a PPA with a backport of the latest LibreOffice”, “snappy install” and “snappy upgrade” will simply always get you the latest stable upstream version of your software, regardless of the base system.

Thanks to the separation of the device related bits porting to yet unsupported hardware is a breeze too, though since features like automated roll-back on upgrades as well as the security guarding of snap packages depend on capabilities of the bootloader and kernel, your port might operate slightly degraded until you are able to add these bits.

Let’s take a look what it takes to do such a port to a NinjaSphere developer board in detail.

The Snappy boot process and finding out about your Bootloader capabilities

This section requires some basic u-boot knowledge, you should also have read https://developer.ubuntu.com/en/snappy/porting/

By default the whole u-boot logic in a snappy system gets read and executed from a file called snappy-system.txt living in the /boot partition of your install. This file is put in place by the image build software we will use later. So first of all your Bootloader setup needs to be able to load files from disk and read their content into the bootloader environment. Most u-boot installs provide “fatload” and the “env import” commands for this.

It is also very likely that the commands in your snappy-system.txt are to new for your installed u-boot (or are simply not enabled in its build configuration) so we might need to override them with equivalent functions your bootloader actually supports (i.e. fatload vs load or bootm vs bootz).

To get started, we grab a default linux SD card image from the board vendor, write it to an SD card and wire up the board for serial console using an FTDI USB serial cable. We stop the boot process by hitting enter right after the first u-boot messages appear during boot, which should get us to the bootloader prompt where we simply type “help”. This will show us all the commands the installed bootloader knows. Next we want to know what the bootloader does by default, so we call the “printenv” command which will show us all pre-set variables (copy paste them from your terminal application to a txt file so you can easier look them up later without having to boot your board each time you need to know anything).

Inspecting the “printenv” output of the NinjaSphere u-boot you will notice that it uses a file called uEnv-NS.txt to read its environment from. This is the file we will have to work with to put overrides and hardware sepcific bits in place. It is also the file from which we will load snappy-system.txt into our environment.

Now lets take a look at the snappy-system.txt file, an example can be found at:
http://people.canonical.com/~ogra/snappy/snappy-system.txt

It contains four variables we can not change that tell our snappy how to boot, these are snappy_cmdline, snappy_ab, snappy_stamp and snappy_mode. It also puts the logic for booting a snappy system into the snappy_boot variable.
Additionally there are the different load commands for kernel, initrd and devicetree files and as you can see when comparing these with your u-boot “help” output they use commands out installed u-boot does not know, so the first bits we will put into our uEnv-NS.txt files are adjusted version of these commands. In the default instructions for the NinjaSphere for building the Kernel you will notice that it uses the devicetree attached to an uImage and can not boot raw vmlinuz and initrd.img files by using the bootz command. It also does not use an initrd at all by default but luckily in the “printenv” output there is at least a load address set for a ramdisk already, so we will make use of this. Based on these findings our first lines in uEnv-NS.txt look like the following:


loadfiles_ninja=run loadkernel_ninja; run loadinitrd_ninja
loadkernel_ninja=fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${kloadaddr} ${snappy_ab}/${kernel_file_ninja}
loadinitrd_ninja=fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${rdaddr} ${snappy_ab}/${initrd_file_ninja}
kernel_file_ninja=uImage
initrd_file_ninja=uInitrd

We will now simply be able to run “loadfiles_ninja” instead of “loadfiles” from our snappy_boot override command.

Snappy uses ext4 filesystems all over the place, looking at “printenv” we see the NinjaSphere defaults to ext3 by setting the mmcrootfstype variable, so our next line in uEnv-NS.txt switches this to ext4:

mmcrootfstype=ext4

Now lets take a closer look at snappy_boot in snappy-system.txt, the command that contains all the magic.
The section  “Bootloader requirements for Snappy (u-boot + system-AB)” on https://developer.ubuntu.com/en/snappy/porting/ describes the if-then logic used there in detail. Comparing the snappy_boot command from snappy-system.txt with the list of available commands shows that we need some adjustments though, the “load” command is not supported, we need to use “fatload” instead. The original snappy_boot command also uses “fatwrite” to touch snappy-stamp.txt. While you can see from the “help” output, that this command is supported by our preinstalled u-boot, there is a bug with older u-boot versions where using fatwrite results in a corrupted /boot partition if this partition is formatted as fat32 (which snappy uses). So our new snappy_boot command will need to have this part of the logic ripped out (which sadly breaks the auto-rollback function but will not have any other limitations for us (“snappy upgrade” will still work fine as well as a manual “snappy rollback” will)).

After making all the changes our “snappy_boot_ninja” will look like the following in the uEnv-NS.txt file:


snappy_boot_ninja=if test "${snappy_mode}" = "try"; then if fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${snappy_stamp} 0; then if test "${snappy_ab}" = "a"; then setenv snappy_ab "b"; else setenv snappy_ab "a"; fi; fi; fi; run loadfiles_ninja; setenv mmcroot /dev/disk/by-label/system-${snappy_ab} ${snappy_cmdline}; run mmcargs; bootm ${kloadaddr} ${rdaddr}

As the final step we now just need to set “uenvcmd” to import the variables from snappy-system.txt and then make it run our modified snappy_boot_ninja command:


uenvcmd=fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${loadaddr} snappy-system.txt; env import -t $loadaddr $filesize; run snappy_boot_ninja

This is it ! Our bootloader setup is now ready, the final uEnv-NS.txt that we will put into our /boot partition now looks like below:


# hardware specific overrides for the ninjasphere developer board
#
loadfiles_ninja=run loadkernel_ninja; run loadinitrd_ninja
loadkernel_ninja=fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${kloadaddr} ${snappy_ab}/${kernel_file_ninja}
loadinitrd_ninja=fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${rdaddr} ${snappy_ab}/${initrd_file_ninja}


kernel_file_ninja=uImage
initrd_file_ninja=uInitrd
mmcrootfstype=ext4


snappy_boot_ninja=if test "${snappy_mode}" = "try"; then if fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${snappy_stamp} 0; then if test "${snappy_ab}" = "a"; then setenv snappy_ab "b"; else setenv snappy_ab "a"; fi; fi; fi; run loadfiles_ninja; setenv mmcroot /dev/disk/by-label/system-${snappy_ab} ${snappy_cmdline}; run mmcargs; bootm ${kloadaddr} ${rdaddr}


uenvcmd=fatload mmc ${mmcdev} ${loadaddr} snappy-system.txt; env import -t $loadaddr $filesize; run snappy_boot_ninja

Building kernel and initrd files to boot Snappy on the NinjaSphere

Snappy makes heavy use of the apparmor security extension of the linux kernel to provide a safe execution environment for the snap packages of applications and services. So while we could now clone the NinjaSphere kernel source and apply the latest apparmor patches from linus’ mainline tree, the kind Paolo Pisati from the Ubuntu kernel team was luckily interested in getting the NinjaSphere running snappy and did all this work for us already, so instead of cloning the BSP kernel from the NinjaSphere team on github, we can pull the already patched tree from:

http://kernel.ubuntu.com/git?p=ppisati/ubuntu-vivid.git;a=shortlog;h=refs/heads/snappy_ti_ninjasphere

First of all, let us install a cross toolchain. Assuming you use an Ubuntu or Debian install for your work you can just do this by:


sudo apt-get install gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf

Now we clone the patched tree and move into the cloned directory:


git clone -b snappy_ti_ninjasphere git://kernel.ubuntu.com/ppisati/ubuntu-vivid.git
cd ubuntu-vivid

Build uImage with attached devicetree, build the modules and install them. All based on Paolos adjusted snappy defconfiig:


export CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-; export ARCH=arm
make snappy_ninjasphere_defconfig
make -j8 uImage.var-som-am33-ninja
make -j8 modules
mkdir ../ninjasphere-modules
make modules_install INSTALL_MOD_PATH=../ninjasphere-modules
cp arch/arm/boot/uImage.var-som-am33-ninja ../uImage
cd -

So we now have a modules/ directory containing the binary modules and we have a uImage file to boot our snappy, what we are still missing is an initrd file to make our snappy boot. We can just use the initrd from an existing snappy device tarball which we can find at cdimage.ubuntu.com.


mkdir tmp
cd tmp
wget http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-core/daily-preinstalled/current/vivid-preinstalled-core-armhf.device.tar.gz
tar xzvf vivid-preinstalled-core-armhf.device.tar.gz

Do you remember, our board requires an uInitrd … the above tarball only ships a raw initrd.img, so we need to convert it. In Ubuntu there is the u-boot-tools package that ships the mkimage tool to convert files for u-boot consumption, lets install this package and create a proper uInitrd:


sudo apt-get install u-boot-tools
mkimage -A arm -T ramdisk -C none -n "Snappy Initrd" -d system/boot/initrd.img-* ../uInitrd
cd ..
rm -rf tmp/

If you do not want to keep the modules from the -generic kernel in your initrd.img you can easily unpack and re-pack the initrd.img file as described in “Initrd requirements for Snappy” on https://developer.ubuntu.com/en/snappy/porting/ and simply rm -rf lib/modules/* before re-packing to get a clean and lean initrd.img before converting to uInitrd.

Now we have a bootloader configuration file, uImage, uInitrd and a dir with the matching binary modules we can use to create our snappy device tarball.

Creating the Snappy device tarball

We are ready to create the device tarball filesystem structure and roll a proper snappy tarball from it, lets create a build/ dir in which we build this structure:


mkdir build
cd build

As described on https://developer.ubuntu.com/en/snappy/porting/ our uInitrd and uImage files need to go into the assets subdir:


mkdir assets
cp ../uImage assets/
cp ../uInitrd assets/

The modules we built above will have to live underneath the system/ dir inside the tarball:


mkdir system
cp -a ../modules/* system/

Our boootloader configuration goes into the boot/ dir. For proper operation snappy looks for a plain uEnv.txt file, since our actual bootloader config lives in uEnv-NS.txt we just create the other file as empty doc (it would be great if we could use a symlink here, but remember, the /boot partition that will be created from this uses a vfat filesystem and vfat does not support
symlinks, so we just touch an empty file instead).


mkdir boot
cp ../uEnv-NS.txt boot/
touch boot/uEnv.txt

Snappy will also expect a flashtool-assets dir, even though we do not use this for our port:


mkdir flashtool-assets

As last step we now need to create the hardware.yaml file as described on https://developer.ubuntu.com/en/snappy/porting/


echo "kernel: assets/uImage" >hardware.yaml
echo "initrd: assets/uInitrd" >>hardware.yaml
echo "dtbs: assets/dtbs" >>hardware.yaml
echo "partition-layout: system-AB" >>hardware.yaml
echo "bootloader: u-boot" >>hardware.yaml

This is it ! Now we can tar up the contents of the build/ dir into a tar.xz file that we can use with ubuntu-device-flash to build a bootable snappy image.


tar cJvf ../device_part_ninjasphere.tar.xz *
cd ..

Since I personally like to re-build my tarballs regulary if anything changed or improved, I wrote a little tool I call snappy-device-builder which takes over some of the repetitive tasks you have to do when rolling the tarball, you can branch it with bzr from launchpad if you are interested in it (patches and improvements are indeed very welcome):


bzr branch lp:~ogra/+junk/snappy-device-builder

Building the actual SD card image

Install the latest ubuntu-device-flash from the snappy-dev beta PPA:


sudo add-apt-repository ppa:snappy-dev/beta
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-device-flash

Now we build a 3GB big image called mysnappy.img using ubuntu-device-flash and our newly created device_part_ninjasphere.tar.xz with the command below:


sudo ubuntu-device-flash core --size 3 -o mysnappy.img --channel ubuntu-core/devel-proposed --device generic_armhf --device-part device_part_ninjasphere.tar.xz --developer-mode

.. and write the create mysnappy.img to an SD card that sits in the SD Card Reader at /dev/sdc:


sudo dd if=mysnappy.img of=/dev/sdc bs=4k

This is it, your NinjaSphere board should now boot you to a snappy login on the serial port, log in with “ubuntu” with the password “ubuntu” and if your board is attached to the network i recommend doing a “sudo snappy install webdm”, then you can reach your snappy via http://webdm.local:4200/ in a browser and install/remove/configure snap packages on it.

If you have any problems with this guide, want to make suggestions or have questions, you can reach me as “ogra” via IRC inthe #snappy channel on irc.freenode.net or just mail the snappy-devel@lists.ubuntu.com mailing list with your question.


Ali Jawad: Self Development [Planet Ubuntu]

Hi,

From 2010 until this very moment, I have volunteered and invested my time to help tons of people from all over the world. The key was ‘helping’. In most cases, I had no idea what are their real names? how do they look like? their nationality? colour? religion? personal life? etc. That was the best part of all. You help others without knowing anything about them except they are:

  • Humans.
  • Need Help.

What could be better than this?

Words fail me here. I can’t summarize all these years in one post and guess will never do. That requires a book which I’m planning to write, one day hopefully. Why a book? simply because I was doing that on daily basis, 24/7/365 and it was like a full-time job. I’ve been the most active contributor ever. That definitely needs a book in case I would like to document it and share that unique experience.

 

In 21-January-2015, I was talking to someone so close, so precious and so has been and still my real life mentor. We were discussing about my real life, what I have done, what I’m doing, what I’m suppose to do, what I’m not suppose to do, etc. It was long discussion.

Suddenly, we came to a huge disagreement about the path I have decided to walk through. Due to that disagreement, the discussion, which turned to be an argument, had to reach to a dead end.

The call ended and a moment of silence from both side after that.

I then started to think with myself about what happened. It took me nearly a day until I started to figure out what I must do and what should happen. At first, I was so confused and feeling so bad. Once I started to take some actions, things started to get more clear and I had a better vision.

 

In one single day, I have decided to step down from 5 different projects at the same time.

Examples:

Out of 5 projects I stepped down from, 3 of them are mine (I founded them).

It was the toughest and hardest decision I have ever taken for the last 5 years since I have started all that in 2010 (being a volunteer). Of course, I have taken much harder decisions in my real life but I’m talking about my life as a volunteer. That was the toughest of all.

Such action requires a lot of energy, maybe courage too. Above all, it requires thinking out-of-the box (differently).

Once I took that one, I decided to go for the next step and the next decision:

Self Development.

Personal-Development-Skills

A totally new chapter in my life. New page, new path, new beginning. Above all, new way of thinking. Thinking differently.

Because:

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

I will not write about my next move yet. I will start some paper planning and start following what I have planed for myself.

I’ve been the brain behind so many projects. I have helped lots of people and many projects. It is time to work on myself. If I can’t be useful to my own self, how can I be useful to others? I don’t know how I was helpful for so many people? maybe I wasn’t after all? I don’t know how it happened and I don’t want to think about that at the moment. All what I want truly is to start working so hard on myself. Develop and improve myself. It is to be or not to be. It is super serious and super high priority.

Proverb_Life_is_about_risking_everything_20141024-674x953

I must admit and confess that I was chasing the wrong dream. That is why I have contacted my real life mentor and apologized to the misunderstanding that happened between us and all. I hope he can forgive me and above all, I hope he understands.

I’m forever thankful as I got the wake up call that was in bad need to.

Enough talk, time for actions.

Oh, and I must also admit that after stepping down from my roles with 5 different projects, I felt much better. At first, I was feeling so bad and down. But the next day, when I breathed, I did that with LESS burden and stress. I then realized what I have done to myself all that time. Needless to say, it was so stupid to burn myself out that way. While I have done good things to others, I have done so bad things to myself. Never too late and better late than never. I don’t think I could have done that without stepping down. that action made me think clearly and better. Less burden means more focus and more energy on less and fewer things.

 

FWIW, I don’t think I will step down from ToriOS and Ubuntu GNOME. And I don’t think I will put Kibo on hold. I will however limit my activities and keep low profile.

 

To the one who is always there for me, spending time, energy and efforts to offer the honest and the best advice ever, THANK YOU SO MUCH wherever you are!

 

Thank you for reading this.

P.S.
Yes, I shall share the progress of myself development in case this will help anyone out there, wherever there is :)

Admit it: me shaking this old can of tennis balls sounds better... [Join me, won't we?]



Admit it: me shaking this old can of tennis balls sounds better than any steel drum band you’ve heard.

erinlifts: Howdy y’all! Hope you’re all having a lovely... [Fitness, baby!]



erinlifts:

Howdy y’all!

Hope you’re all having a lovely weekend :)

As you can see, I am 2 followers away from 1000!!! Anyone wanna help me out? :)

I don’t do that stupid “follow and unfollow when someone follows me back” thing; I genuinely want to interact and such with people on Instagram! I will like and occasionally comment on stuff and if you get a PR, I’ll try to come and leave comments too!!! It helps if you tag me hehe ;)

I also love pictures of cats and dogs and other pets and I like seeing how other people live their lives.

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grinandclaireit:

If I was gonna hire a dog walker off of Craigslist it’d be this guy

MAKEUP EXPERT FRIENDS [Fitness, baby!]

What’s the difference between BB Creme and tinted moisturizer?

would you submit to legsandbootyx3? [Fitness, baby!]

No, but you’re welcome to REBLOG my photos.

http://kirstyintheskywithbutter.tumblr.com/post/109123917809/sexyfitarmychick-makeup-people-please-help [Fitness, baby!]

http://kirstyintheskywithbutter.tumblr.com/post/109123917809/sexyfitarmychick-makeup-people-please-help:

sexyfitarmychick:

MAKEUP PEOPLE PLEASE HELP!

So I normally use powder foundation (benefit brand) but recently it’s started to look SUPER powdery on my face???

I either want to try tinted moisturizer instead (I don’t need much coverage, just some uneven skin stone business) or using a…

Yeah I use the moisturizer by benefit. I might go bb cream hunting today.

Pros: losing weight fairly quickly (finally) Cons: only two holes left on my lever belt until I have... [Fitness, baby!]

Pros: losing weight fairly quickly (finally)
Cons: only two holes left on my lever belt until I have to order a smaller one. Fuck.

misscaptaincanuck: Guess who just benched a plate???? Not fucking me that’s for sure my bench... [Fitness, baby!]

misscaptaincanuck:

Guess who just benched a plate????

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http://workitblackchick.tumblr.com/post/109106532625/sexyfitarmychick-makeup-people-please-help:

sexyfitarmychick:

MAKEUP PEOPLE PLEASE HELP!

So I normally use powder foundation (benefit brand) but recently it’s started to look SUPER powdery on my face???

I either want to try tinted moisturizer instead (I don’t need much coverage, just some uneven skin stone business) or using a…

How am I supposed to mix pressed powder with moisturizer?

I’m a makeup idiot.

I might try buying liquid foundation and mixing that with the moisturizer. Idk. Fuck.

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The angry gymnastics warehouse scene in the new version of Footloose is so fucking weird. [Fitness, baby!]

The angry gymnastics warehouse scene in the new version of Footloose is so fucking weird.

MAKEUP PEOPLE PLEASE HELP! So I normally use powder foundation (benefit brand) but recently... [Fitness, baby!]

MAKEUP PEOPLE PLEASE HELP!

So I normally use powder foundation (benefit brand) but recently it’s started to look SUPER powdery on my face???

I either want to try tinted moisturizer instead (I don’t need much coverage, just some uneven skin stone business) or using a setting spray overtop of my powder.

Do you guys recommend any tinted moisturizers?

Or do you think a setting spray will make my usual foundation look less powdery?

Please help.

Shortwave Radio Recordings: Radio Vilnius 1990-1991 [The SWLing Post]

Shortwave Radio Audio Archive contributor, Richard Langley, has digitized another set of historic off-air recordings–this time, documenting the independence of Lithuania through Radio Vilinus.

Many thanks to Richard for the following guest post and archived audio:


Cathedral in Vilnius, seen in 1912 - Source: Public Domain via WikiMedia Commons

Radio Vilnius 1990-1991

On 11 March 1990, Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare its independence. The Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to the Lithuanian authorities to renounce independence or suffer the consequences.

On 17 March 1990, Lithuania rejected the demand and the Soviet Union responded by applying economic sanctions and occupied parts of Vilnius, the capital city. In January 1991, the Soviets launched a larger scale operation against Lithuania. On 11 January, Soviet military units seized several building in Vilnius and elsewhere. On 12 January, civilians congregated outside some strategically important buildings such as those of the Supreme Council (the Seimas Palace), the Radio and Television Committee, the Vilnius TV Tower, and the main telephone exchange in an attempt to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Soviet military. In the early hours of 13 January, tanks and soldiers attacked the TV tower. Fourteen Lithuanians and one Russian soldier died.

Subsequently, Soviet forces surrounded and entered the Radio and Television Committee building and forced the TV station off the air. Shortly thereafter, a small TV studio in Kaunas was used to resume TV transmissions and put out a call for help. Radio transmissions were also affected. Although Soviet forces were in the vicinity of the Supreme Council building, they retreated instead of attacking. The occupation and military raids continued for several months following the attacks.

Lithuania-FlagSubsequent Lithuanian-Russian negotiations resulted in the signing of a treaty on 31 January. A referendum on independence held on 9 February overwhelmingly supported the full and total independence of Lithuania. Other republics of the Soviet Union declared their independence and following the resignation speech by Mikhail Gorbachev on 25 December, the Soviet Union was dissolved the next day. The last Russian troops left Lithuania on 31 August 1993.

Radio Vilnius, the external service of Lithuanian Radio. transmitted news about events in Lithuania and the other Baltic republics even at the height of the Soviet attacks. The broadcasts were made, in part, using transmitters elsewhere in the Soviet Union. However, there was a temporary interruption in these broadcasts after the occupation of the Radio and TV Centre by Soviet troops early in the morning of 13 January. They resumed on 25 January.

Radio Nederland’s “Media Network” programs of 20 January 1991 and 14 January 1992 featured reports on Radio Vilnius and the Soviet occupation. The sound files of these programs are available on the Web (“Media Network Vintage Vault“).

I have six recordings of Radio Vilnius English Service shortwave broadcasts between March 1990 and January 1991. These were received in Hanwell, New Brunswick, Canada, using a Sony ICF-7600D receiver and supplied wire antenna draped around the listening room.

Recording 1 (30 minutes):

28 March 1990, 22:00 UTC, 11770 kHz (00m:00s – 00m:55s)

Strong signal. Interval signal (IS) and station identification (ID) but the transmission was cut off in mid-sentence: “This is Radio Vilnius. Hello and welcome to our daily broad” All that could be heard faintly on this frequency then was Radio Liberty in Russian (“Govorit Radio Svoboda”). Initially could hear nothing on Radio Vilnius parallel frequencies until about four minutes into the broadcast when a very faint signal on 12060 kHz could be heard (not recorded).

29 March 1990, 22:00 UTC, 12060 kHz (00m:55s – 02m:04s)

Weak signal. IS, station identification, and first part of “News About Lithuania.” Radio teletype interference. Checked other frequencies.

3 April 1990, 22:00 UTC, 17665 kHz (02m:06s – 30m:02s)

Improved signal. Receiver briefly switched to other frequencies to check quality during the recording. IS, ID, “News About Lithuania,” report on the occupation of the Lithuanian Prosecutor’s Office on Friday night (30 March), music, sports news, “Lithuanian by Radio.”

Recording 2 (45 minutes):


9 April 1990, 22:00 UTC, 11770 kHz

Strong signal. Some co-channel interference from Radio Liberty. Receiver briefly switched initially to other frequencies to check signal quality during the recording. IS, ID, “News About Lithuania,” report about the Lithuanian Mission in Moscow, “Around Lithuania,” program in Esperanto (begins around 23m:08s) — a regular feature at the end of Monday broadcasts from Radio Vilnius in English. Interesting sign-off statement: “It’s goodbye and good luck.” On the recording, the Radio Vilnius transmission is followed at 29m:29s (on the same frequency), by the first approximately 15 minutes of a transmission from pro-Moscow Radio Minsk in Belorussian (now usually referred to as Belarusian). The transmission begins with the IS and ID (“Havorits Minsk … Radyjostancyja Saviecki Bielaru?”), followed by a news program.

Recording 3 (32 minutes):


11 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 7400 kHz

Strong signal. Recording actually starts at about 22:58 UTC with music, the tail-end of a transmission on this frequency, likely from Radio Kiev. Some transmitter hum. Then, Radio Vilnius IS and ID. “We’re still hold up and we hope you can still hear us.” “News About Lithuania” including occupation news, commentary, and reports from the neighbouring Baltic states. Receiver briefly switched to other usual frequencies to check on signal quality (9750, 15180, 17690, and 17720 kHz; 6100 kHz not heard). Transmission ends with “And that’s all we have for our today’s broadcast, we hope not the last one, from Radio Vilnius in the Republic of Lithuania.” This is followed by the transmission schedule and contact information. After about 45 seconds, the Radio Minsk transmission begins with IS and ID.

Recording 4 (45 minutes):


12 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 9750 kHz

Strong signal. Initial mix-up of interval signals. The first IS is believed to be that of Moskovskaya Radio, the Russian Service of Radio Moscow, followed by a bit of the Radio Moscow World Service IS, and then finally the Radio Vilnius IS. The transmission begins with the statement “We’re still broadcasting from Vilnius.” This is followed by the Lithuanian news reporting on the acts of aggression of the Soviet occupying forces and “Correspondents’ Reports.” The latter includes a report that the exam session at Vilnius University has been postponed to allow students to help protect buildings from the occupation forces, including the Radio and Television Building, and a report on the restrictions on travel. The reports were interrupted with “some news just come in” about a group trying to break into the building of the Council of Ministers. The announcer subsequently reported that the attackers had been put off and so the conflict has been neutralized. The broadcast ends with the statement “We hope to be with you tomorrow again” followed by the transmission schedule and contact information. The Radio Vilnius transmission is followed by the one from Radio Minsk. News organizations reported that Soviet troops entered the Radio and Television Building about 15 minutes after this Radio Vilnius transmission.

Recording 5 (29 minutes):


13 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 9750 kHz

Strong signal on this and other frequencies usually received except 17690 kHz; only background noise on that frequency. However, there was no Radio Vilnius transmission on any frequency. It had been replaced by light classical and contemporary orchestral music. No IS or announcement of any kind. Music was faded out at 29m:03s before ending. During the recording, the receiver was briefly tuned to other Radio Vilnius frequencies to check on signal quality.

Recording 6 (29 minutes):


30 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 7400 kHz

Strong signal. The recording begins with a few seconds of music from the previous transmission on this frequency. Then, after about one minute (there was no IS), the Radio Vilnius transmission starts with the beginning of the patriotic song “Lietuvninkai Mes Esam Gim?” (Lithuanians We Are Born) and an introduction stating that the broadcast is coming “from the capital of the independent Republic of Lithuania.” This is followed by “News About Lithuania” including items on further acts of violence by Soviet troops and severe winter weather. Then, there are reports on Lithuanian-Polish relations and the work of the commission on Soviet aggression. Next is an eye-witness report on the attack on the TV tower on the night of 13 January, a report on the current feelings of Lithuanians under occupation, and how music and the arts keep the people going. During the recording, the receiver was briefly tuned to other Radio Vilnius frequencies to check on signal quality. In addition to 7400 kHz, only 9750 and 17690 kHz could be heard.


Richard: Thank you so kindly for sharing these amazing off-air recordings.

Click here to listen to other recordings by Richard Langley.

Amazon Prime: $72 sale, today only [The SWLing Post]

amazonprimeWhile I prefer supporting true radio retailers like Universal Radio and C. Crane with my radio-related purchases, there are many products (including a number of imported radios) only available from Amazon.com and eBay.

Amazon’s pricing can change from day-to-day, but I do end up buying quite a lot of stuff from them–everything from groceries to technology to books and music.

Today–and today only–I found out that Amazon Prime is being offered to new (and existing!) subscribers for $72.  This is a one year membership to all of Prime benefits: 2 day shipping, instant videos, Kindle lending library and a lot of streaming music (click here for the full list).

Prime has never been this cheap and the normal annual price is $99. It’s so tempting, I may just bit the bullet.

Click here to view the deal on Amazon.com.

stronger-sam: fityouth: stronger-sam: post Muay Thai selfie;... [healthy is a lifestyle]



stronger-sam:

fityouth:

stronger-sam:

post Muay Thai selfie; I think I’m in love with this sport. makes me feel like I can kick ass. 😊

The dress alone on you kicks ass 💖💖

You’re the sweetest 💘

builttobulk: queenhunterrr: kate-windsor: 💪 45 min upper body... [healthy is a lifestyle]









builttobulk:

queenhunterrr:

kate-windsor:

💪 45 min upper body workout 💪 January 24th. Feeling stro mentally and physically!

You look amazing!

Kate is actually my fitspiration.

fitfor25tolife: My internal dialogue every time I try on a goal... [healthy is a lifestyle]







fitfor25tolife:

My internal dialogue every time I try on a goal outfit….. 

levis-short-ass: westbor0baptistchurch: tootsied: iapprovethispost: tootsied: I don’t give a... [healthy is a lifestyle]

levis-short-ass:

westbor0baptistchurch:

tootsied:

iapprovethispost:

tootsied:

I don’t give a damn about my reputation [LOUD GUITAR]

You’re living in the past it’s a new generation 

[LOUD GUITAR]

[SHREK ATTACKS THE KNIGHTS AT LORD FARQUAD’S CASTLE]

[THE CHAIR, GIVE HIM THE CHAIR!]

"you’ll never figure out who you really are if your too busy trying to be someone else" [healthy is a lifestyle]

“you’ll never figure out who you really are if your too busy trying to be someone else”

- (via fluerly)

"How strange- to be strangers again." [healthy is a lifestyle]

“How strange- to be strangers again.”

-  -Amber Desmond (via yoursixwordstory)

1,000 Paratroopers From The 82nd Airborne Panther Brigade Headed To Iraq This Week [Weasel Zippers]

Jump boots on the ground. Via Fayobserver The 82nd Airborne, and more specifically its 3rd Brigade Combat Team, are no strangers to Iraq. Since 2003, parts of the brigade have deployed in support of U.S. efforts there on at least three occasions. Now, more than three years after the U.S. military presence in Iraq was […]

Graphic Video Shows Police Shooting In Oklahoma [Weasel Zippers]

Warning: video shows shooting of man A critical element that Buzzfeed leaves out of the story is that this was outside the wedding of the man’s ex-girlfriend, and that he had told her “there’s a bullet with your name on it” here. Fortunately also at 5:30, you hear the pastor who called for the police […]

Obama, Modi Declare Era Of ‘New Trust’ In US-India Nuclear And Climate Change Relations [Weasel Zippers]

Nukes for all Via WISTV President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared an era of “new trust” in the often fraught relationship between their nations as the U.S. leader opened a three-day visit to New Delhi. Standing side by side at the stately Hyderabad House, Obama and Modi cited progress […]

WH Mentions First Name Of American Female Hostage Held By ISIS Despite Specifically Being Asked Not To By Family [Weasel Zippers]

Incompetence rides again… Via Foreign Policy: White House officials routinely ask media outlets to keep the identity of the 26-year old American woman held hostage by Islamic State a secret. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough mistakenly ignored the administration’s own policy Sunday morning when he mentioned her first name on national television. Speaking […]

Breaking: Shooter Opens Fire At Home Depot In Manhattan, 2 Killed, Including Shooter [Weasel Zippers]

I’ve been into this store multiple times. Via NY Post: A disgruntled Home Depot employee shot a manager to death before killing himself in a crowded Chelsea store Sunday afternoon, sending droves of shoppers — stocking up for the impending snow storm — fleeing for their lives, law-enforcement sources said. The store manager, 38, was […]

Wait What? Chief Of Staff: Obama ‘Not Surprised’ By Yemen Collapse [Weasel Zippers]

Via Washington Examiner: President Obama was “not surprised” the Yemeni government fell into the hands of rebels backed by Iran, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday. The senior Obama aide said the president has had concerns about the Middle Eastern country since the early days of his administration. “Governance in Yemen has […]

Health Care Lobby Comes Out Swinging On North Dakota Concealed Carry Reform [Weasel Zippers]

Gun owners will end up paying higher premiums under Obamacare. Via Guns A North Dakota bill to expand where concealed carry permit holders can go while prohibiting physicians from asking questions on guns is facing opposition from health care lobbyists. In addition to opening places such as churches, concerts, public parks and political rallies, which […]

Obama’s Proposed Tax Hike On College Savings Plans Breaks His No Tax On Middle Class Pledge [Weasel Zippers]

You can keep those savings for your children, just like your doctor and your plan… Via ATR: Under Obama’s plan, earnings in “Section 529” (named for its location in the Internal Revenue Code) college savings plans will face full income taxation upon withdrawal. Under current law, earnings growth in 529 plans is tax-free if account […]

Top State Dept Official: ‘Nothing Religious’ About ISIS Execution [Weasel Zippers]

Of course it isn’t the same as using a cruel and inhumane lethal injection. Update to this story. Via WFB A senior State Department official on Saturday claimed that there is “nothing religious” about the Islamic State’s reported execution of a Japanese hostage. Rick Stengel, an under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public […]

Thousands Of Palestinians In The West Bank Protest Against Charlie Hebdo [Weasel Zippers]

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Thousands of Palestinians rallied in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to protest against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Simultaneous demonstrations were held in the cities of Ramallah and Hebron less than three weeks after Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people […]

Ben Carson Wants Immigration Laws Based On ‘Common Sense’ [Weasel Zippers]

Ben, we already have immigration law, we need enforcement not reform. Carson also wasn’t heckled by illegal immigration advocates. Via Washington Examiner Dr. Ben Carson pushed for stricter immigration laws based on “common sense” during a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit Saturday, making little mention of the 2016 race that many conservatives hope he […]

Barack Obama’s Official Twitter Account Follows Crude Sexist ‘SarahPalinVagina’ Account [Weasel Zippers]

Barack Obama’s twitter account is run by his former campaign arm, Organizing for America, now ‘independent non-profit’. Barack Obama still posts on the account occasionally signing his posts as ‘BO’. In order to follow on Twitter one has to take the affirmative step to actually click on the follow bottom, and decide that this is […]

Obama Renews Push To Close GITMO While Normalizing Relations With Cuba [Weasel Zippers]

Castro is running out of jail cells for dissidents. Via LA Times President Obama has recharged his campaign for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center with a strategy legal experts say holds out new hope of achieving that signature objective of his presidency. After years of being thwarted by Congress from transferring detainees cleared of […]

ISIS Executes Seven Women In Mosul For Refusing ‘Temporary Marriage’ [Weasel Zippers]

How dare women refuse to be raped! Via Bas: The Islamic State (IS) militants have executed seven women in Mosul for refusing temporary marriage, or ‘nikah’. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official from Mosul Saed Mamuzini told BasNews that IS are demanding women accept nikah with insurgents. Nikah is a temporary marriage which permits the participants […]

Carly Fiorina: Unlike Stand By Your Man Hillary Rodham Clinton, I’ve Actually Accomplished Something [Weasel Zippers]

Caryl had to endure media attacks during her run for Senator against “Don’t call me ma’am” Robert Redford Babs Boxer. Via Washington Examiner Potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina took a major swipe Saturday at Hillary Clinton during a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit. “Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of […]

Texas Principal Suspended For Linking To Article On Protecting Kids On Christian Website [Weasel Zippers]

Bet no problem linking to anything from Planned Parenthood. Via Daily Caller: The principal of a Katy, Texas, junior high school was recently placed on administrative leave all because — according to parents of students at the school — she posted a link to a Christian website article in a school e-newsletter. Seven Lakes Junior […]

Obama’s Foolish Complicity In Iran’s March Toward Nuclear Weapons [Weasel Zippers]

Via NY Post: Thou shall not cross Dear Leader. With their gutter sniping failing to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned March speech before Congress, White House aides are unloading their full arsenal of bile. “He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave,” one Obama aide told an Israeli newspaper. “Netanyahu […]

Ted Cruz: “The Miracle Of America” [Weasel Zippers]

DES MOINES, Iowa — In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News backstage at the Iowa Freedom Summit, potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) detailed the pathway to victory for Republicans in 2016—and he explained a new phrase he started using in his speech minutes earlier. Cruz introduced a new major theme, the […]

How Obama Justice Department Has Gutted Response To Terrorism [Weasel Zippers]

Terrorism is not shoplifting, in the game of respond or be killed, you take off the gloves. Via NY Post: President Obama used his State of the Union address to urge Americans not to fear terrorists: “We lead best, when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.” […]

Boko Haram Attacks Key Nigerian City, Resident Says “Please Pray For Us” [Weasel Zippers]

Via BBC: Fighters from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have launched an attack on the key city of Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria, reports say. Fierce fighting was reported on the outskirts. The military is carrying out air strikes, and a curfew is in place. Maiduguri is home to tens of thousands of people who […]

Ghlaghghee, 2003 – 2015 [Whatever]

Glaghghee came to us in May of 2003 when my then next-door neighbor Jerry knocked on my door, said, “here’s the kitten your wife said she wanted,” thrust a small, furry thing into my hands, and then walked off. I looked at the small puff of fur, literally no larger than my hand, said “okay” to myself and then took it upstairs with me.

Then I called my wife, who was at work, and the conversation went like this:

Me: You didn’t tell me you ordered a cat.

Krissy: I ordered a what?

Me: A cat.

Krissy: I didn’t order a cat.

Me: Jerry just came over with a kitten that he said you wanted. He mentioned you specifically.

Krissy: Oh, lord. I was talking to him the other day and he said that his cat had had kittens and that he thought that one of them was an albino. I said, “Oh, I’d like to see that.” I didn’t say I wanted it!

Me: In that case, surprise, we have a new kitten.

Also, as an albino cat Ghlaghghee was a bust, because she had markings that made her look like a Himalayan; for all of her life when people saw photos of her they complimented me on what a lovely example of the breed she was. She wasn’t. Her mother, who lived next door, was a mixed breed cat with tortoiseshell markings, and we strongly suspect her father was a Siamese mix feral cat who we would see wandering about the first couple of years we were here. Ghlaghghee, despite appearances, was a common moggie, genetically speaking.

But she was just about adorable, I like cats, and I sensed a real “no takebacks” vibe from Jerry. Deciding to keep her was not really a problem. We also decided that we would let Athena, age four, name the cat. More accurately, Krissy decided it, and I went along, with caveats. Specifically, that we would ask her to think of another name than something dreadfully boring, like “Fluffy,” because, honestly, we were a creative people, we Scalzis, and we could do better.

And this is how that went down:

Me: Athena, we have a new kitten and we’ve decided to let you name it —

(produces kitten)

— but before you do, I want you to try to think of a creative name, not something like —

Athena: I WANT TO NAME IT FLUFFY

Me:crap.

I was not really down with the name “Fluffy,” but you try getting a four-year-old child to change her mind about a new kitten name and see how far you get. In this moment of domestic crisis, I turned, as I so often did, to the wisdom of George Bernard Shaw, who once commented that the English language is so nonsensical in its rules regarding pronunciation that one could spell “fish” as “ghoti” and it could still sound the same.

Well, I could live with “Fluffy” if it was spelled “Ghlaghghee,” so that’s what I did. And thus our cat was named, and also twelve years of people asking how “Ghlaghghee” was pronounced and/or trying to pronounce the word as if their epiglottis was spasming. Which amused me, at least.

Ghlaghghee quickly decided that I was her human, which was fine with me because I like cats and she was both a pretty cat and an exceedingly well-tempered one. She was one of those rare cats who enjoyed being rubbed on her belly, and never complained when she was picked up. I would frequently cradle her like a baby, and she was fine with that; indeed, she often had an expression that I translated as “why yes, I should be carried around and spoiled. I am surprised this is even a question.”

That said, her cuddliness was highly contingent on who you were; she wasn’t much for strangers and even Athena she would sometimes treat as a person below her station. As for the other cats, well. She was the smallest of the three cats we currently have, but there was no doubt which cat ran the household. A prime example of this was the fact that Ghlaghghee had claimed my and Krissy’s bed as her space; if Zeus or Lopsided Cat tried who share it with her, she would make her displeasure with their presumptuousness clear almost instantly. For a decade, the bed was a no-go zone. She got along very well with the other cats, as long as they remembered who was boss.

Ghlaghghee was always popular with Whatever readers, because she was a handsome cat who I would frequently photograph, but she became famous to the entire world in September of 2006, when I taped bacon to her, posted a picture of it here on the site, and for two days that post with a picture of bacon taped to a cat became the most popular thing on the English-language Internet.

Looking back now, it’s difficult to believe that in all the time prior to that moment, no one had thought to tape bacon to a cat, and then put that picture on the Internet, but apparently no one had. The Internet loves bacon; the Internet loves cats. Combining the two was perfect synergy.

For a brief period of time, Ghlaghghee, aka BaconCat, was one of the most famous cats on the Internet and substantially more famous than I was. I had more than one conversation that went like so:

Person I Don’t Know, Who I’ve Just Met: So, what do you do?

Me: Well, I write books. Science fiction books. My most famous one at the moment is called Old Man’s War.

Person: Sorry, I don’t know it.

Me: I also once taped bacon to my cat.

Person (visibly excited): Oh my God! That was you?!? I love that cat!

Ghlaghghee was written up in the New York Times and Wired and several other places; she was unimpressed with them all because she’s a cat and it’s not as if she actually cared about any of that stuff ever, and it never really occurred to me to try to keep my cat’s moment going. Ghlaghghee’s celebrity has long since been eclipsed by the Grumpy Cat and Lil’ Bub and other such creatures, which is fine. Ghlaghghee didn’t seem to mind. A quiet country life, with a few fan club members frequenting Whatever and a Twitter feed, seemed to suit her.

Ghlaghghee always slept with me and Krissy on our bed, and then one morning in December we both realized that she hadn’t come up to sleep with us at all. I went looking for her and she was lethargic and wheezy. I took her to the vet soon after and she told us that Ghlaghghee had suffered from congestive heart failure. Ghlaghghee was not, on balance, a particularly old cat, but congestive heart failure can happen in cats at any point, and more frequently after middle age. Our vet gave us some medicine to help her clear out her lungs, which had been experiencing fluid backup, and let us know that we should be preparing for what comes next.

Cats with congestive heart failure can sometimes live for a couple of years with the condition, but Ghlaghghee was not one of those cats. Literally overnight she went from active to feeble. It was hard to get her to eat or to do anything other than sleep. We did what we could to make her feel safe and loved.

Yesterday it was clear that prolonging her life at this point made no sense. We made an appointment with the vet for Monday. Last night I made her as comfortable as I could, wrapped a towel around her to keep her warm, kissed her on the head and told her good night. I went to sleep and in the night had a dream that she had come to bed with me and Krissy again, sleeping between us as she often did.

I woke up and she was gone.

We buried Ghlaghghee in the back yard, by our maple tree there. She had lived literally her entire life, from the moment of her birth to the moment of her death, within two hundred yards of our house. She belongs here in death, too, in the place she knew, to become part of the landscape and to still be with us.

I’m taking her death badly. I’ve had a month to prepare but as Krissy told me today, preparing isn’t the same thing as being in the moment. Pets are part of your family; you love them and in their way they love you back. Ghlaghghee was indisputably my cat, and I’ve spent a dozen years with her, every day, as part of my life. I knew this was coming and I thought I was ready to say goodbye.

I was, but I wasn’t ready for how much saying goodbye to this particular cat would hurt. I suppose it’s just that I loved her a lot. And it hurts when those you love go away.


Have you ever considered entering some of your home brew in a competition? [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]

I have. I entered a competition once last year, and it turned out to be the only infected batch I’ve ever made. I haven’t had an opportunity since then, unfortunately.

"As a mother, I put my parenting decisions above all else. Nobody knows my son better than me, and..." [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]

“As a mother, I put my parenting decisions above all else. Nobody knows my son better than me, and the choices I make about how to care for him are no one’s business but my own. So, when other people tell me how they think I should be raising my child, I simply can’t tolerate it. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I fully stand behind my choices as a mom, including my choice not to vaccinate my son, because it is my fundamental right as a parent to decide which eradicated diseases come roaring back.
 
The decision to cause a full-blown, multi-state pandemic of a virus that was effectively eliminated from the national population generations ago is my choice alone, and regardless of your personal convictions, that right should never be taken away from a child’s parent. Never.
 
Say what you will about me, but I’ve read the information out there and weighed every option, so I am confident in my choice to revive a debilitating illness that was long ago declared dead and let it spread like wildfire from school to school, town to town, and state to state, until it reaches every corner of the country. Leaving such a momentous decision to someone you haven’t even met and who doesn’t care about your child personally—now that’s absurd! Maybe I choose to bring back the mumps. Or maybe it’s diphtheria. Or maybe it’s some other potentially fatal disease that can easily pass among those too young or too medically unfit to be vaccinated themselves. But whichever highly communicable and formerly wiped-out disease that I opt to resurrect with a vengeance, it is a highly personal decision that only I and my family have the liberty to make.”

- I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back.

bogleech: exeggcute: satire is “I’m going to take this concept to an extreme or absurd level in... [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]

bogleech:

exeggcute:

satire is “I’m going to take this concept to an extreme or absurd level in order to demonstrate how bizarre/nonsensical/illogical it is” and not “I said something bigoted but just kidding I didn’t really mean it hahaha”

Dang it I’ve written like 5000 words trying to explain this and I only needed this post to reblog

catsbeaversandducks: 10 Cats Who Think They’re Masters Of... [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/143383/one_of_his_favorite_hiding_places/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/1jm8ry/he_thinks_i_cant_see_him/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/wzx53/gee_i_wonder_where_wolfgang_is_hiding/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/q2ljr/she_thinks_you_cant_see_her/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/qaww9/lets_just_say_shes_not_the_house_hide_and_seek/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/1w2p0a/theo_doesnt_quite_understand_this_whole_hiding/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/1sjrdl/he_thinks_hes_hiding_from_what_hes_done/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/2jomz9/he_thinks_hes_hiding/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/2fbolj/shhh_hes_hiding/


https://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/s83cc/he_thinks_hes_hiding/

catsbeaversandducks:

10 Cats Who Think They’re Masters Of Hide-And-Seek

"Definitely can’t see me."

(All photos via Reddit. Please click on each photo for individual credit.)

jtotheizzoe: A collection of graphics to help you figure out if... [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]







jtotheizzoe:

A collection of graphics to help you figure out if that Facebook video might be freebooted (AKA “stolen”), what to do if it is, and the damage that this is doing to America!

odddaysgeorge: agnusmonster: This song makes me want to step... [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]













odddaysgeorge:

agnusmonster:

This song makes me want to step on a thousand shirtless men while wearing high heels

The musical equivalent of red lipstick. 

supremesorcery: if this was the kind of balloon he meant,... [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]





supremesorcery:

if this was the kind of balloon he meant, they’d have to be very goth

i love baph, his style says “andrew eldritch” but his nose says “trent reznor”

also holy fuck this is like my 12th piece of wicdiv fanart since the comic started (I COUNTED) hahah…………….. wow soon id be able to fill a book with this stuff this is wild

chauvinistsushi: the-goddamazon: letterstomycountry: Via A... [WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR]



chauvinistsushi:

the-goddamazon:

letterstomycountry:

Via A Mighty Girl:

Professional hacker Parisa Tabriz is responsible for keeping the nearly billion users of Google Chrome safe by finding vulnerabilities in their system before malicious hackers do. Tabriz, a “white hat” hacker who calls herself Google’s “Security Princess”, is head of the company’s information security engineering team. The 31-year-old Polish-Iranian-American is also an anomaly in Silicon Valley according to a recent profile in The Telegraph: “Not only is she a woman – a gender hugely under-represented in the booming tech industry – but she is a boss heading up a mostly male team of 30 experts in the US and Europe.”

Tabriz came up with “Security Princess” while at a conference and the unusual title is printed on her business card. “I knew I’d have to hand out my card and I thought Information Security Engineer sounded so boring,” she says. “Guys in the industry all take it so seriously, so security princess felt suitably whimsical.” Her curiosity, mischievousness, and innovative thinking are all assets in her business: a high-profile company like Google is constantly in the crosshairs of so-called “black hat” hackers.

Tabriz came into internet security almost by accident; at the University of Illinois’ computer engineering program, her interest was first whetted by the story of early hacker John Draper, who became known as Captain Crunch in the 1960s after he learned how to make free long-distance calls using a toy whistle from a Cap’n Crunch cereal box. She realized that, to beat the hackers of today, she had to be prepared for similar — but more advanced — out-of-the-box thinking.

While women at still very under-represented in the tech industry — Google recently reported that only 30% of its staff is female — Tabriz has hope for the future: “[F]ifty years ago there were similar percentages of women in medicine and law, now thankfully that’s shifted.” And, while she hasn’t encountered overt sexism at Google, when she was offered the position, at least one classmate said, “you know you only got it cos you’re a girl.” To help address this imbalance, she mentors under-16 students at a yearly computer science conference that teaches kids how to “hack for good” — and she especially encourages girls to pursue internet security work. One 16-year-old who attended, Trinity Nordstrom, says, “Parisa is a good role model, because of her I’d like to be a hacker.”

Tabriz, who was named by Forbes as one of the “top 30 under 30 to watch” in 2012, also wants the public to realize that hacking can be used for positive ends. “[H]acking can be ugly,” she says. “The guy who published the private photos of those celebrities online made headlines everywhere. What he did was not only a violation of these women but it was criminal, and as a hacker I was very saddened by it. I feel like we, the hackers, need better PR to show we’re not all like that… [A]fter all I’m in the business of protecting people.”

To read more about Google’s “Security Princess” in The Telegraph, visit http://bit.ly/Z6Z5RG

Security Princess.

bae goals

Gates of Vienna: No-Go Zones for Jews in Malmö [Blazing Cat Fur]

The following video is a brief excerpt from a full-length program that originally appeared on Swedish state television. It’s not what you’d expect: it exposes the Swedish public to the irrefutable existence of no-go zones in Malmö — no-go zones for Jews, at the very least.

Yet the footage is shown in black and white, for some strange reason. Is this retro chic? Or is there another reason?

The fact that the faces of the bully-boy “youths” are pixelated out provides a clue about a possible motivation: concealing the ethnicity of thugs who intimidate Jews in Rosengård. Gray-scale blurry faces could be whites, Middle Easterners, Kosovars, anything but the most highly-melanized enrichers. However, a native Swede can presumably detect the immigrant patois when the young rascals yell their threats and insults. In fact, one of the punks sneers at him in heavily-accented English — and it’s not a Swedish accent…


Video with subtitles and transcript at the link.  The Swedish TV station that produced the video is trying to disguise the identity of the Jew-haters.  If they were true Swedish neo-Nazis, that fact would shouted from the rooftops. 

h/t Marvin.

Yemen risks disintegration as south rejects Shi’ite group’s takeover [Blazing Cat Fur]

Soldiers are seen near the house of Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Sanaa January 24, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

(Reuters) – No sooner had Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi announced his resignation than his country’s tenuous political fabric began to disintegrate.

Provinces across a nation barely held together by a complex web of tribal and religious alliances said they would no longer take military commands from Sanaa after the Iranian-allied Shi’ite Houthi group besieged Hadi’s home and palace this week.

The emerging fragmentation of the Arabian Peninsula country has sparked fears of the “Somalization” of a state which is home to a revitalized al Qaeda insurgency as well as a neighbor to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

For Washington, Yemen’s splintering would make it hard to carry out a counter-terrorism strategy against al Qaeda plotters who have targeted it and its ally Saudi Arabia and claimed responsibility for the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Through Hadi, a supporter of U.S. drone strikes on al Qaeda, Yemen was a top U.S. ally in the Washington’s fight against islamist militancy…

Hot Cars [Blazing Cat Fur]

If you guessed Russia…

Egypt protests death toll rises to 15 on fourth anniversary of Arab Spring, as Youssef al-Qaradawi urges them on from Qatar [Blazing Cat Fur]

Clashes between rival protesters broke out, four years on from the revolution which saw the people of Egypt topple the government of Hosni Mubarak

Clashes between police and Islamist protesters in eastern Cairo have left at least nine demonstrators dead and more than a dozen injured, taking the death toll on the fourth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising to 15.

Two suspected Islamists were also killed in the Nile Delta province of Beheira when an explosive device they were planting under a high-voltage tower detonated, and ‘an armed pro-Muslim Brotherhood protester’ was shot and killed by police in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria.

The protests were staged to mark the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and came a day after a mother-of-one, 32, was shot and killed by Cairo police while participating in a peaceful protest near Tahrir Square…


I never understood why Egypt does not invest in the massive water cannons that been so successful at stopping protests in Turkey. Or even use tear gas more instead of just shooting.

dfebf59079c9adabd83a025aa2474e4ce98339aaOn Qaradawi: Qatar-based cleric urges protests in Egypt on uprising’s anniversary: Qaradawi’s outspoken support for the Islamist movement has contributed to a diplomatic rift between Qatar and its Gulf Arab allies and Egypt, who consider the Islamist group a security threat and supported Mursi’s overthrow.

Since then, Qaradawi has refrained from delivering Friday sermons. But this has not stopped him from criticizing Egypt’s rulers during conferences or by statements often sent by email.

“I call on the people of Egypt, all those capable to go out of their houses on this great occasion … Egyptians should go out and express that they don’t want anything but the revolution they had started,” Qaradawi said in a video recording posted on his Twitter account on Sunday.

Back soon… [Blazing Cat Fur]

Update: Thank you everyone for the kind thoughts and prayers. We are back home and Mom is resting. Her tests came back OK and save for the episodic lowered heart rate which will require follow up, everything looks fine.

Me Sainted Irish Mother had a “cardiac event” of uncertain nature. It appears transient but the paramedics recommend she be checked out at the Hospital.

She is lucid and seeming back to normal, save for a low heart rate after a scare over breakfast.

I may not be the world’s best cook but I have never sent anyone to Hospital, well least not till today.

Her 90th Birthday fast approaches and I’m really lookin forward to that cake.

UK Green party leader says it should NOT be a crime to join ISIS [Blazing Cat Fur]

Natalie Bennett

The Green party does not believe people should be banned from joining ISIS or Al Qaeda, its leader claimed today.

Natalie Bennett said people should not be punished for what they think and stressed it should ‘not be a crime simply to belong to an organisation’

More than 600 people from Britain are thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join jihadists, with security forces warning returning fighters pose the biggest terror threat to Britain.

The Green party has seen a surge in support in recent months, doubling from 5 per cent saying they would back them in October to 10 per cent in a recent YouGov survey…

Reporter who broke news of Nisman’s death flees Argentina, lands in Israel [Blazing Cat Fur]

Argentine journalist Damian Pachter, who works for the Buenos Aires Herald newspaper, waits before taking a flight out of the country at Buenos Aires’ airport, early January 24, 2015. Reuters

Damian Pachter says his life was in danger in Argentina, came to Jewish state because ‘this is the place where I feel safe’

The journalist who was first to report the gunshot death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman landed in Israel on Sunday, having fled from Argentina because he believed his life was in danger.

Damian Pachter, of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald, left the country Saturday, and arrived at Ben-Gurion airport on Sunday evening.

He said he was being chased by Argentinian security forces, that his phones were being tapped, and that he “had to move as fast as I could” to “leave the country right away”…


Iran is suspected of being behind the bombing in 1994, that Nisman was investigating. 

Turkey: PM greets thousands chanting for Hizbullah in Charlie Hebdo protest [Blazing Cat Fur]

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has greeted around 100,000 people who protested French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Diyarbakır, while also cheering for Hizbullah.

“The region suddenly has a reaction whenever a shameless act happens toward the Prophet Muhammad. I greet each and every brother who defends the Prophet Muhammad here,” Davutoğlu said during his speech at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) provincial congress in Diyarbakır.

The Lovers of the Prophet Platform organized a two-hour long Jan. 24 protest at the central İstasyon Square with the participation of thousands of demonstrators coming from nearby towns.

Most speeches, banners and slogans, either in Turkish, Kurdish or Arabic, targeted Charlie Hebdo for publishing Prophet Muhammad cartoons. In reference to the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan, some banners read “I am Hizbullah in Kurdistan,” “I am Hamas in Palestine,” “I am Malcolm X in America” and “I am Imam Shamil in Chechnya”…


Note: The Kurdish group in Turkey called Hizbullah (literally, Party of Allah) is not the same the Lebanese Shiite group of the same name.  

The group also fights with the much larger and secular Kurdish party PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party).  With Islam, there is always something to fight about. 

wikiHow: How to Respect Muslim Culture and Beliefs in 10 easy steps [Blazing Cat Fur]

A guide to humble dhimmitude and an effective emetic all in one.             h/t Jan Morrissy

1 Maintain your patience and keep calm. People of this century do not think before talking. They simply comment and pass on judgments about things. So, if you see anything that does not please you so keep your calm and take a deep breath. Inside, tell yourself: “I can do this. I do not have to be like this.”

‘Breakthrough’ in US-India nuclear trade as Obama visits Modi [Asia/Pacific – France 24 - International News 24/7]

US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a breakthrough on nuclear trade on Sunday, a step that both sides hope will help establish an enduring strategic partnership.

Live: Triumphant Syriza says Greece ‘leaves austerity behind’ [Top stories – France 24 - International News 24/7]

Greece is "leaving behind disastrous austerity" and the so-called troika of creditors "is finished", Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said Sunday after his party headed for a big win in the general election.

Boko Haram militants attack key northern Nigerian city [Top stories – France 24 - International News 24/7]

Militants from the Islamist Boko Haram group began attacking Nigeria’s major northeastern city of Maiduguri shortly after midnight, residents told FRANCE 24 on Sunday, in an alarming escalation of violence ahead of a critical general election.

CAR minister for youth and sport kidnapped in Bangui [Top stories – France 24 - International News 24/7]

The Central African Republic's minister for youth and sport was kidnapped on Sunday by armed men believed to belong to the Christian anti-Balaka militia group, his wife said.

At Tu b’Shvat, bidding to save a beloved tree [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

Lemon tree not very pretty: What's eating columnist Edmon J. Rodman's family tree? (Edmon J. Rodman)

Lemon tree not very pretty: What’s eating columnist Edmon J. Rodman’s family tree? (Edmon J. Rodman)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — If Tu b’Shvat is such a happy New Year for Trees, why am I sucking lemons?

The holiday, usually a time for planting — except this year in Israel, where many are observing the shmitta year by not planting — for me may be a time of cutting down.

Our lemon tree, planted over a decade ago in the backyard, is sick. Usually full of green leaves and yellow fruit at this time of year, the 7-foot tree now suffers from curled leaves and brownish lemons.

With a prolonged drought in the West, fruit trees are having a hard time. According to the University of California’s Master Gardener program, “Drought stress will reduce fruit size and stunt growth,” and cause leaves to “wilt, curl and sunburn.” But looking at my poor tree one afternoon, I suspected that the tree, watered by a nearby sprinkler, was suffering from something else.

Thinking that a New Year’s gift for the tree would be a cure, I called an expert: Devorah Brous, an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture and the founding executive director of a Los Angeles-based organization called Netiya, a Jewish nonprofit that promotes urban agriculture through a network of interfaith partners.

I had sent Brous several photos of leaves, fruit and branches, and when I called looking for a treatment, she was ready with a diagnosis.

“Is it time to start thinking firewood?” I asked, thinking that I had waited too long to seek help.

“Could be,” she replied, half-jokingly, but also responding that the answer depended on “how dedicated and committed” I was to the tree.

How committed?

Around the Rodman home, lemons are regularly turned into lemonade, and I am not squeezing a metaphor here. Through good times and bad, the tree had faithfully supplied our family with enough lemons to have pitchers of the cool, refreshing drink with dinner, and year-round the tree provided enough lemons for dressings, marinades and guacamole.

But it wasn’t just about the lemons.

“We planted the tree just before our twins’ bar mitzvahs,” I responded. (They are now in their mid-20s.) After a winter windstorm had partially split off a major limb, I had successfully bolted it back together.

“What you have there is citrus leaf curl. Severe,” Brous said, adding that it was fixable.

She said the curl was caused by a leaf miner, a larva of an insect that lives inside the leaf and eats it — thus explaining the white trails I had seen on the leaves.

Brous said one of the 20 fruit trees in her backyard had suffered from the same disease and had responded well to what she called “integrated pest management.” However, she warned, because of the severity of infestation, I may have “no other choice but to use insecticide” to return the tree to health.

But Brous, who had lived in Israel for 15 years and founded an environmental and justice NGO there called Bustan — Hebrew for “orchard” — ticked off a bunch of things I could do first. The list included cutting back the tree back 30 percent; removing all the leaves that showed any signs of the leaf miner, as well as the fruit; and on the remaining leaves, spraying a “compost tea,” a spray made from compost that had been finely sifted.

To put more nutrients into the soil, Brous recommended that I spread a combination of worm casings and “really beautiful organic compost” onto the bed, as well as ensure that the tree is watered deeply.  To get rid of the insect pests, I might also need to invest in something called pheromone traps, which use chemicals as a lure to control the infestation. She also suggested trying non-stinging parasitic wasps.

“They lay their eggs inside the leaf miner larvae,” she said, as I imagined unleashing my very own plague to free my tree.

Beyond compost, pruning and sprays, but perhaps just as integrated into her recommendations, Brous believes that the shmitta year — a Torah-mandated break every seven years in the agricultural cycle — presents us with an opportunity to “slow down” and spend more time outdoors with what is already growing around us.

“If you were outdoors, regularly watering your tree by hand rather than letting your sprinklers do it automatically, your tree would be talking to you” saying, “‘My leaves are curling, there’s a problem, and I need help,’” she said.

Brous, whose Netiya organization helps synagogues and churches install gardens on their properties, said the shmitta year ultimately may not be a time for acquisition.

“It’s about being more reflective,” she said. “Maybe it’s not about going out and planting new trees.

“A lot of mistakes happen because we connect Tu b’Shvat with planting, rightfully so,” Brous said, referring to trees that she has seen planted in the wrong climates and in areas too small. “This year gives us a chance not to just run out and plant, but to steward what we have already planted.”

Tu b’Shvat, which this year falls at sundown Feb. 3, would be a time for me to become a better steward. The worm casings, organic compost, watering and wasps could eventually bring back something that though known to be sour, really made my life quite sweet.

(Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@gmail.com.)

For Cuban Jews, improved ties to U.S. may not resolve central challenges [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

a-AdathIsrael_Tapper

Adath Israel, Cuba’s only Orthodox synagogue, draws a small daily minyan. The congregation’s leader, Jacob Berezniak-Hernandez, also serves as Cuba’s kosher butcher. (Josh Tapper)

HAVANA (JTA) – On a recent Friday night inside this city’s Beth Shalom synagogue, Aliet Ashkenazi, 25, stood draped in a blue-and-white prayer shawl leading prayers in a mix of Spanish and near-perfect Hebrew.

It was the first time she had ever led services – a feat considering she converted to Judaism seven years ago after discovering her father was Jewish.

The 300-seat sanctuary in the Cuban capital was near capacity, but the crowd filling the wooden pews was largely American, comprised of tour groups from New York and New Jersey. The next morning, with the Americans gone, the crowd had thinned. A handful of youths sat in the first few rows, leaving a gray-haired cohort of congregants in the back.

This is typically how things go for Cuba’s 1,500 or so Jews: Hordes of out-of-town guests arrive, bringing with them suitcases full of clothing and coveted medical supplies, and then they’re gone, leaving Cuba’s diminished Jewish community behind.

Adela Dworin has been president of Beth Shalom synagogue since 2006 and serves as the Cuban Jewish community's government liaison. (Josh Tapper)

Adela Dworin has been president of Beth Shalom synagogue since 2006 and serves as the Cuban Jewish community’s government liaison. (Josh Tapper)

A month since the United States and Cuba announced renewed diplomatic relations after more than five decades of mutual recrimination and mistrust, it remains unclear how rapprochement will change things for Cuba’s Jewish community, which has shrunk tenfold since the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, when there were 15,000 Jews here.

“If it will be better for Cuba, it will be better for Jews in Cuba as well,” said Ida Gutzstat, executive director of the B’nai B’rith Maimonides Lodge, a community center attached to the Sephardic synagogue in this city’s Vedado neighborhood.

Amanda Amato, a 49-year-old secretary, sipping a plastic cup of Cristal beer at one of the lodge’s biannual parties, said, “We have a difficult economic situation now, but it’s not for all time.”

Already there has been some easing. Americans — including the thousands of Jews who fled Cuba after the revolution – now can send remittances of $2,000 every three months to Cubans, four times the previous limit.

While Cuban Jews endure the same depressed conditions as other Cubans, surviving on monthly food rations and salaries that rarely exceed $40 per month, the community as a whole is the recipient of largesse most Cubans can only dream of.

The Sephardic Center is one of three synagogues in Havana. It is also home to Cuba's Holocaust museum. (Josh Tapper)

The Sephardic Center is one of three synagogues in Havana. It is also home to Cuba’s Holocaust museum. (Josh Tapper)

Cubans generally have restricted Internet access, but computers at Beth Shalom are wired, and the synagogue’s youth lounge contains a PlayStation and Nintendo Wii. Financial support from humanitarian organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which has operated in Cuba since 1991, enables Beth Shalom to provide community members with meals on Fridays and Saturdays – often non-kosher grilled chicken or canned tuna, followed by coconut ice cream. The synagogue office houses the community’s pharmacy, which twice a week dispenses free medicine supplied by Jewish tourists and aid organizations. While heath care is free in Cuba, over-the-counter drugs are rationed for ordinary Cubans.

Some worry that the stream of international charity from humanitarian organizations such as the JDC and B’nai B’rith International has created a culture of dependency, particularly among older people who are more interested in the much-needed handouts than their Jewish identity.

Adela Dworin, president of Beth Shalom and the Jewish community’s de facto government liaison, said that Cuban Jewry is sometimes hamstrung by its financial dependence on aid groups that earmark funds for individual projects, complicating where synagogues can allocate donations.

“It would be better to send to us directly,” Dworin said. “We can’t depend our whole lives on Americans and Canadians. We must become more independent.”

Isac Quiñones, 47, teaches 16- to 25-year-olds at Havana's Albert Einstein Hebrew School at Beth Shalom synagogue. The school, which operates on Sunday, has 168 students. (Josh Tapper)

Isac Quinones, 47, teaches 16- to 25-year-olds at Havana’s Albert Einstein Hebrew School at Beth Shalom synagogue. The school, which operates on Sundays, has 168 students. (Josh Tapper)

The Jewish community also enjoys the support of the regime. President Raul Castro twice has attended Hanukkah celebrations at Beth Shalom. The country has two other synagogues in Havana and smaller congregations in the provincial towns of Santa Clara, Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Guantanamo.

Dworin was granted regular visits with Alan Gross, the Jewish-American contractor who served five years in a Cuban prison until his release last month. Dworin told JTA that she recently received an email from Gross in which he expressed a desire to return to the island.

Cuban Jewry’s greatest privilege, though, is also one of the community’s biggest challenges.

Ordinarily, Cubans are barred from emigrating without special permission from the government. Yet since 1992, when the Cuban constitution was changed to accommodate freedom of religion, a government concession to stave off unrest once Soviet aid ended, Jews have been allowed to leave for Israel. In 2013, 72 Cuban Jews made aliyah, according to Israel’s Absorption Ministry – a considerable number given the size of the community.

Most of the emigrants in recent years have been Jews in their 20s and 30s, few of whom remain in Cuba. Elianas Quinones, a 19-year-old medical student, said 20 to 30 of her friends have immigrated to Israel in recent years. The community’s Sunday Hebrew school, Albert Einstein, has 168 students, some as young as 4. But roughly 40 percent are middle aged or older, according to Hella Eskenazi, the school’s principal.

Beth Shalom synagogue, or El Patronato, is Cuba's largest synagogue, with a 300-seat sanctuary, social hall, library, pharmacy and Sunday school. It draws dozens of Cubans for services on Fridays and Saturdays. (Josh Tapper)

Beth Shalom synagogue, or El Patronato, is Cuba’s largest synagogue, with a 300-seat sanctuary, social hall, library, pharmacy and Sunday school. It draws dozens of Cubans for services on Fridays and Saturdays. (Josh Tapper)

Though emigration continues, there has been a steady influx of converts into the community – mostly Cubans from intermarried families who have discovered their Jewish heritage since the early 1990s. Visiting Conservative rabbis from across Latin America have helped convert them in mass ceremonies. The most recent one was about three years ago, when 20 men were circumcised at Havana hospital, jumping for joy and crying “Mazel tov!” in front of befuddled nurses, Dworin recalls.

Dworin says she knows of at least 10 more people who want to begin the conversion process but can’t because Cuba does not have its own rabbi. She estimates that fewer than 20 of the country’s Jews were born to two Jewish parents.

For the few Jews here who keep kosher, they can receive beef rations instead of pork. The thick-bearded Jacob Berezniak-Hernandez, leader of the nearby Orthodox synagogue Adath Israel and a trained kosher butcher, distributes the meat from a small Old Havana storeroom.

“Cubans deserve a better life, with more materialistic things and more freedom,” Dworin said. “If the economic situation in the country improves, we hope people will stay.”

A key factor is whether the United States will lift its embargo of Cuba. In his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, President Barack Obama called on Congress to cancel the trade embargo, a major step toward American investment on the island.

Luis Szklarz, 76, who attends Adath Israel, which is secured behind a gate laced with barbed wire in Old Havana, said as long as the embargo remains in place, Jews will continue to leave the island.

“The old people are going to die and the young people are making aliyah,” he said. “There is no future.”

For Ashkenazi, relieved and exhausted after leading Friday night prayers, it’s hard to imagine a future not in Cuba. She describes the synagogue, which she attends every weekend, as a home away from home.

Whatever happens, she said, “the most important part of my life is here.”

When the office is a death camp [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

The conservation laboratory at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which was established two years after the German army's retreat in 1945. (Katarzyna Markusz)

The conservation laboratory at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which was established two years after the German army’s retreat in 1945. (Katarzyna Markusz)

OSWIECIM, Poland (JTA) — Seventy years ago this month, Germany evacuated 58,000 prisoners from the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, burning documents and blowing up gas chambers and crematoria. On Jan. 27 — the day now celebrated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day — the Soviet Red Army arrived, liberating several thousand sick prisoners left behind.

Two years later, the camp that has since become nearly synonymous with the Nazi attempt to eradicate European Jewry became a museum. Last year, 1.5 million people visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, most of them from Poland, Italy, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The visitors generally come for a day, but dozens of people come to Auschwitz every day — the conservators, researchers and curators who work to disseminate new information about the Holocaust and preserve the museum’s legacy for future generations.

“For me, Auschwitz is a place of reflection and meditation,” said Piotr Kadlcik, the former president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland and a board member of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which raises money for the museum. “I think it is important for many people who come here to work. They cannot really imagine that they could work elsewhere. They are somehow shaped by this place.”

Below are short portraits of several employees of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

Margrit Bormann, 34, is a conservator from Germany who works in the building where newly arrived prisoners were registered. Through the window is a clear view to the nearby cell blocks behind the barbed wire.

In 2005, as a university student in Cologne, she participated in a two-week educational program at Auschwitz, helping preserve objects in the museum. She returned later for a six-month internship.

“This stay has changed everything in my life,” Bormann said. “I got to know the place and its history even more. I knew a lot about the Shoah, but now I got to know the testimonies of Polish prisoners, about whom in German schools very little is said.”

After graduation, she went to work full-time at the museum. Two years ago she was asked to take care of the maintenance of six baskets of shoes that once belonged to prisoners.

“I wanted to be close to this place, these objects, but with shoes I felt afraid,” she said. “There was some bad energy. When I returned home from work, my whole body hurt.”

Bormann would pick up a shoe and stare at it. One seemed to have been repaired multiple times by a cobbler. Maybe the owner walked in it to work, perhaps wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Such thoughts would occur often, but Bormann would try to inhibit them and focus on the object at hand. One day she began to cry.

“I knew the story, the facts, the number of victims, the memories of former prisoners,” she said. “It brought me sadness, but I never cried so hard. I acted that day like I was at a funeral. When I cried for the victims, something was passing from me and I could get back to work.”

Piotr Setkiewicz, 51, the head of the museum’s Research Center, has worked at Auschwitz since 1988. His uncle died in the camp, and his grandmother was an employee of IG Farben, the chemical company that supplied the German army’s war needs. A plant producing gasoline and rubber was located at Auschwitz, and 20,000 prisoners worked there.

“During the school years I had no awareness of the uniqueness of this place,” Setkiewicz said. “That changed when I started working here.”

Setkiewicz is involved in efforts to disseminate new historical information about the camp. Occasionally he hears people asserting that there is nothing more to learn about what transpired there, but Setkiewicz says it’s not true. With advances in research and the emergence of new historical sources, there is always more to learn.

Several years ago, Setkiewicz caused a mini-crisis in Polish-Russian relations when he pointed out to a journalist errors in an exhibition about Soviet prisoners at Auschwitz prepared by the Russians. His comment led to claims in the media that Setkiewicz was denying the suffering of the Russian people. Shortly after, Russia stopped importing Polish pork.

“They began to connect me with this, as the one who stopped the delivery of Polish meat to the east,” Setkiewicz said. “To this day, on Google you can find several thousand hits on the subject.”

Pawel Sawicki, 34, works in the museum’s spokesman office. Among his duties is the photographing of personal items that belonged to the prisoners — shoes, glasses and other personal effects.

The photos show the scale of the tragedy that occurred at Auschwitz, but also its human dimension — what Sawicki calls “the power of a single personal experience” as reflected in individual objects.

Sawicki is also the compiler of “Auschwitz-Birkenau: The Place Where You Are Standing,” a photo album that juxtaposes archival photographs taken by the Germans in 1944 with contemporary shots of the same spots.

“Taking these photos, more and more I felt a special emptiness,” Sawicki said. “I missed the people who were the essence of the photo album. Today, those people are not here anymore. Only the place where most of them were killed still exists.”

Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. (Courtesy photo)

Piotr Cywinski has been director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum since 2006. (Courtesy Piotr Cywinkski)

 

Piotr Cywinski, 43, has been the museum director since 2006. A historian whose interest was the Middle Ages, he was asked several years ago by his professor, a former camp inmate named Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, to help in the work of the International Auschwitz Council. When his predecessor retired, he was asked to take over.

Cywinski says it’s easier to work at Auschwitz than to visit. Visitors come for their own purposes, he says, while the museum employees work on behalf of others. At night he dreams of the camps and the war, though he prefers not to discuss the details.

“This place is impossible to ignore,” he said. “It is a turning point in human history. Nothing that preceded it will ever return. Ethics, morality, law, faith, science, enlightenment, positivism — all died here. A man lost his sense of innocence that he cherished and found so comforting.”

Cywinski is mindful of the survivors and their stories. He knows they will soon pass away and only the museum will remain, which will have to carry their stories forth for future generations.

“There will be no great silence,” Cywinski said. “We are too many and we know too much.”

Liberman orders party activists to distribute Charlie Hebdo for free [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has told activists in his Yisrael Beiteinu party to buy up and distribute copies of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for free.

The directive came after Stiematzky, a leading Israeli bookstore chain, canceled plans to sell the magazine’s latest issue in stores. Following threats of violence, the chain said it would sell the magazine online only.

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Masoud Ganaim of the Ra’am-Ta’al faction told the Israeli news website Ynet that selling the issue could lead to tension within Israel’s Muslim community. The issue’s cover features a caricature of Muhammad, the Muslim prophet.

“If you draw the Prophet Muhammad in a degrading and hurtful way, Muslims won’t sit on their hands,” he said. “It’s my duty as a public official, an Arab and a Muslim to warn that if something like this is distributed, it will cause tension.”

The two Islamic extremist brothers who stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 and killed 12 said they perpetrated the attack in response to what they deemed offensive cartoons featuring Muhammad.

Liberman called the Stiematzky decision a “capitulation to terror.” According to Ynet, he told Yisrael Beiteinu activists to buy thousands of Charlie Hebdo copies and give them out for free.

“Israel can’t turn into an ISIS state,” Liberman told Ynet, referring to the Islamic State terror group. “We won’t let extremist Islam turn Israel into a state that capitulates to threats and hurts freedom of expression.”

Journalist who first reported Nisman’s death flees Argentina [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Argentine-Israeli journalist who first reported the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman has fled to Israel following threats to his safety.

Damian Pachter, who works for BuenosAiresHerald.com and tweeted the news of Nisman’s Jan. 18 death, left Argentina on Saturday after the threats  and being followed by people he did not know, according to Fopea, the Argentine Journalism Forum. Pachter citizenship was en route to Israel, where he holds dual citizenship, on Sunday.

“I will return when my sources tell me that the conditions changed,” Pachter told an Argentine publication. “I don’t think that I will be there during this government.”

In a statement, the forum said it had notified the “relevant authorities” and urged the public to “pay attention to the safety of journalists in our country these days.”

Nisman was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home soon before he was to present evidence that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

A month after Alan Gross’ arrival, a welcome-home party at his synagogue [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

Alan Gross speaks in Rockville, Md. on Jan. 22 2015 at a welcome home gala in his honor. (Geoffrey W. Melada/Washington Jewish Week)

Alan Gross speaks in Rockville, Md. on Jan. 22 2015 at a welcome-home gala in his honor. (Geoffrey W. Melada/Washington Jewish Week)

Alan Gross wore a gray suit, red tie and a perpetual smile as he took the stage Thursday night at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Md., at a welcome-home reception in his honor sponsored by dozens of Jewish organizations, including the the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

But while he celebrated being “home sweet home” with “my kehilla, my community, my tribe,” Gross revealed that his previous five years spent imprisoned in Cuba was the very opposite – “home sweet hell.”

Gross was released Dec. 17 from a Cuban prison, five years after he was arrested for his work as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development hooking up the island’s small Jewish community to the Internet. He had been sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the state.

His release came the same day that President Obama announced the resumption of diplomatic ties with Cuba after more than 50 years.

To pass the time in captivity and keep his sanity, Gross fashioned jewelry out of bottle caps, such as a blue bracelet made of intertwining bottle caps in the shape of a Havdalah candle.

Rabbi Jack Luxemburg, Beth Ami’s senior rabbi, joked Thursday about the sizable crowd, saying that “it looks like Rosh Hashanah in here.” Addressing the crowd, he later turned serious to say that “in a way it is like Rosh Hashanah, turning a page in the Book of Life for our community and Judy,” Alan’s wife, who had doggedly advocated for his release. “Let us not forget the invisible hands who contributed to bringing Alan home.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said it was special for him to look up at the State of the Union address and see Alan and Judy Gross sitting next to First Lady Michelle Obama. “What a journey, from five years in prison to the State of Union address with the first lady.”

He then gave a special thank you to Judy Gross who was “relentless. She was fighting every day, telling the White House the clock is ticking here.”

He went on to praise Alan Gross as an exemplary model of “resilience and keeping the faith.”

As wrenching as Gross’s experience was, he evidently kept his sense of humor. Van Hollen told the crowd that Gross got a call from President Obama while on the plane home. The congressman asked how the call went, and Gross said, “‘It was a great conversation, only the call interrupted my first corned beef sandwich in five years.’”

Geoffrey W. Melada is the editor-in-chief of the Washington Jewish Week.

Druze student beaten in Jerusalem [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

TEL AVIV (JTA) — A Druze student in Jerusalem was beaten with glass bottles by a gang.

Tommy Hasson, 21, told Israeli news website Ynet that he was leaving his job at a hotel Thursday night when a group of people approached him and began mocking him for speaking Arabic. One man spat on him, and after Hasson hit him back, they began beating him.

Hasson escaped to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, where an ambulance took him to a hospital. He was released soon afterward.

“They just hit me,” he told Ynet. “Glass and bottles. There were a lot of people there who screamed, couldn’t do anything and couldn’t stop it.”

A music student, Hasson was recently discharged from the Israeli army, where he served at the president’s residence. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke with Hasson and his father on the phone following the incident to express his support.

Jewish Agency-affiliated think tank composes aliyah plan for 120,000 French Jews [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The Jewish People Policy Institute has composed a plan to facilitate immigration of 120,000 French Jews to Israel.

The plan by the Jewish Agency-affiliated think tank would prepare for up to 120,000 French Jews to arrive in Israel during the coming four years. The plan cited a rise in jihadist terror attacks and a difficult economy in Europe as causes of increased immigration.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on French Jews to move to Israel following an attack on a French kosher supermarket in early January. Some 7,000 French Jews moved to Israel in 2014, the most of any country.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky has said he expects up to 15,000 French Jews to move to Israel by 2016.

Because the immigrants would be leaving a First World country, the JPPI plan involves offering increased benefits and job opportunities to French immigrants upon arrival in Israel.

“The Jewish Agency welcomes all constructive discourse surrounding Aliyah,” read a statement from the Jewish Agency regarding the plan, using the Hebrew word for immigration to Israel. “The activities of The Jewish Agency and of its partners in the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption reflect the range of possibilities and needs at any given time, in order to best address whatever situations may arise – in France as well as elsewhere.”

Jewish groups condemn ship, world’s largest, named for Dutch SS officer [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

(JTA) — European Jewish groups are again protesting the name of the world’s largest ship, which was named after a Dutch officer in the Nazi Waffen-SS military force.

The Pieter Schelte, which docked in Rotterdam in early January, is named after an SS officer convicted of war crimes in World War II, according to the Guardian. Schelte conscripted 4,000 Dutch into forced labor for Nazi Germany and called Jews “parasitic.”

“Naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis,” said Jonathan Arkush, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, according to the Guardian. “We urge the ship’s owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.”

Esther Voet, director of the Hague-based Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, noted the 10-year fight to have the name changed.

“But no, we’re left with this fact: the largest ship in the world is named after an officer in the SS, and not enough people are offended to get this changed,” she was quoted as saying in the Guardian.

The Swiss shipbuilding company Allseas named the ship for Pieter Schelte Heerema, the father of Allseas’ owner, in recognition of his work in the oil and gas industry following the war. The company said that Heerema defected from the SS during the war.

Whether the Pieter Schelte is the “world’s largest ship” is in dispute, according to the Guardian, but it is certainly the largest crane ship.

 

Netanyahu: ‘I will go anywhere’ to prevent nuclear Iran [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his decision to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

“As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting. “This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel’s position and in order to defend its future and its existence.”

Officials from the Obama administration, as well as Netanyahu’s Israeli political rivals, have criticized the speech due to take place in March. John Boehner, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, invited Netanyahu without first notifying President Barack Obama in what the White House said broke established protocol.

Netanyahu supports increasing sanctions on Iran, which Obama opposes because he said it could endanger ongoing U.S.-led negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. The Israeli leader said at the Cabinet meeting that the agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would place Israel in danger by leaving Iran with the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.

“In the coming weeks, the major powers are liable to reach a framework agreement with Iran, an agreement that is liable to leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, which would endanger – first and foremost – the existence of the State of Israel,” he said.

 

Syriza's Moment? Um, Yes [National Review Online - The Corner]

Greece has voted and, on the basis of early(ish) polls, it looks as if the far-left Syriza has done what it needs to secure an absolute parliamentary majority or come very close.  

Panic to ensue.

Fun fact No. 1: Ine of the two sons of Syriza’s leader was given the middle name “Ernesto” in honor of the murderer better known as Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Fun fact No. 2: The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn probably came in third with 6 percent or so. 

I, for one, continue to be grateful that the single currency has proved to be such a bulwark against extremism. 

'The Davos Racket' [National Review Online - The Corner]

Dan Hannan takes aim at Davos:

When it comes to free markets, Davos Man is often on the same side as the Lefties. He derives most of his income, directly or indirectly, from state patronage. If he is in the private sector – and he is more likely to be a lobbyist, politician or bureaucrat than a businessman – he’ll be an instinctive monopolist, keen to persuade ministers and officials to raise barriers against his potential rivals. (I say “he”, though his female equivalent can also be found stalking the conference rooms in her sharp trouser suit.) . . .

Most Right-wingers heartily dislike the Davos racket. The only reason we don’t demonstrate in the slush alongside the Occupy crowd is that most of us have jobs. We know in our bones that Davos Man despises us and our values. As Samuel Huntingdon once put it, the delegates “view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the élite’s global operations.”

Hannan points to a number of things that, in his view, “Davos Man” has got wrong, and continues:

A whole academic discipline has grown up to explore why bright, educated people make these errors of judgment. One theory is that, being bright, they over-value their hunches. Put a large group of such people together, so that their hunches become self-reinforcing, and you get the disastrous groupthink to which experts are prone.

What was that someone once said about the smartest guys in the room?

And with the groupthink comes a certain obliviousness.

Bloomberg:

Billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune investing in real estate and betting against subprime mortgage securities, says the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics [BTW he’s quite possibly about that].

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.” . . .

[Greene] flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week . . .

The billionaire said he’s planning on having dinner tonight with former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Of course he was. If anyone is Davos Man, it is Blair, a spinner of soft-left, supranationalist platitudes (in which, to be fair, he has convinced himself he believes), an unctuous grifter of genius who has gamed the system to enormous personal advantage, while ruining just about everything he has touched.

Writing for the BBC meanwhile, Robert Peston notes that some folk were missing from Davos:

It is striking and important that at a time when populist parties pose an arguably existential threat to European Union and eurozone, there is not a single representative of any them at the summit of the Swiss mountain (or at least not that I could spot).

But if Farage, le Pen and Tsipras aren’t here, Davos risks being seen as too removed from the big political and economic debates of our time, or at least those who excite a growing number of citizens.

Well, debate, in any real sense is not what Davos does.

And speaking of Syriza leader Tsipras there’s some, ahem, interesting news from Greece. 

Ron Fournier: Hillary Worried Obama Pushing Her to 'the Left Quicker and Harder than She Would Like to Be' [National Review Online - The Corner]

President Obama’s proposals in his State of the Union speech may have actually hurt Democrats’ hope in 2016, warns the National Journal’s Ron Fournier. While he believes the president is more focused on his own legacy than on the party’s prospects, members of Hillary Clinton’s team expressed concern to Fournier.

“They’re worried that what the president did with his very muscular, very non-bending State of the Union address was put her in a box,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “She’s going to be forced to the left quicker and harder than she would like to be to be able to be elected in the general election.”

Will's Take: 'Ignoring Reality Is Part of the Job Description of Being a Progressive' [National Review Online - The Corner]

The only way President Obama could deliver such a forthright and ambitious State of the Union address earlier this week after his party’s shellacking in the midterms a few months is if he is denial, says George Will.

“Ignoring reality is part of the job description of being a progressive, so you ignore the majorities that are out there,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “The fact is, I think, Mr. Obama believes that anything he has to do collaboratively is beneath his dignity.”

“Therefore why believe that, to coin a phrase that he made famous, elections have consequences.” Will concluded.

Reminder: The Islamic State Is Islamic and a State [National Review Online - The Corner]

Credible reports about the details of the operations of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, have not been terribly easy to come by, which makes a new piece by Arab analyst Hassan Hassan in the Guardian especially fascinating. The Islamic State subjects its new recruits and conquered religious figures to detailed indoctrination in a radical and arcane form of Islam, he reports, with sharia training for new recruits apparently lasting months.

Religious ideology is integral to the group’s influence and growth, and, as some of Hassan’s other work has demonstrated, that it has an effective divide-and-rule strategy, which it uses to disseminate said ideology. The whole piece is worth reading, but Hassan’s take on the group’s recent execution of homosexuals by throwing them off a building is representative:

Isis presents the “mainstream” Islam practised by Muslims today as one that was “invented” over the past few decades. To unravel this so-called invented Islam, Isis deliberately digs deep into Islamic sharia and history to find arcane teaching and then magnify it. It does so to shock its potential recruits and demonstrate it is preaching a pure and true Islam obscured by the mainstream. Take, for example, the group’s punishment for individuals accused of homosexuality. In a series of incidents in recent weeks, Isis has thrown individuals accused of being gay from the highest buildings. This method as a sharia punishment is unheard of, even in countries where sharia brute justice is openly practised, such as Saudi Arabia.

Unlike previous incidents of stoning adulterers and crucifixion, throwing people from high buildings did not even inspire criticism of sharia in the Middle East because many did not realise it was a sharia penalty in the first place. But it is the obscurity of the punishment that makes it particularly valuable for Isis. The purpose is not to increase the volume of violence but also to raise eyebrows and trigger questions about such practices, which Isis is more capable of answering than mainstream clerics, who prefer to conceal teachings that propound such punishments. Many Isis members were eager to emphasise they were impressed by such obscure teachings, and were drawn to the group by the way Isis presents Islam with absolute lucidity. Mothanna Abdulsattar, for example, spoke about the group’s “intellectualism and the way it spreads religion and fights injustice”

His conclusion: The Islamic State’s religiosity is important and and in some ways invulnerable. Mainstream Muslim clerics can and should try to delegitimize the group’s teachings and practices, but its recruits are not entirely amenable to reason — it’s only a situation like Syria that compels large numbers of men to find it appealing to live under and die for such an ideology.

Kasich Defends Medicaid Expansion, Common Core ahead of Potential 2016 Run [National Review Online - The Corner]

Governor John Kasich (R., Ohio) did not back down from potential 2016 bugaboos during a Fox News Sunday appearance. After sailing in to a second term as the governor of the crucial swing state, Kasich has been floated as a dark-horse presidential candidate, but his support of Common Core and decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio, among other measures, could rankle conservative primary voters.

Emphasizing the importance of a balanced budget, Kasich defended investments in social programs in the state. He vowed that he would not “turn his back” on groups in need of help, including the mentally ill, those with drug addictions, and the working poor.

“It is our job on a temporary purpose to try to give them to fulfill their God-given purpose by helping them,” he said. “It can’t be a way of life — it can only be a situation where you help them for a short period of time.”

Meanwhile, he said he believes conservative opposition to Common Core is largely political or based on falsities. He said he has confronted Republican governors who oppose the standards by explaining that they are, in fact, developed on a local level, and is met with “silence.”

“I don’t know how anybody can disagree with that unless you’re running for something,” Kasich said.

Man Who Escaped ISIS: They Want to Plan an Attack 'More Brutal' than 9/11 [National Review Online - The Corner]

The Islamic State is “happy” about the air strikes by the United States because it validates their efforts in emerging as a global threat, says a man who escaped after a month with the group.

Ahmad Rashidi was captured by the Islamic State when he went to Syria from London to retrieve the two daughters of a family friend; the teenage girls had fled England to marry Islamic State fighters. When Rashidi found one of the girls, her husband accused him of being a spy and he was taken prisoner and tortured. He later won the favor of his capturers by telling them he was a doctor; Rashidi is, in fact, a first-year medical student.

While embedded with the Islamic State for a month, Rashidi gained access to their computers and communications. He told NBC News’s Richard Engel that the group communicates with its contacts “every day” and is not worried about the West’s response to its attacks. In fact, the Islamic State was “happy” about the American military’s response of air strikes because it proved to the group’s leaders that they were considered as important a threat as al-Qaeda.

“They want to be more . . . better than al-Qaeda,” he told Engel. “This is why they need to do something more brutal than the World Trade Center.”

Rashidi said the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this month did not surprise him, and expects more attacks that will be “very, very big.” He eventually escaped and is now wanted by the Islamic State.

'My Life as a Climate Lukewarmer' [National Review Online - The Corner]

A must-read from Matt Ridley, whose views on AGW are (full disclosure!) not that far from my own.

Some extracts:

I am a climate lukewarmer. That means I think recent global warming is real, mostly man-made and will continue but I no longer think it is likely to be dangerous and I think its slow and erratic progress so far is what we should expect in the future. That last year was the warmest yet, in some data sets, but only by a smidgen more than 2005, is precisely in line with such lukewarm thinking.

This view annoys some sceptics who think all climate change is natural or imaginary, but it is even more infuriating to most publicly funded scientists and politicians, who insist climate change is a big risk. My middle-of-the-road position is considered not just wrong, but disgraceful, shameful, verging on scandalous. I am subjected to torrents of online abuse for holding it, very little of it from sceptics…

I was not always a lukewarmer. When I first started writing about the threat of global warming more than 26 years ago, as science editor of The Economist, I thought it was a genuinely dangerous threat. Like, for instance, Margaret Thatcher, I accepted the predictions being made at the time that we would see warming of a third or a half a degree (Centigrade) a decade, perhaps more, and that this would have devastating consequences.

Gradually, however, I changed my mind. The failure of the atmosphere to warm anywhere near as rapidly as predicted was a big reason: there has been less than half a degree of global warming in four decades — and it has slowed down, not speeded up. Increases in malaria, refugees, heatwaves, storms, droughts and floods have not materialised to anything like the predicted extent, if at all. Sea level has risen but at a very slow rate — about a foot per century…

Another thing that gave me pause was that I went back and looked at the history of past predictions of ecological apocalypse from my youth – population explosion, oil exhaustion, elephant extinction, rainforest loss, acid rain, the ozone layer, desertification, nuclear winter, the running out of resources, pandemics, falling sperm counts, cancerous pesticide pollution and so forth. There was a consistent pattern of exaggeration, followed by damp squibs: in not a single case was the problem as bad as had been widely predicted by leading scientists. That does not make every new prediction of apocalypse necessarily wrong, of course, but it should encourage scepticism.

And, of course, it’s not just predictions of ecological apocalypse that have kept people waiting. In this connection, it’s worth taking a look at When Prophecy Fails, a classic mid-century study of an American UFO cult forced to confront the fact that, contrary to its predictions, the world had not been engulfed in a great flood on December 21, 1954.

The book’s first chapter includes an entertaining recital of End Times that weren’t, but this paragraph gets to the heart of it:

Man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than before. Indeed he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view.

To be clear, I don’t think that we have (yet) seen “unequivocal and undeniable evidence” that CAGW is “wrong” (indeed one of the problems with the theory is that it is not clear what would disprove it: it is not “falsifiable”) but those lines are a useful reminder of the power and the persistence of the apocalyptic temptation and they go some way to explaining the way in which the CAGW faithful so often react to inconvenient data.

Back to Ridley:

I am especially unimpressed by the claim that a prediction of rapid and dangerous warming is “settled science”, as firm as evolution or gravity. How could it be? It is a prediction! No prediction, let alone in a multi-causal, chaotic and poorly understood system like the global climate, should ever be treated as gospel. With the exception of eclipses, there is virtually nothing scientists can say with certainty about the future. It is absurd to argue that one cannot disagree with a forecast…

Incidentally, my current view is still consistent with the “consensus” among scientists, as represented by the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The consensus is that climate change is happening, not that it is going to be dangerous. The latest IPCC report gives a range of estimates of future warming, from harmless to terrifying. My best guess would be about one degree of warming during this century, which is well within the IPCC’s range of possible outcomes.

Yet most politicians go straight to the top of the IPCC’s range and call climate change things like “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction” (John Kerry), requiring the expenditure of trillions of dollars. . . .

Indeed they do. Old story. Old trick. New congregation. 

Top Democrat on Senate Intelligence Committee: Obama's ISIS Strategy Has Failed and It's Time for Special Forces [National Review Online - The Corner]

This week, President Obama defended his Middle East strategy as adequate and even successful, but Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein didn’t shy away from a frankly different assessment: It’s not.

“The American people don’t want another war,” but it’s clear that the problems in the Middle East are going to require a new approach, the former Intelligence Committee chairman said.

Considering the problem of the Islamic State, Feinstein said, “I don’t know whether 6,000 ISIL people have been killed or not — that’s the figure that’s been floated around. But that’s not going to do it. So where [Senator John] McCain is right, I do think we need some Special Operations [forces] in these countries, on the ground, more than just advisers. We need to protect our allies.”

Feinstein has been a relatively hawkish Democrat for some time now, but calling for significantly more involvement in the Middle East is a big break from the White House. The role of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq, she and Senator McCain seemed to suggest, would be more as coordinators for air strikes than as combat troops.

Later in the interview, Feinstein also said she backed a long-term presence in Afghanistan, praising the co-presidents that were recently elected and saying she splits from other Democrats in wanting thousands of U.S. troops to remain there. Without a commitment like that — President Obama currently plans to withdraw all U.S. troops in 2016 — Feinstein said, the Taliban will come back with vigor and al-Qaeda, mostly lurking in Pakistan for now, can easily return to Afghanistan.

Jindal: I'd Back a Constitutional Amendment to Leave Marriage to the States [National Review Online - The Corner]

In the event that, this summer, the Supreme Court strikes down statutes defining marriage as between one man and one woman, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal would support an effort to allow states to define marriage as they wish. Asked about the topic this morning by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who noted that the question has split 2016 contenders, Jindal said he would support an effort like the one proposed by Senator Ted Cruz.

Jindal is gearing up for a 2016 run himself. He spent this past Saturday at a prayer rally sponsored by the socially conservative American Family Association in Louisiana, while a number of other 2016 contenders were at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

As Eliana Johnson reported for NRO earlier this month, the Rhodes scholar and former HHS official, perhaps surprisingly, seems to be making social issues and religious values a key part of his national message.

Denis McDonough Is Less Funny than Tom Brady [National Review Online - The Corner]

Asked this morning what President Obama thinks of the “Deflate-gate” scandal, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough appeared to take a cue from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s press-conference performance this week, in which Brady, well, really spread around talk of spheroids. McDonough’s lines, at least to the ear of this Massachusetts-born correspondent, didn’t pull off his puns with the same élan.

Brady’s performance, via the Washington Free Beacon:

Walker Aims to Bring WI Message to National Stage [National Review Online - The Corner]

Des Moines, Iowa — Scott Walker on Saturday told a crowd in Iowa that his accomplishments in neighboring Wisconsin offer a national model for the Republican party. He tacitly argued that he is the leader who can translate his state-level accomplishments to meaningful change on the federal level by making him their presidential nominee.

His message: “Go big and go bold.” That’s what he’s done in Wisconsin, and conservatives should not be afraid to do the same on the national level, he said. 

“Maybe that’s why I won the race for governor three times in the last four years,” Walker said, in his low-key manner. “Three times, mind you, in a state that hasn’t gone Republican for president since I was in high school more than 30 years ago . . . If you’re not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results. You can applaud for that. And if you get the job done, the voters will actually stand up with you.”

The crowd here at the Iowa Freedom Summit is sizing up several potential 2016 contenders today including Walker, Texas senator Ted Cruz, former Texas governor Rick Perry, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. 

Walker talked about staring down mass protests in Madison, Wis., prompted by his passage of reforms to public-employee collective-bargaining laws, and fielding death threats that targeted not only himself but his wife and his sons. 

He is gearing up for a presidential bid: He has hired a campaign manager, Rick Wiley, and on Friday, the Des Moines Register reported that he is bringing on David Polyansky, who recently served as a senior strategist to newly elected senator Joni Ernst and who was on hand watching Walker’s remarks today. Polyansky previously worked as an aide for Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. Both went on to win the Iowa caucuses.

Walker’s challenge will be showing the party’s top-dollar donors that his victories at the state level can translate into a win on the national level. Today was a first attempt.

NHK WORLD RADIO JAPAN - English News at 21:01 (JST), January 25 [English News - NHK WORLD RADIO JAPAN]

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: the dilemma of a good librarian in austere times [Public Libraries News]

Editorial

An interesting exchange went on in the House of Lords last Thursday.  A question on libraries, including one or two attempts to try to ring-fence funding for them, was waved away by reference to innovations – and especially the move to volunteers – going on in public libraries.  Cuts of up to 50% were acknowledged but with a feeling that councils are doing their best, and doing well, at avoiding these cuts actually affecting the public.  This presents a bit of a problem to local councils, and not only in the realm of public libraries.  For by doing the best they can, by working hard to minimise the impact of the deepest cuts in peacetime history, on the voter, councils are making more cuts more palatable to the politicians and to the electorate.  Of course, it would be even worse, at least in the short and medium terms, if councils failed to do the best they could.  They would be accused, quite rightly, of self injury and the public would show no mercy.  In this they would be, goaded on by political parties whose ideology values skilled public workers very little and which does not understand the difference between the words “cut” and “saving”. It’s especially sad to see stalwart defenders of public libraries, who have become volunteers, used in this way.  But in this new world of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, everything is fair game.  The trick is to learn how those in public libraries can change the game and win it.

Changes

Ideas

Libraries: Funding – House of Lords

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of changes to local government finances on libraries in the United Kingdom.” Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (Liberal Democrat)

“Many local authorities of all political persuasions are making some very interesting innovations in their library services … My Lords, I could take your Lordships through many local authorities where important changes are taking place, such as Devon, which is expanding into community hubs; Newcastle upon Tyne; Northamptonshire, where there are enterprise hubs, partnerships between Northamptonshire libraries and Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership; and Suffolk, where there is an independent organisation with charitable status. All those local authorities of different political persuasions are doing great things with fewer resources. No one is saying that there will be more resources; we all have to deal with the cuts, which all parties now recognise are necessary for the national economy. In the main, however, local authorities are doing a very good job.” Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)

“My Lords, will my noble friend join me in acknowledging the contribution of many local groups all over the country which are managing to keep their libraries open through volunteer work? As an example, Gresford and Marford local library, of which I am honoured to be a patron, is working with Wrexham local authority, which provides the books and the computer system, while the community group provides the manpower and raises the money for the utility bills. That works extremely well. That may be second best to having a full local authority-run library, but it does work.” Baroness Walmsley (Liberal Democrat)

UK national news

  • Big Lottery Fund awards £150m to local neighbourhood foundation - Big Lottery Fund. “The Power to Change was set up in 2015 to champion projects like the saving of local libraries, leisure centres, shops or pubs, as well as larger initiatives like the regeneration of a neighbourhood or high street.” … ““Our £150m endowment will be used by the trust to support existing and new community businesses to positively benefit local areas. This could range from saving a local library, pub or shop from closure to setting up a housing regeneration enterprise that provides local people with training and jobs. In addition, the Power to Change will produce learning that the wider community business sector can gain from.” “
  • The crisis in UK public libraries – A Beeching moment ? – Pedronicus. “there is an impending #uklibchat scheduled for the coming week on Twitter. This is to facilitate discussion on  ‘What can we do about the crisis in public libraries?’   This will be an interesting one, given the environment we are currently in as a profession.” … “The ‘Big Society’ agenda is about reducing as much of the traditional state sector as possible, as fast as possible.   The “Austerity” programme is a fundamental tool for executing this objective.   The public library service , as part of the public sector, is fair game to be carved up, outsourced, or turned over to volunteers.” … “Unless there is a new, overarching political commitment to public libraries with ring-fenced funding ,  then I am not sure what can be done. “

“It seems abundantly clear to me that, as things stand, we are not dealing with a political agenda at national governmental level that is remotely interested or concerned with “the value of libraries” in the way that many librarians and library campaigners seek to present it.   I sometime get the impression that people believe something like “if only we can demonstrate the value of libraries clearly enough, politicians and councillors will suddenly see the light and protect and fund services properly”. To me this is a delusional hope.”

  • Illiteracy…continued – Leon’s Library Blog. If Nick Clegg is “genuine about such a goal then the Liberal Democrats need a strong and clear message concerning public libraries, which should include not closing or handing them over to volunteers. Unfortunately, the Deputy Prime Minister has taken the usual coalition approach of washing his hands clean while laying all the blame on local authorities.”.  Includes letter on cuts to Coventry libraries.
  • Lleucu Siencyn: Cuts are crippling, but reading with our children will help democratise literature – Wales Online. “When the NHS is on the brink of collapse aren’t libraries, theatres and books all luxuries that we can ill-afford? This is a misleading rationale, and a false economy. It’s worth reminding ourselves that public-funded cultural institutions such as the British Council and the Arts Council were established during a period of post-war austerity.”

“Reading, and falling in love with stories, should never be the exclusive domain of the privileged few. We need to tackle poverty and fight so-called austerity with creativity and imagination. And the ultimate weapon to start this fight and bring the love of reading to every family home in Wales? It all begins with the picture book.”

“The Friends of Jesmond Library were behind efforts to secure £10,000 to re-open it three days week, with 70 founding members pledging £100 and up to 100 locals keen to fund-raise or help staff it. A year on, the library is firmly back in the business of book-lending with a nice, and essential, sideline of events such as talks, drop-in sessions for the elderly, and events to broaden its appeal.”

  • #uklibchat agenda – 3 February 2015: What can we do about the crisis in UK public libraries? - UK Lib Chat. “You probably know that UK public libraries have been affected in recent years by public sector cuts, particularly issues with local authority funding, leading to budget cuts, staff losses and closures. This trend is continuing and worsening. But what can we do about it – as citizens and as library and information professionals? As usual, we’ll be chatting on Twitter from 6.30pm-8.30pm UK time on the first Tuesday of the month: Tuesday 3 February 2015.  If you’ve not joined #uklibchat before here’s our guide to joining in #uklibchat.” [“If you’d like to make a start reading about this issue, consult the great Public Libraries News” – I like these people – Ed.]

The Forum for Interlending and Information Delivery (FIL) are delighted to confirm that the only UK annual conference specifically for and about the world of inter-library loans, Interlend 2015, will be held at The Midland Hotel, Manchester on  29-30 June, 2015. Keynote speakers, programme details and booking details will be confirmed in due course. As the premier UK inter-lending community conference, Interlend annually attracts around 60-80 inter-lending staff from all levels of seniority, although it should be noted that a large proportion of delegates are inter-lending practitioners – library assistants rather than professional grades.  Delegates are drawn from all sectors of the Library community; primarily UK based and with perhaps more from HE/FE and Public Libraries than any other sectors.  Interlend is also renowned for offering our delegates practical tips and guidance, as well as broadening their understanding of the world of inter-lending.  Speakers and workshop facilitators are encouraged to keep this in mind. The FIL committee invites applications from the inter-lending community to speak and/or run breakout or workshop sessions.

Conference Title: Interlending at the crossroads? The theme for Interlend 2015 centres around the question asked by many practitioners: Is inter-lending becoming more important as budgets shrink and we turn to collaboration with others to share resources, or can it be dismissed in this era of ‘digitise everything’? To this end, contributions are particularly welcome in addressing these issues: Open Access & the impact on Document Supply, Resource Sharing & consortia. Other topics might include: Inter-lending & Document Supply Service Reviews, Service Development/Practical solutions to everyday problems, The impact and implications of recent changes to copyright law, Inter-lending tools and systems, Digital /Social Media / Web 2.0 impact on services, especially any practical uses for inter-lending. Breakout sessions are typically 50 minutes long and can be tailored to meet the speaker’s needs – either chalk-and- talk or workshop based.

Costs: Speakers accepted at FIL events will be able to attend the conference free of charge on the day on which they are speaking, along with one night’s accommodation where required and all reasonable travelling expenses.    If speakers would like to attend the whole conference, a discounted fee of £95.00 will be charged to cover additional costs. Next steps: Proposals should include: ·        A 500 – 300 word abstract detailing your proposal and a short description of your session (max. 50 words) which will be displayed when delegates are choosing their parallel sessions. A 50 word speaker biography. Full Contact Details. Proposals should be emailed to fil.committee@gmail.com by 28th February 2014 after which point they will be reviewed by the Committee.  The Chair will be in touch with all applicants after this date to confirm or decline your proposal.  Submission of a proposal does not guarantee acceptance, and the Committee’s considered  selection of proposals is final.  Regrettably, due to time restrictions no correspondence over the decision will be entered into. Informal discussion around possible themes, topics or approaches for your sessions can be directed to Sandra DeRoy: sandrad@essex.ac.uk. More information about FIL, including how to join, is available on the FIL website at www.forumforinterlending.org.uk

International news

  • Behind the Scenes at the Texas A&M University Libraries ‘Happy’ Video – Ned Potter (USA). A guide to how and why to do a pastiche music video to promote your library.
  • Boston Public Library by the Numbers [#infographic] – Boston Public Library (USA).  A great way to make you feel your library is insignificant by comparison.
  • Five Libraries That Go Beyond Books – Huffington Post (USA). Includes (1)  library users have access to 3D printers, a 3D scanner, audio-recording equipment and even a digital vinyl cutter (2) record the author events and share them as free podcasts, so anyone can listen to them. Called the Free Library Podcast, the library has over 1,200 events recorded (3) tool-lending library. Offering over 3,500 different tools, this library lends two tools at a time for up to a week (4) access to a full pantry of cooking equipment. Whether you need a 36-cup coffee maker, a breadmaker or even a raclette, the Toronto Kitchen Library has it. Items can be borrowed for seven days. (5) video kits that include an HD digital video camera and a shotgun-style microphone. For the more advanced, they also offer wireless microphones and telescoping mic booms.
  • Map of 3D Printers in Libraries – Amanda Goodman (Global). Take a look at the two public libraries in the UK with 3D printers then compare with USA  for ultimate depression.  The UK seems to be doing well compared with everywhere else though so far (well, apart from Canada and the Netherlands) but that may be due to lack of reporting.
  • Ode to the Public Library – BlogHer (USA). “What if I told you that by using this deal, my family has saved over $4,000 dollars in the last six months alone in free books?  Free books!  We don’t get to keep them of course, this deal is more like Netflix, where you pay a monthly subscription to get access to all of these books but you do have to give them back when you are done. Except unlike Netflix, this deal is absolutely free.”
  • Top 10 Ways Your Library Can Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution – Huffington Post (USA). Read more, watch less TV, exercise more, keep up with current events, give more to charity, learn something new, spend more time with family, travel more, spend less, start new career, be less stressed.
  • Why I Am Not a Maker – Atlantic (USA). “It’s not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). The problem is the idea that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it’s almost always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products”

UK local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Library of Birmingham rally to call for halt in cuts - Birmingham Post. “Local crime writer Judith Cutler and historian Professor Carl Chinn will be guest speakers while Birmingham-born poet Benjamin Zephaniah has sent a message of support which will be read out at the event on February 7, also National Library Day. In December, Birmingham City Council so it was proposing to make around 100 redundancies and reduce opening hours from 73 to 40 as a result of budget cuts at the council. The rally has been organised by the Friends of The Library of Birmingham and will start at midday in Centenary Square.”
  • Coventry – ‘The fact that councillors are even suggesting that we can run libraries on a ‘charity shop’ model with volunteers is an insult to our library service’ - Coventry Telegraph. “As a representative of the National Union of Teachers in Coventry, representing over 1,800 teachers, we are extremely concerned with the city council’s intention to reduce dramatically the number of public libraries in Coventry. We believe that libraries are uniquely placed to help foster engagement in reading. They offer free access to learning and a ‘safe’ space for children and young people to study and access resources.”
  • Harrow – School librarian to stand for Green Party in Harrow East on anti-cuts platform - Get West London. “School librarian and community activist Emma Wallace will stand in May’s general election, and has pledged to fight proposed cuts to libraries, health services and children’s centres. She will also push for more affordable housing to be built in the borough to ensure Harrow continues to be a place families can call home.”
  • Lincolnshire – Friends of Deepings Library to lobby councillors for change – Rutland and Stamford Mercury. “Members are now focusing on a meeting of the council’s community and public safety scrutiny committee on Tuesday. They hope to convince councillors to include tier 3 libraries, including Deepings Library, in the list sent to tender. A final decision will be made by the council’s executive on February 3.”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire County Council defies consultation – Lincolnshire Echo. “Following LCC’s statement of intention for the library service, we are at a loss to understand its decision to exclude all tier three libraries from the procurement process and to close them or force them to be run by amateurs. This is in defiance of all representations to the contrary during both consultations, in which not one voice, other than its own, supported ‘voluntary’ libraries.” … “If Woodhall Spa (population 4,000) can meet the criteria for a professional library, the Deepings deserves one. Yet the council is preventing us from having the chance.”
  • Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries stage protest at County Offices - Lincolnshire Echo. “Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners are staging a protest at Lincolnshire County Council’s offices next week. The demonstration is at 9.15am on Tuesday, January 27, ahead of the authority’s library scrutiny committee meeting at 10am. Six months ago a High Court judge criticised the county council’s plan to turn 30 libraries into community hubs run by volunteers. But now the authority is proposing what campaigners say is fundamentally the same plan.”
  • Monmouthshire – Group fights to stop library closure – South Wales Argus. “Around 30 people, including members of Friends of Caldicot Library, met Monmouthshire council officers at the library on Woodstock Way to discuss the future of the library. As part of the budget proposals which will go before full council tomorrow, libraries and one stop shop services will merge into one building … The community hub proposal, if approved, will see a reduction in full-time staff from 43 to 30 and will save the council £300,000 in a full year”
  • Newport – Keeping central library ‘important’ for Newport – councillors – South Wales Argus. “A joint scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday supported proposals made by a policy review group that have been looking into crossovers between the city’s libraries and community centres. The committee’s findings will now go to the council’s cabinet for approval. The new proposals include retaining the Central Library building, but reducing the footprint of the library and museum space to one floor.”
  • North Yorkshire – ‘No guarantees’ on future of North Yorkshire libraries – Wetherby News. “Executive member for library services Coun Chris Metcalfe (Con) said no assurances could be given, responding to Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones’ calls for NYCC to intervene before libraries are allowed to decline. Mr Jones’ concerned request to NYCC comes almost three months after it launched a three-month consultation on cutting £3.6m from its libraries budget by 2020.” … “The consultation on libraries closes in February 2015. Plans include withdrawing council staff and asking volunteers to step in, leading to widespread fears that many libraries could close. Mr Jones has written to NYCC’s chief executive Richard Flinton asking for assurances that if the community model doesn’t work at the three libraries that NYCC will guarantee this will not be allowed.”
  • Peterborough – Vivacity warning £1.45m cuts threaten Peterborough’s culture and leisure services – Peterborough Today. “A cultural desert is being forecasted for Peterborough due to a near £1.5 million budget cut to arts and leisure funding. The chief executive of Vivacity, which runs the the city’s library, culture and sports services, is warning that cuts will be “signficant and far reaching.”” … “The budget proposals are up for public consultation from tomorrow until March 2 and will be voted on by full council two days later. Vivacity, which has made more than £5 million of savings in the past five years, is warning its funding cut will threaten the ‘heart of the city.’” … “The budget proposals are up for public consultation from tomorrow until March 2 and will be voted on by full council two days later. Vivacity, which has made more than £5 million of savings in the past five years, is warning its funding cut will threaten the ‘heart of the city.’”
  • Sheffield – Protest held at Sheffield library over business centreStar. “A protest was held outside Sheffield’s Central Library over it becoming a new business centre. Former library staff and activitists took part after part of the reference library was made available for entrepreneurs to check patents . One former library worker said it was an attempt to ‘distract’ people from massive library cuts”
  • Sheffield – Talks still ongoing over Sheffield library takeover – Star. “A community library is still being run by Sheffield Council – over three months after it was expected to be taken over by volunteers. The facility in Burngreave was one of 15 libraries which the authority relinquished control of in controversial measures to save £650,000 a year despite lengthy protests from residents. While the rest of the libraries have been taken over by community groups, most at the end of September or in early October, Burngreave is still being run by librarians employed by the council.
  • Shropshire – Church Stretton residents say “keep our library where it is” – Shropshire Live. “The rally was to let Shropshire councillors and BBC camera crew, which included reporter and presenter Satnam Rada, know that plans to move the library to an out-of-town site would not be accepted. The Church Stretton Library support group has repeatedly made the point that the relocation will disadvantage our older library users and reduce use as a result of poorer quality access and reduced facilities. In addition the group says it is an attack on the strong links between many community facilities and local shops and cafes which contribute so much to the distinctive character of Church Stretton.”
  • Staffordshire – All Staffordshire libraries will get professional support even if they become community run says county council libraries guru – Staffordshire Newsletter. “Libraries which are set to be run and managed by their local community will remain part of the county’s library network, Janene Cox told a council scrutiny meeting today, while other volunteer-run libraries will be managed by the county council as part of the amended proposals for the county’s library service.”
  • Staffordshire – Book a date for library takeover – Sentinel. The “first volunteers to take over the running of libraries in Staffordshire are set to be handed the keys to the buildings this autumn. If the proposals are approved by Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet, adverts are likely to be published in June.”
  • Trafford – Trafford Lib Dem candidate calls on volunteers to step up as youth centres face cuts – Mancunian Matters. “Ms Ankers is backing the cuts and believes everyone can do their bit. She said: “When it comes to things like parks and libraries it’s something that I would like to preserve as much as possible. “People could step forward and do more work on a voluntary basis or within the community but it’s kind of a question of priorities really. “Keeping somebody fed and looked after in their own home or making sure that children’s services are protected is sometimes more of a priority.”

Russian official warns sanctions of “brink of war” [RedState]

russia davos

Russia’s elites have been feeling the bite of US sanctions coupled the the near halving of the price per barrel of oil. As the West starts to look at Russia more as a gigantic criminal enterprise rather than as a nation-state, everyone is becoming more comfortable with reducing economic ties to them. Naturally, those Russians at the top of the criminal oligopoly that runs Russia are upset:

The head of a leading Kremlin-owned bank warned on Friday that further banking sanctions would lead Russia and the U.S. to the “brink of war.”

Andrei Kostin, the head of VTB, reacted angrily when asked what the consequences would be if Russia were excluded from the Swift banking system, a secure means of moving money across borders.

If it were to happen, Kostin told a session on the Russian economy at the World Economic Forum in Davos, “ambassadors can leave capitals. It means Russia and America might have no relationship after that.”

“If there is no banking relationship, it means the countries are on the verge of war, or definitely in the cold war,” he said in English, growing increasingly red in the face. “It will be a very dangerous situation.”

He said that if Russia were excluded from the Swift system, it would make the U.S.–Russia relationship akin to the U.S.–Iran one. He made the comments after noting that Russia had recently created its own alternative to Swift.

Access to the international banking system is critical to Russia. Without unfettered access its revenue from the sale of oil and gas is more difficult to manage and the skim collected by Putin and his cronies is very difficult to move out of Russia.

No one in the West should back down from this challenge.

There is a tendency to view the Cold War as a bad thing. Given the alternatives available in 1945, it wasn’t. The Cold War prevented the spread of communism in Europe and, more importantly, forestalled the possibility of a “Hot War.” During the Cold War the West achieved enormous economic integration because the USSR wasn’t able to meddle in Europe. It is hard to imagine the EU coming into existence in a national security climate like that the rogue regime in Moscow is creating in Europe.

It is difficult to see how a gradual economic distancing from Russia is anything but a good thing. Russia runs what is essentially a colonial economy. It’s main source of income is the export of raw material, primarily oil and gas. The cratering of oil prices has created a huge sucking chest wound and driven the Russian economy into a tail spin. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, also at Davos, said “At any [oil] price level, you can win if you are getting more efficient.” This is whistling past the graveyard. You can become for efficient but eventually you find yourself in the position of the store owner who loses a little bit on each sale but plans to make up the deficit by selling in volume.

While it is a mistake to think of Russia as an irrational actor, it is also a mistake to think that Russia can, in the foreseeable future, but a trusted member of the international community. Rewarding Putin’s aggression, bluster, and rank criminality with increased access to Western markets and capital on the hope that he will behave better is simply wishful thinking.

 

 

 

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Gov. Paul LePage (R, Maine) wants to impose property taxes on colleges, nonprofits, other Democratic party affiliates. [RedState]

I don’t know whether this is demonic, inspired, or both: “A sweeping proposal to cut taxes for Maine families and businesses could upend one of the most widely accepted practices in the country: the property-tax exemption for nonprofit organizations… A recent budget plan by Republican Gov. Paul LePage calling for an overhaul of individual, corporate and sales taxes also would make Maine the first state in the nation to require colleges, hospitals and other large charities to go on the property-tax rolls in their municipalities.” This proposal – which specifically exempts “churches and government-owned entities” - would be the first of its kind in the country, and will probably not pass without a bloody brawl in the state legislature.

Is it a good idea, though? Depends. On the one hand, it’s a tax hike. On the other hand, it’s a tax hike that would be part of a more comprehensive series of tax simplification and reform (which is the way to get conservatives to sign off on a tax hike). On the gripping hand, it’s a tax hike that is aimed squarely at academics and NGOs… which is to say, it’s aimed at people who typically instinctively get upset when a Republican wins an election. There’s no real reason for us to pretend that that last point isn’t a legitimate one for consideration.  Hey, some people like governmental intervention and oversight, right?  … So, here: have some.  Right between the eyes.

Via TaxProf Blog and Instapundit.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: I would be remiss if I did not note that this sort of thing is actually likely to happen in the rest of the Northeast, too. There are a lot of Blue-Model state governments strapped for cash, and they’re going to need to raid somebody for it. Non-church* groups enjoying property tax exemptions are going to be a tempting target.

PPS: As a matter of practicality: if I was the governor I’d give ground on the hospitals. Assuming that’s not the plan all along.

*Churches will, much to the disgust of the more fundamentalist secularists, enjoy favored status for quite a bit longer.  And when I say ‘disgust’ I probably should have typed out ‘impotent disgust:’ said fundamentalist secularists will undoubtedly protest mightily, and angrily, and with just the faintest connotation of incomprehension about why nobody seems to care about the logic of their position. I maybe could explain it to them, but I don’t really want to.

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Iran Drafting Law to Allow Scientists to Intensify Nuclear Enrichment [RedState]

One of the big falsehoods President Obama told during his State of the Union concerned Iran’s nuclear program. He said, “[W]e’ve halted the progress of [Iran's] nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.” It’s a claim that was so egregiously wrong that even the Washington Post’s  Fact Checker Glenn Kessler was forced to give it three Pinocchios. The National Review‘s Fred Fleitz puts it a little more succinctly:

President Obama’s claims aren’t even close to being true. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has surged since 2009 and has continued to increase since an interim nuclear agreement with Iran was agreed to in November 2013.

The number of nuclear weapons Iran could make from its enriched uranium has steadily risen throughout Mr. Obama’s presidency, rising from seven to at least eight over the last year.

However, perhaps the best assessment of just how wrong President Obama’s words were comes from the Iranians own actions. Lebanon’s Naharnet reported yesterday that the nation’s parliament is all but daring us to place sanctions on them by drafting a new law that would permit their scientists to increase the amount of uranium they can enrich. From the article:

Iran’s parliament has started to draft a law that would allow the country’s nuclear scientists to intensify their uranium enrichment, a step that could complicate ongoing talks with world powers.

The move, announced Saturday by parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, comes after U.S. lawmakers said they were planning legislation that could place new sanctions on Iran.

[...]

Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, committee spokesman in Tehran, told the ISNA news agency that draft legislation was underway.

“This bill will allow the government to continue enrichment, using new generation centrifuges,” he said, referring to more modern machines that would speed up production.

“The parliament’s nuclear committee is working on the technical issues and details of this draft,” he added.

Those new sanctions, by the way, are ones that the President has promised to veto. While Obama has basically lied to the American people* about his own accomplishments on the issue, Iran is helping to punctuate that by its own actions. Even the talks that the White House is trumpeting so loudly are far from a given to produce anything that could be called a success. As the article notes, the White House itself has said the likelhood of success is “at best 50/50.”

This is probably a good time to note that Iran is also ratcheting up its anti-Israel rhetoric. The impetus this time Was an Israeli airstrike on Syria last Sunday that killed an Iranian general along with several Hezbollah militants. A few days after the strike,an Iranian Major General promised a “crushing response” to the attack. Now, they’re being a little more precise. The deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Lt. General Hossein Salami has promised to “open new fronts [against Israel] and change the balance of power.” He continues:

“Opening up a new front across the West Bank, which is a major section of our dear Palestine, will be certainly on the agenda, and this is part of a new reality that will gradually emerge,” Salami said in the inteview [sic] with Iran’s Arabic-language news channel al-Alam.

Even if the Iranian army itself follows through with this attack (instead of using their friends in Hezbollah), one has to imagine how much worse it would be if the Iranians actually had nuclear weapons. These are the stakes we could be up against, and right now, the rest of the world, especially the United States under President Obama, is just not doing enough to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

*=I really don’t think there’s a more charitable way to construe what he said, frankly.

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Obama’s Strategy to Combat ISIS Still Doesn’t Look Good [RedState]

During his State of the Union speech on last Tuesday, one of the few proposals he made that I could approve of was his push for an Authorization of Military Force against ISIS. It’s a proposal that is long overdue. However, it unsurprisingly appears like we should not get our hopes up too much. On this past Thursday, the administration held a classified briefing with members of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, and many of them were not pleased. Per an article at Defense News, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Lindsey Graham47%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard47% offered some of the strongest criticism of the administrations plans:

“Literally, this does make Pickett’s Charge look like a good idea,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Lindsey Graham47%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard47%, R-S.C., said after leaving a closed-door Armed Services Committee briefing. “The idea of degrading and destroying ISIL with this strategy is an illusion.”

[...]

“The problem does not lie with the [US] military. It lies with the political leadership,” Graham said of the Obama administration. “This is militarily immoral what we’re doing. We’re about to train people for certain death.

“The idea that we’re going to get people to fight [the Islamic State] only, given the fact that most of them want to rid the country of Assad and [IS] is absurd,” he said. “Number two, if you don’t support these people, if they don’t have an air force, they don’t have capability, these are going to be light-infantry people at best. If I’m Assad, I would take the first recruits we send and kill them in the cradle.”

He also doubts the number of recruits for the train-and-equip program will be enough to counter Islamic State fighters and Assad’s forces.

“The numbers that you would need to a serious change of momentum? Years away,” Graham said. “The concept is fatally flawed. The concept of training an army that would be slaughtered by two enemies … is militarily unsound.

“The inability of this administration to understand that Assad is not going to sit on the sidelines and watch us build up an army that can beat ISIL and then turn on him without doing something at a critical moment is beyond absurd,” said Graham, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate.

If the Obama administration’s ideas about training Syrian Rebels sound familiar, it’s because they are almost the same thing they’ve been trying for the last couple of years. It’s worked about as well as you’d think it would, because as we know, ISIS just might have taken some of those anti-tank weapons and small arms like the M16 we were sending those “moderate” rebels and using them for their purposes. Remember, the difference between ISIS and other Islamist groups, including so-called “moderate” ones, is over strategy, not the end goal.

We can add the concerns here the news reported yesterday that the United States’ airstrikes have allowed the Kurdish pershmerga to reclaim not even one percent of the territory taken over by ISIS. Maybe it has, as the Pentagon is asserting, stalled ISIS’s momentum, but being able to take back only about 270 square miles of the roughly 30,000 that the Islamic State controls after  five months is not a promising start to our efforts in the region. I’m not an expert on military strategy, but short of actually putting American troops on the ground, I don’t know if there is a way to effectively counter ISIS without directly enabling other groups of radical Islamists. Since President Obama has continually shown that he is unwilling to fight in Iraq anymore than the bare minimum that he absolutely must do, I doubt we’ll see anything like that while he’s President.

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University professor criticizes Islam, college dipsticks go bonkers [RedState]

vandy dipsticks

A couple of weeks ago a professor at Vanderbilt University  became the center of controversy. Carol Swain, professor of political science and law, wrote what should be a very non-controversial op-ed in the Nashville Tennessean:

As Miller has so often stated, Islam has a problem with the West. Islam will never understand the freedoms that we live and die to preserve. If America is to be safe, it must remove the foxes from the henhouses and institute serious monitoring of Islamic organizations.

Civic education and other indicators of assimilation should be a prerequisite for remaining and advancing in this nation. We must be willing to recognize the dangers of the burka (head-to-toe garb worn by women in some Islamic sects), which allows individuals to completely conceal their identities.

If Muslims are to thrive in America, and if we are to be safe, then we must have ground rules that protect the people from those who disdain the freedoms that most of the world covets.

While we haven’t had anything on the order of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, we have seen Christian evangelists arrested in Dearborn, Michigan for fear that they would start a riot. Mind you, the police didn’t act against any rioters, they arrested men preaching the Gospel. And, of course, attacks on Dr. Swain weren’t far behind. From muslims:

Vanderbilt undergraduate Farishtay Yamin said she “could not believe her eyes” when she first read the editorial.

“How could such an educated, informed woman, a professor at Vanderbilt in charge of educating our youth, publish such ignorance?” Yamin said. “It’s hard for me to describe how much pain I felt reading an article written by a Vanderbilt professor who, before meeting me, considers me to be a threat to Western society. She wrote that I was a threat to American people and children. I was born in New Jersey. I’ve lived almost my entire life in the United States—and yet there are people who will never consider me to be an American or accept me as one of their own. And that really hurts.”

It is interesting to note that Ms. Yamin (below) would be flogged if she showed up in Riyadh wearing this garb, and the fact that she as a muslim woman is allowed to attend a co-educational institution and drive a car is due solely to the fact that she does not live in a country with a muslim majority–

vandy muslim

And she is unable to offer any response to Dr. Swain’s measured and reasonable critique other than “Meany-Pants!”

Naturally, when ever totalitarianism is challenged you will find a college Democrat defending it and attacking whoever denounces it. A dipstick named “Michael Diamond” writes in Vanderbilt College Democrats respond to Carol Swain

vandy democrat
As an organization with members from diverse ethnic, religious, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, Vanderbilt College Democrats is committed to maintaining an atmosphere on campus of inclusion and respect for all. We therefore condemn the caricature of Islam presented in Professor Swain’s Tennessean op-ed and reaffirm that the vast majority of the Vanderbilt community has nothing but respect for our Muslim friends and colleagues, and we applaud those who have posted, written letters, emailed and even rallied to demonstrate our support for tolerance and inclusion.
However, noxious as it may be, Professor Swain is entitled to her free speech, and Vanderbilt College Democrats does not call for and would not support administrative action against her. Yet at the same time, we must not confuse speech that is legally permissible with speech that advances education. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” The remarks in question not only showed lack of critical analysis, but also revealed troublingly bigoted beliefs, rooted in ignorance of one of the world’s major religions.

Again, you’ll note that both here and in the full letter, Diamond doesn’t address a single point raised by Dr. Swain. He, like Yamin, screams “Meany-Pants!” and accuses Dr. Swain of bigotry in the bargain.

In addition to the juvenile whining and utter intellectual incapacity shown by Yamin and Diamond, there is the rather bizarre spectacle of a bunch of privileged, upper class, white kids calling a black female professor, who did not graduate high school (she received a GED), and was a teenage mother of bigotry.

I don’t profess to be an authority on comparative religion. I’ve found that Trinitarian theology provides more than ample fodder for my intellectual abilities. Though I have no doubt whatsoever that Christianity is the only true faith and I might try to nudge a non-believer in that direction, I have no interest in telling other religions how to conduct their affairs. At the same time, I don’t subscribe to the view that all religions are compatible with the mostly-secular but Judeo-Christian based societies one find in mostly in Europe, the Americas, and Australia. In the case of Islam, it has become very, very obvious, as Dr. Swain notes, that that religion simply cannot coexist with core Western values.

When the discussion of the issues is placed completely off limits, like the two little neo-Nazis at Vanderbilt are trying to do do, based on the excuse that feelings will be hurt, then a grave disservice is done to our society. You know what, slave owners didn’t like be criticized. The Klan didn’t like being criticized. And muslims don’t like being criticized. And basically for the same reason. If their peculiar beliefs are not subject to scrutiny and debate then their belief are safe.

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The Wise Latina makes a good point [RedState]

Sonia Sotomayor

As much as it triggers my gag reflex to say it, I think Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a value-added to the US Supreme Court. While she is a reflexive progressive and shameless shill any abomination the Obama administration may want in the name of expanding the power of the state, she has become a sorta reliable vote in the cause of civil liberties.

In October 2014, she was the lone dissent in Helen v. North Carolina. In this case a motorist was stopped for a driving infraction which did not exist. The Supreme Court ruled that a cop doesn’t have to be right about the law, he just has to think he’s right about the law. So if you get arrested for mopery with the intent to lurk, and in the course of searching you and your car the cops find evidence of an actual crime, it is no-harm-n0-foul as far as the Supreme Court is concerned because the cop thought you’d committed a crime. Even the most pro-cop person in the world can see where this decision is eventually going to lead.

At issue now is another seemingly minor traffic stop case with huge implications:

The case arose in 2012 when a Nebraska police officer, who happened to have his K-9 dog in the car with him, stopped Dennys Rodriguez for swerving once towards the shoulder of the road. After questioning Rodriguez and issuing him a written warning for that traffic infraction, the officer sought permission to walk his drug-sniffing dog around the outside of Rodriguez’s vehicle. When Rodriguez refused to grant permission, the officer made him exit the vehicle and waited for back-up to arrive. Roughly eight minutes later, with a second officer now on the scene for support, the police dog circled the vehicle and gave an “alert” for illegal drugs. A subsequent search turned up a bag of methamphetamine.

Today’s oral argument centered on whether those eight extra minutes “unnecessarily prolonged” the otherwise legal traffic stop and thereby violated Rodriquez’s constitutional rights.

Sotomayor’s question to the government hit the nail on the head. If we allow a person to be detained, in this case after the traffic citation was issued, in order to carry out another more detailed search, what meaning does the Fourth Amendment have.

I have a real fundamental question, because this line drawing is only here because we’ve now created a Fourth Amendment entitlement to search for drugs using dogs, whenever anybody’s stopped. Because that’s what you’re proposing. And is that really what the Fourth Amendment should permit?

…we can’t keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement. Particularly when this stop is not—is not incidental to the purpose of the stop. It’s purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper.

Every session of the court sees new attacks upon the Fourth Amendment by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The Obama Justice Department lost a pair of cases in June 2014 where traffic stops were used to gain access to cell phones and search the phones for evidence of possible criminal behavior. The leading edge of these attacks on civil liberties are those everyday interactions citizens have with the police. And a battle is shaping up where contact is not even necessary:

Some 50 police agencies including U.S. marshals and the FBI have been using for two years Range-R doppler radar devices that can see 50 feet through walls, including brick and concrete ones, to detect the location of people inside their houses. And in some cases law enforcement officers are using with them without search warrants.

There is a case working its way to the Supreme Court where US marshals used this to look inside a house where they suspected a fugitive was hiding and used the imagery, without telling the judge, to get a search warrant.

While abortion is the big civil rights challenge today, the major challenge to civil liberties is technology in the hands of police forces overseen by compliant courts. For all her faults, and they are legion, Sotomayor is our ally on this issue.

 

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Millenials: go ahead spy on us, it isn’t like we’re actually doing anything [RedState]

Laura Murphy

All the politicians are chasing after “millenials,” (that is the generation that doesn’t have jobs, lacks ambition, and lives at home as far as I can discern). When Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Renee Ellmers51%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard51% committed her perfidy by scuttling a very popular anti-abortion bill last week, she claimed that millenials didn’t think abortion was important, a claim that is at odds with most public opinion polling and an odd case to make when claiming your reproductive organs give you a unique ability to decide when it is okay to dismember a child in utero.

Another politican who is about to be hoist by his millenial petard is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Rand Paul93%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard93%. From Breitbart.com, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Rand Paul93%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard93% Talks NSA to Millenials:

This assault on personal privacy affects the Facebook generation more than anyone else. Your generation is completely digitized and uploaded. Everything you do is traceable via phone, email and bank records. And it is you, more than anyone, who should be outraged by this astounding assault on your constitutional right to personal privacy.

I hear people say, “Well if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then the government will leave you alone.” But over the last month and a half, this administration has proved that they will target anyone. Under this administration, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted political dissidents, the Department of Justice has seized reporters’ phone records, and now we’ve learned the NSA seized an unlimited amount of Verizon’s client data. So, do you really expect us to trust a government that admittedly targets innocent citizens without probable cause? These overreaching acts are unacceptable under any president, whether Democrat or Republican.

This may be an appeal that is falling on deaf ears. From Pew Research:

nsa

The American Interest has a good insight here
We’ve often said that American public opinion on civil liberties swings with the times. In times of low-threat peace, Americans clamor for privacy and government restrictions. In times of war, they are comfortable with, even perhaps desirous of, restrictions on liberty. But though that cycle will likely continue to drag American politics first one way, then the other, it may be that there’s a more permanent generational shift going on. Perhaps younger Americans, weaned on Facebook and Twitter and other low-privacy internet tools, simply don’t care as much about civil liberties as traditionally understood. They might be much more comfortable trading privacy for services or protections they like than their parents ever were.

That makes a lot of sense. The expectation of privacy is much lower among millenials than older generations and a generation that is numb to sexting and sharing intimate information with hundreds or thousands of people who are only a virtual presence in one’s life may find it difficult to get excited about email and phone metadata being harvested. And given what we know about millenials, it is going to be damned hard to change that.

The post Millenials: go ahead spy on us, it isn’t like we’re actually doing anything appeared first on RedState.

Scott Walker at the Iowa Freedom Summit. [RedState]

If you’re looking for the Scott Walker speech, here you go*.  Come, I will conceal nothing from you: I skipped it at first myself. But reports came in that he was kicking it, and… yeah, Scott Walker did. A lot of emotion under control, there. Can’t say that I’m surprised about either: in retrospect, the Left may have miscalculated in allowing its pro-death-threat wing to drive anti-Walker sentiment in the Wisconsin recall and re-elections. You want to get a man focused and driven? Threaten to murder his wife.

The speech was not perfect, mind you. Scott Walker can tell a joke for just a bit too long. But he also can hit the right notes, especially when it comes to life experiences that he shares with the rest of America. It would be highly enjoyable to watch the Democratic candidate try to match that…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: This is not an endorsement of Scott Walker. No coronations: if he wants to be President, he’s gotta get in the scrum and earn it.

*Or here.

The post Scott Walker at the Iowa Freedom Summit. appeared first on RedState.

Y2Kyoto: Planetary Fever Update [Small Dead Animals]

Slate;

The National Weather Service (NWS) in New York City is calling the potential for epic snowfall "historic," while the Boston office says the incoming storm is a "textbook case for a major winter storm/blizzard." Three-day snow totals could reach 24-36 inches in each city--good enough to rival the biggest Northeast snowstorms on record.

[...]

What's making this particular storm so potent? In sharp contrast to last week's nor'easter, there's no shortage of cold air this time around. A blocking high-pressure system to the north will slow the storm's advance to a crawl--with the center spending up to 24 hours just off Long Island--right as it is peaking in strength. Combine that with a roaring, perfectly kinked jet stream, and you have all the ingredients for an explosive storm that will reach "bomb" criteria, funneling Arctic air southwards and converting it into a thick blanket of wind-whipped white. All the extra cold air may also boost snow totals, because "drier," colder snow is up to 50 percent fluffier than "wet" snow that falls with temperatures nearer the freezing point.

Great Moments In Socialism [Small Dead Animals]

This fixes everything!

A radical left-wing party vowing to end Greece's painful austerity program won a historic victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections, setting the stage for a showdown with the country's international creditors that could shake the eurozone.[...]

The prospect of an anti-bailout government coming to power in Greece has sent jitters through the financial world, reviving fears of a potential Greek bankruptcy that could reverberate across the eurozone.

"The sovereign Greek people today have given a clear, strong, indisputable mandate. Greece has turned a page. Greece is leaving behind the destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain," Tsipras told a crowd of rapturous flag-waving party supporters.

We Need Another Stinking Icebreaker [Small Dead Animals]

Who'd a thunk it? It's the ice that's rising!

Second icebreaker sought for Great Lakes shipping

icebreaker.jpg

GREEN BAY - A brutal winter that slowed the start of the 2014 shipping season on the Great Lakes has one organization asking Congress for another heavy icebreaker.

The Lake Carriers' Association said it would like to see a second vessel built to keep shipping lanes open on the lakes during harsh winter conditions. The group is requesting another ship similar to the Marinette Marine Corp.-built U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw.

"I want to stress that Lake Carriers' Association and our members' customers deeply appreciate the efforts of the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards this past ice season," James H.I. Weakley, president of the association, said in a news release. "It is clear that the ice conditions that prevailed last winter call for a reassessment of both nations' icebreaking fleets."..

The theme continued:

Great Lakes Freeze Cost Economy $705m, 3,800 Jobs [2013-14]


Great Lakes ice makes a leap after January cold snap [note map]

...
As of Thursday [Jan. 15], ice covered 34.1 percent of the Great Lakes, up from just 5.6 percent on Jan. 1, and 10.8 percent on Jan. 5 -- the first day of a polar plunge that gripped most of the eastern U.S. for days to come.

"Last year, the Great Lakes were 21.2 percent ice-covered on Jan. 14, making this year's ice cover 13 percent higher to date,"..


Embrace Hollywood! [Small Dead Animals]

Now is the time at SDA when we juxtapose!


Michael Moore, 2004
- "Democrats need to embrace Hollywood because this is where they need to come to learn how to tell a story."

Hollywood, 2015 - What Abandoned Movie Sets Look Like Today

The Righteous Hypocrites in UBC's Ivory Towers [Small Dead Animals]

Interested to know how UBC's well paid professors spend YOUR tax dollars? Writing up idiotic documents like this one. One wonders what percentage of them have divested themselves of ALL fossil fuels in their own lives?!? How does one pronounce "zero" in Academic-Gobbledegook?!?

Thankfully some out there have retained their common sense.

"The nets go straight out of the bag into the sea" [Small Dead Animals]

Mosquito nets are now a billion-dollar industry, with hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated nets passed out in recent years, and many more on their way.

They arrive by the truckload in poor, waterside communities where people have been trying to scrape by with substandard fishing gear for as long as anyone can remember. All of a sudden, there are light, soft, surprisingly strong nets -- for free. Many people said it would be foolish not to use them for fishing.

Rachel Carson kills again.

I Amuse Myself [Small Dead Animals]

Reader Tips [Small Dead Animals]

Tonight, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Sir Winston Churchill, we watch archival footage of the public outpouring of grief and respect, as a nation mourns.

Also, a very good Telegraph video: How Britain honoured its wartime leader.

The comments are open, as always, for your Reader Tips.

UK National Literacy Trust appoints Frank Lampard as reading ambassador [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

UK NGO the National Literacy Trust has appointed Frank Lampard, star footballer and currently mid-fielder for Manchester City Football Club, as a new ambassador for the Trust, “supporting our ongoing work to raise the profile of literacy in the UK and motivate disadvantaged children to read – an ambition he shares in his work as an […]

The post UK National Literacy Trust appoints Frank Lampard as reading ambassador appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

Weekend Links: Don’t blame readers for book devaluing. Oscar movie piracy [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

Don’t Blame Readers If Books Are Being “Devalued” (Book Riot) If you hang out on the bookternet at all, you have no doubt seen one or more pearl-clutching declarations that books are losing their value–especially ebooks, which you can get for as little as NINETY-NINE CENTS (omg)–which is putting literature in great peril. *** Analysis […]

The post Weekend Links: Don’t blame readers for book devaluing. Oscar movie piracy appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

VAMPIRE BAT DRONE transforms wings into legs for SEARCH and RESCUE missions [The Register]

Robots in the skies (AND on the ground) with DALER

Vid  Swiss researchers, who developed a robot that can walk on its wings across tricky terrain, have flaunted their latest prototype which they hope could one day be used in search and rescue operations.…

'One day, YOU won't be able to SENSE the INTERNET,' vows Schmidt [The Register]

Translation: GOOGLE will be EVERYWHERE at ALL TIMES

Google exec chairman Eric Schmidt misled the world last week by claiming that – one day – the internet will vanish.…

Oi, Aussie sports fans! Take that selfie stick and stick it [The Register]

Tennis and cycling events give Narcissism the flick

If you think selfie sticks are a sign of society's descent into a slough of narcissism, get thee to Australia where organisers of sporting events are making it know the telescoping terrors aren't entirely welcome.…

Say 'CHEESE', Pluto! New Horizons probe to snap photos of dwarf planet [The Register]

Navigational images will help boffins home in on icy body

NASA's New Horizons spaceship, which has been on its mission to Pluto for nine years now, is expected to start snapping photos of the icy planet today.…

Game over? Sony FINALLY offers compensation to MEELLIONS of PSN hack victims [The Register]

Free goodies dished out in U.S.

Millions of PSN gamers, who were hit by a massive data breach on Sony's Playstation network back in 2011, are finally being offered the opportunity to claim compensation from the company.…

'People ACTUALLY CONFUSE Facebook and the internet in some places' [The Register]

Plus: UK.gov brags about 'successful' ID scheme

QuotW  Ex-Googler, Facebook COO and mouthpiece Sheryl Sandberg claimed this week that some users (sorry, people) actually think that Mark Zuckerberg's free-content ad network is the internet.…

Ex Machina – a smart, suspenseful satire of our technology gods [The Register]

Garland's riveting thriller takes fresh look at AI

Film review  It’s not easy to say something new about artificial intelligence in the movies. It’s pretty much a toss-up between the they-could-be-people-too argument of sweet child robot David in A.I. or the sphincter-tightening terror of HAL and the Terminator. But with Ex Machina, we get a more complex picture of our android future packaged in a wickedly smart and funny film that sends up our technology gods at the same time.…

Landlines: The tech that just won't die [The Register]

Do we have any choice about paying for home phone numbers?

Feature  For a huge number of Brits, mobiles have become our primary way of communicating, even when we're at home. When a call comes in, we know it's ours. We can reply with a text, or use apps like WhatsApp to communicate with friends abroad. Increasingly, we don't rely on our landline phones and, thanks to lax policing of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), for many of us, about the only thing they're used for is receiving unsolicited junk calls, or as a safety net so we can call 999 in an emergency.…

Thailand: 'The nail that sticks up gets hammered down' [The Register]

Asbestos innards and a stomach for gov repression required

The eXpat Files  Last time we chatted to an expat in Thailand, our secretive subject stayed schtum about his identity because he was working illegally.…

Uber isn't limited by the taxi market: It's limited by the Electronic Thumb market [The Register]

With apologies to Douglas Adams*

Worstall @ the Weekend  We've had a look before at that valuation of Uber at $40k bar** and mulled over whether it makes any sense or not. And there's a little snippet of news out that shows that there might be more substance to it than most of us tend to think there is. It could, of course it could, still be just an absurdly over-hyped product of frenzied finance but if this number is true then maybe not.…

This concept turns old phone parts into a supercomputer [The Verge - All Posts]

One of the selling points for modular smartphones like Project Ara or the Puzzlephone is that they reduce waste. But little has been said about how discarded modules could be put to use. Finland's Circular Devices, the company developing the Puzzlephone, has now revealed its answer to that question: it's called the Puzzlecluster, and it's a scalable supercomputer.

Reuse and reduce

The concept is pretty simple: when a Puzzlephone owner inevitably decides to upgrade their modular phone's "brain" (read: processor unit), the old module can be repurposed to power a versatile computer. With many different outdated smartphone CPUs combined, the cluster should have enough processing power to make the Puzzlecluster a useful addition to...

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Pay T-Mobile $5 per month to get deep discounts on smartphones [The Verge - All Posts]

T-Mobile is announcing its latest "uncarrier" move today. You can now opt to pay $5 a month for exclusive access to discounts when upgrading to new devices. The service is called Score, and some of the deals are pretty appealing.

If you're a Score member for 12 months, you'll unlock deals on top-tier smartphones. The sample deals included in today's press release include $150 off the full price of a Nexus 6 or Galaxy Note 4, as well as $100 off a Galaxy S 5. Not too shabby of a discount for $60 worth of payments over the course of a year.

More "uncarrier" moves

After just six months, you'll be able to get some entry-level smartphones for free. The carrier mentions the Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 as an example — it currently sells the...

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My First Sundance Journal Day 2-3: Oh, that’s supposed to be amazing [The Verge - All Posts]

I'm getting acquainted with Sundance Hype, and now, on the morning of my fourth day at my first ever Sundance Film Festival, I think I'm ready to explain how it works.

Sundance Hype is like a game of telephone. We all arrive knowing nothing, but in an environment full of self-described insiders and reporters and Park City moms and other types of know-it-alls, having information becomes Goal #1 as soon as we hit main street. So you hear something — you read a tweet, you overhear a conversation on the shuttle — and the next time you find yourself making small talk in line or at a party and someone brings up a film you can say "Oh, that's supposed to be amazing."

With any luck, it is amazing, and the game of telephone helped motivate you...

Continue reading…

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck turns the myth into the man [The Verge - All Posts]

I still remember the exact moment I learned Kurt Cobain had killed himself. A friend stood in the doorway of my college dorm room, face slack, and said two words: "Kurt died." And over the ensuing days and months the machinery of pop culture churned, desperately trying to put his death into some sort of relatable context.

With Cobain in particular, the pieces were already in place for instant deification. A child of divorce, known for being empathetic to a fault, reluctantly drawn into a world of fame he never wanted and driven to drug abuse by a stomach ailment that only heroin could cure. It was a tragic narrative, but comforting in its familiarity, and passing murder conspiracy theories aside we’ve pretty much stuck with it for the...

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As soon as one 'Uber for weed' startup gets cut down, another grows in its place [The Verge - All Posts]

It was only a matter of time before someone spun the "Uber for __" wheel and landed on WEED. More and more states are voting in favor of legalization. Congress recently instructed the feds to back off medical marijuana. Peter Thiel's venture capital fund just bet millions that legal cannabis is gonna be huge. Why not pair pot with our newfound appetite for on-demand delivery via smartphone?

"Uber for weed" was so inevitable that at least six startups attempting to deliver medical marijuana to your door launched in the past eight months: Eaze, Nestdrop, Meadow, Grassp, Time for Dave, and Canary. That doesn't include standard offerings like the "dozens" of delivery services in Seattle, for example, that will let you call in and place an...

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This supercut turns cinema's greatest sword fights into one epic duel [The Verge - All Posts]

Ah, the sword fight. What would cinema be without it? The action movie staple is so familiar — and, at times, formulaic — that it seems you could smush them all into one. Video editor Clara Darko has done just that with a nearly four-minute sword fight extravaganza that covers everything from Kill Bill, Star Wars, and Zorro to Seven Samurai and Excalibur. As an editor, putting together montages like these is what Darko does for fun, and the result is a surprisingly coherent — if lengthy — sword fight that spans decades of cinema history.

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DayZ has sold 3 million copies even though it's still in development [The Verge - All Posts]

Open-world zombie survival game DayZ has sold over three million copies since launch in December 2013, according to developer Bohemia Interactive. It sold one million copies during its first month on sale, and passed the two million mark during its first four months. Those are impressive numbers for any game, let alone one that spawned from a user-generated mod and is still in the alpha stage of development.

But DayZ (and its me-too competitors, The War Z and Rust) is one of the only places for gamers to fend for themselves in a lawless, digital world. Players are tossed into an abandoned wilderness with few supplies and are left to their devices to find a way to survive through unpredictable encounters with other desperate survivors....

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MakerBot Android app lets you control your 3D printer from your phone [The Verge - All Posts]

MakerBot is embracing Android. The company has rolled out a version of its mobile app for Android, allowing you to control and monitor your 3D printer straight from your smartphone.

The app largely matches the iOS MakerBot Mobile app that came out over the summer: with it, you can choose a design from the massive collection on Thingiverse or your own library, scale and adjust it, and send it off to the printer. Once you're printing, you'll be able to monitor progress using your printer's built-in camera, and you can pause and resume printing as necessary. The app is available now for free on Google Play, and is compatible with the MakerBot Replicator, MakerBot Replicator Mini, and MakerBot Replicator Z18.

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HTC gets involved in e-sports, foreshadowing move into home entertainment [The Verge - All Posts]

HTC doesn't want to be known as just a smartphone maker anymore, and one of its first moves to update its brand image in 2015 has been to sponsor three prominent e-sports teams. Cloud9, Team Liquid, and Team SoloMid have all warmly welcomed HTC into the realm of e-sports, promising to produce "a top-notch video series with players" from each team and HTC's support. There'll be giveaways as well, giving e-sport fans "opportunities to snag some amazing new HTC devices."

Notably, the Team Liquid announcement names Walter Wang and Thomas Chen as E-sports Project Managers at HTC, underlining the importance the Taiwanese tech company is placing on this venture. HTC's sponsored teams compete in various games, including Counter Strike: Global...

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A supercut of stares in Darren Aronofsky movies [The Verge - All Posts]

Darren Aronofsky can be a grandiose director. Think of his big set pieces: Black Swan's ballet or The Wrestler's final match. But, as with other directors, the tiny moments add up. This supercut, from Vimeo user WarmBakedBread, explores Aronofsky's movies through a particular lens: the eyes. Examining shots from six films, the supercut moves between the wide-eyed awe of Noah and the dilated paranoia of Requiem for a Dream. Even if you haven't seen any of the movies, you get a sense of the characters from each look.

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Ronald Reagan’s Most Under-Appreciated Triumph [International Liberty]

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ronald Reagan.

He’s definitely the greatest president of my lifetime and, with one possible rival, he was the greatest President of the 20th century.

If his only accomplishment was ending malaise and restoring American prosperity thanks to lower tax rates and other pro-market reforms, he would be a great President.

He also restored America’s national defenses and reoriented foreign policy, both of which led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire, a stupendous achievement that makes Reagan worthy of Mount Rushmore.

But he also has another great achievement, one that doesn’t receive nearly the level of appreciation that it deserves. President Reagan demolished the economic cancer of inflation.

Even Paul Krugman has acknowledged that reining in double-digit inflation was a major positive achievement. Because of his anti-Reagan bias, though, he wants to deny the Gipper any credit.

Robert Samuelson, in a column for the Washington Post, corrects the historical record.

Krugman recently wrote a column arguing that the decline of double-digit inflation in the 1980s was the decade’s big economic event, not the cuts in tax rates usually touted by conservatives. Actually, I agree with Krugman on this. But then he asserted that Ronald Reagan had almost nothing to do with it. That’s historically incorrect. Reagan was crucial. …Krugman’s error is so glaring.

Samuelson first provides the historical context.

For those too young to remember, here’s background. From 1960 to 1980, inflation — the general rise of retail prices — marched relentlessly upward. It went from 1.4 percent in 1960 to 5.9 percent in 1969 to 13.3 percent in 1979. The higher it rose, the more unpopular it became. …Worse, government seemed powerless to defeat it. Presidents deployed complex wage and price controls and guidelines. They didn’t work. The Federal Reserve — custodian of credit policies — veered between easy money and tight money, striving both to subdue inflation and to maintain “full employment” (taken as a 4 percent to 5 percent unemployment rate). It achieved neither. From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, there were four recessions. Inflation became a monster, destabilizing the economy.

The column then explains that there was a dramatic turnaround in the early 1980s, as Fed Chairman Paul Volcker adopted a tight-money policy and inflation was squeezed out of the system much faster than almost anybody thought was possible.

But Krugman wants his readers to think that Reagan played no role in this dramatic and positive development.

Samuelson says this is nonsense. Vanquishing inflation would have been impossible without Reagan’s involvement.

What Reagan provided was political protection. The Fed’s previous failures to stifle inflation reflected its unwillingness to maintain tight-money policies long enough… Successive presidents preferred a different approach: the wage-price policies built on the pleasing (but unrealistic) premise that these could quell inflation without jeopardizing full employment. Reagan rejected this futile path. As the gruesome social costs of Volcker’s policies mounted — the monthly unemployment rate would ultimately rise to a post-World War II high of 10.8 percent — Reagan’s approval ratings plunged. In May 1981, they were at 68 percent; by January 1983, 35 percent. Still, he supported the Fed. …It’s doubtful that any other plausible presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, would have been so forbearing.

What’s the bottom line?

What Volcker and Reagan accomplished was an economic and political triumph. Economically, ending double-digit inflation set the stage for a quarter-century of near-automatic expansion… Politically, Reagan and Volcker showed that leaders can take actions that, though initially painful and unpopular, served the country’s long-term interests. …There was no explicit bargain between them. They had what I’ve called a “compact of conviction.”

By the way, Krugman then put forth a rather lame response to Samuelson, including the rather amazing claim that “[t]he 1980s were a triumph of Keynesian economics.”

Here’s what Samuelson wrote in a follow-up column debunking Krugman.

As preached and practiced since the 1960s, Keynesian economics promised to stabilize the economy at levels of low inflation and high employment. By the early 1980s, this vision was in tatters, and many economists were fatalistic about controlling high inflation. Maybe it could be contained. It couldn’t be eliminated, because the social costs (high unemployment, lost output) would be too great. …This was a clever rationale for tolerating high inflation, and the Volcker-Reagan monetary onslaught demolished it. High inflation was not an intrinsic condition of wealthy democracies. It was the product of bad economic policies. This was the 1980s’ true lesson, not the contrived triumph of Keynesianism.

If anything, Samuelson is being too kind.

One of the key tenets of Keynesian economics is that there’s a tradeoff between inflation and unemployment (the so-called Phillips Curve).

Yet in the 1970s we had rising inflation and rising unemployment.

While in the 1980s, we had falling inflation and falling unemployment.

But if you’re Paul Krugman and you already have a very long list of mistakes (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for a few examples), then why not go for the gold and try to give Keynes credit for the supply-side boom of the 1980s

P.S. Since today’s topic is Reagan, it’s a good opportunity to share my favorite poll of the past five years.

P.P.S. Here are some great videos of Reagan in action. And here’s one more if you need another Reagan fix.

P.P.P.S. And let’s close with some mildly risqué Reagan humor that was sent to me by a former member of Congress.

Reagan Clinton Joke

If you want more Reagan humor, click here, here, and here.


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