Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Biggest Plane Ever Built

If you’re minimally knowledgeable about such things, when you saw the header, you said, “Oh sure – the Spruce Goose.” At least, that’s what I would have done. But seventy years later, there’s a new
title-holder.
The Stratolaunch is currently in production at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. Aerospace firm Scaled Composites has headed-up development of the mammoth aircraft, and befitting such a sizable plane, the technical details are jaw-dropping. Stratolaunch, nicknamed “Roc” after the mythical bird of prey, features two fuselages, six Pratt & Whitney jet engines, 28 landing gear wheels, and a whopping 385 foot wingspan.

“If you were to put the center of this airplane on a football field,” mentions Scaled Composites president Kevin Mickey in a KGET interview, “its wingtips would extend beyond the goalposts by about 15 feet on each side.”

Those dimensions make it 65 feet wider than the legendary “Spruce Goose” H-4 Hercules … it is being constructed using pieces of two already quite large planes–a pair of disused Boeing 747s.
The purpose of the plane is to launch satellites.
The Stratolaunch is designed to carry a three-stage rocket (equipped with a satellite) between its two fuselages. Upon reaching the correct altitude, the rocket will detach, blast off into space, and later release the satellite.

Monday, August 10, 2015

You Get What You Pay For

There are rumors around the web that Donald Trump is buying Facebook likes, retweets, and even entire websites:
Inside the most pro-Trump news outlet on the right (Breitbart), some employees say the billionaire candidate has provided financial backing in exchange for fawning headlines — a charge management strongly denies.
I wonder if he bought these two, and if so, how much he paid.

Hillary’s a Piker

The BBC informs us that some other governments are as adept as ours at averting their eyes from obvious corruption among the elite.
Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency has said hundreds of millions of dollars found in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal accounts were donations, effectively clearing him of wrongdoing.

But it did not disclose who the donors were or what the donations were for.    
It was investigating allegations funds were transferred to Mr Razak from the 1MDB state investment fund he set up.

The allegation is that he transferred nearly $700m (£450m) from the debt-ridden fund to his own personal account.
This guy makes the Clinton Foundation look honest by comparison.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Whom Do You Suppose He's Referring to?


Silly Season

The term above is a political cliche, referring to a phenomenon that occurs during every campaign, during which odd candidates (e.g., Howard Dean) flourish in the polls before fading from view.

We are, obviously, in that season now, but I have to say that in my roughly fifty-five years of following politics closely, this is by far the silliest season ever.

Donald Trump is the most obvious piece of ... evidence, but we also see the most extreme leftist Democratic candidate perhaps ever being booted off the stage by a group of extreme leftists for not being extreme enough on racial issues.

While all this nonsense is certainly entertaining, and we will no doubt look back on it with nostalgia at some point (as people of my generation look back on our hippie days, even while acknowledging the insanity of it all), still one hopes that this will soon end, and the two parties can turn their attention to selecting reasonably rational candidates.


Poor Journalism

Maybe it's been brought up elsewhere, but CNN’s guy, Don Lemon (never heard of him before), should be called out for his lack of professionalism for failing to follow up on Trump’s ‘blood out of her wherever’ comment.


Border Fences, Euro-Style

The US isn’t the only country with an illegal immigration problem. Here’s how Hungary is dealing with theirs.
Hungarian soldiers started building a fence Monday on the border with Serbia, an effort meant to stop the rising flow of migrants trying to enter the European Union.

On the outskirts of the southern village of Asotthalom, soldiers were using heavy machinery to drive metal rods into the ground, the first steps in the construction of the nearly 4-meter (13-foot) high fence, which the government wants to finish by Aug. 31 along the 175-kilometer (109-mile border). […]

More than 100,000 migrants have reached Hungary on routes across the Balkans so far in 2015, compared with fewer than 43,000 asylum seekers last year and 18,900 in 2013.
The Bulgarian fence.

And in Bulgaria:
… the new section of fence being constructed to seal Bulgaria’s entire border [with Turkey] is designed to appear all but impregnable,

The local authorities are hoping to put off the ruthless criminal gangs exploiting families fleeing war and terror in Syria, Iraq and North Africa from trying to enter Europe via Bulgaria.

Bulgarian Border Police chief Ivan Stoyanov said: ‘Our operation has stopped more than 500 migrants from crossing in the last month alone.

Venezuela, Part Whatever

More on the collapse of Venezuela, this time considerably more tragic than the beer shortage.
Prednisone and Cellcept, immunosuppressive drugs to avoid rejection of transplanted organs, disappeared from Venezuelan public and private pharmacies since early July, patients told AFP.

Consequently, hundreds of patients are faced with a critical situation: their treatment cannot be interrupted not even for a day, as they could lose the kidney or liver for which they waited for years.

"When (human) prednisone ran out, everybody started to look for the canine drug," reported the President of the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation (Fefarven), Freddy Ceballos.
Socialismo o Muerte!, as they used to say in Cuba.

Or maybe both.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cancer

I haven't talked here about the fact that I'm being treated for prostate cancer. Cancer isn't a very amusing topic.

Except when it is.

I'm currently being treated with an IV solution of radium-223, called Xofigo. Each treatment ends with one of the doctors holding a geiger counter in front of me to see whether I'm emitting radiation. Cracks me up every time.

I've had the cancer for a little over a year (I returned from Ecuador because a test there had found it). Prostate cancer is usually considered one of the least-aggressive common cancers, but apparently mine skipped his cancer-training class that day.

I'll periodically offer updates here, but this is not going to be a blog about cancer. It will continue to be mostly about the same stuff it has been.


The Most Sought-After Endorsement

Dennis Rodman has announced his choice for president. Guess who?

Actually, who else could it be? When a clown makes an endorsement, naturally he is going to endorse a fellow clown.
Dennis Rodman has endorsed Donald Trump for president. On Friday, the five-time NBA champion tweeted that the Donald “has been a great friend for many years.” 

"We don’t need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump! Trump 2016,” he added. 

Trump responded on Twitter, writing, “Thank you @DennisRodman. It’s time to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain! I hope you are doing well!”

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Skull Church

This is pretty far off-topic even by my very loose standards, but I found it really fascinating. In the Czech Republic, there is a church called the Sedlec Ossuary, aka the Skull Church. It is ‘decorated’, if that is the right word, with the remains of tens of thousands of plague victims.
It’s a real-life chapel that looks like the set of the Pirates of the Caribbean.

The spine-tingling Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic is estimated to hold the remains of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, many of whom died in the plague in 1318 and during the Hussite Wars in the 15th century.
More pictures here.

Paranoid Nightmare Special

RealClearPolicy had an interesting item yesterday on how Obama could get around the 22nd Amendment and run for a third term. Of course, he wouldn’t do such a thing, because he has too much respect for the constitution. [/sarcasm]

Seriously, I see about a zero percent chance of such a thing happening, but the article makes a good case for how it could plausibly be done – read it and offer your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Grexit: Sooner or Later

Most Europeans want Greece gone.

YouGov polls show that a) Most Europeans would like to see Greece out of the Eurozone; and b) Most think they will be gone in five years.

The question asked in the poll was “Would you prefer Greece to leave or stay part of the Eurozone?” and although Germans unsurprisingly feel most negative towards Greece, a majority in all countries polled disapproved of the recent bailout deal, and would prefer the debt-ridden country to leave the common currency.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Venezuelan Beer Shortage, Part II

Well, yes, it's true that the whole point of this post
was to justify slipping this picture in here.
Clever of me, wasn't it?
Last week, I mentioned that Venezuela was running out of beer (together with a bit of snark that failed states ought to make darned sure they have plenty of booze to deaden the pain). Maybe instead of being snarky, I should have offered some serious advice to any R4ers traveling to Venezuela: Keep your mouth shut about the beer shortage.
Without knowing the crimes alleged against him, the general director of the Venezuelan Federation of Liquor Producers (Fevelif) was arrested on Friday, July 24. According to local media, Fray Roa could appear in court on Monday, July 27.

While there remains no stated justification for the arrest, Venezuelans haven’t failed to notice that it occurred right after Roa shared revelations with journalist Gabriela Frías on her television program Global Portfolio, broadcast on CNN en Español. […]
The industry representative complained about the lack of raw materials for the production of beer and malt in the country.
Ain’t socialismo wonderful?

An Asian Arms Race


China’s aggressive moves have stoked concerns throughout Asia (we’ve discussed the South China Sea as a coming trouble spot before -- most recently here).

Here are a couple more examples.


India’s Naval Build-up

India is planning to spend $61bil to expand their navy and to counter Chinese incursions into the Indian Ocean.
The build-up is mostly aimed at deterring China from establishing a foothold in the Indian Ocean. It also serves another goal: Transforming India’s warship-building industry into an exporting force that can supply the region, including U.S. partners in Asia wary of China’s increased assertiveness. […]
The vessels on India’s wish list show Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intent on expanding the navy’s influence from Africa to the Western Pacific. Most of them will be made in India, a sign that moves to upgrade the country’s shipyards are starting to pay off for the world’s biggest importer of weapons.
India plans to add at least 100 new warships, including two aircraft carriers, as well as three nuclear powered submarines capable of firing nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Japan Overrides Its Constitution

Here’s another bit of fall-out – Japan has passed legislation to greatly expand their military role (possibly in violation of the constitution Douglas MacArthur wrote for them after WW2).
Controversial legislation that could result in Japanese troops fighting abroad for the first time since World War II passed the lower house of Japan’s parliament on Thursday after large public protests and scuffles in the normally staid chamber.
The bills have been championed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who contends that Japan – which adopted a U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution after its defeat in World War II – needs to be able to come to the aid of allies, particularly America, under the doctrine of “collective self-defense.”
His push comes as China is expanding its military capabilities and increasingly asserting itself in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Those Damn Homophones Are Taking Over


Anyone well-grounded in English knows about certain tricky words that sound alike but have different meanings. An example is ‘lead’ (a mineral) and ‘led’ (the past tense of the verb ‘to lead’).
The worst, for most of us, is the three-fer, there/their/they’re – I know the different uses of these three quite well, thank you, but when I get typing fast, I often insert the wrong one (or at least that’s my alibi whenever I screw up).


These sound-alikes are called ‘homophones‘. Which turned out to be an unfortunate label for a guy who wrote for a certain English as a second language school last year.

Just ask a blogger … named Tim Torkildson. For three months in 2014, Torkildson was a social media specialist and blogger for the Nomen Global Language Center, a Utah-based English-language school for non-English speakers. In July of that year, as part of that job, Torkildson wrote a blog post … for Nomen’s official blog. Titled “Help with Homophones #1,” the missive was hardly a manifesto — it simply instructed readers about a few trap words which sound alike but are spelled differently.  (A screenshot of the post, cached, can be found here, via the Daily Mail.) It seemed entirely appropriate for the job Torkildson was hired to do, and innocuous nonetheless.
His boss didn’t see it that way. As Torkildson recounted on another now-deleted … blog post, the first chapter of his homophones work would be his last:
“I’m letting you go because I can’t trust you” said Clarke Woodger, my boss and the owner of Nomen Global Language Center.  “This blog about homophones was the last straw. Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality.”

Shining Path Slaves Freed in Peru


The BBC tells us about a rescue operation in Peru.
The Peruvian army says it has rescued 39 people from a farm where the Shining Path (aka Sendero Luminoso) rebel group kept them as slaves.
Some of the captives said they had been kidnapped some 30 years ago. The defence ministry said 26 of them were children, some of whom were born in captivity.
The victims said they were also forced to work in fields.
Some 120 Peruvian soldiers took part in the operation. Four army helicopters airlifted the captives into safety.
The military says soldiers were led to the farm by a former captive, who lived there for many years and escaped about a month ago.
The women were expected to give birth to young rebels.

I thought Shining Path (they were the Maoist group that was very active in Peru in the ’80s and 90s) was long gone, but apparently vestiges remain.

It would be interesting to hear from the usual Marxist apologists (e.g., George Clooney) about this, but I imagine they'll remain silent.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Happy B'day to My Mahal


Today would be her 60th birthday. This picture was taken in the spring/summer of 1980, when she was 24, a few months before we married.



Posted without Comment


Cecil the Lion? Whodat?


Answer honestly – had you ever heard of Cecil the Lion before this week? Had any of the people filling the internet with outrage ever heard of him? Don’t worry about it – neither had the folks in Zimbabwe, but at least they have the decency to be ignoring the whole thing.

As social media exploded with outrage this week at the killing of Cecil the lion, the untimely passing of the celebrated predator at the hands of an American dentist went largely unnoticed in the animal’s native Zimbabwe.

“What lion?” acting information minister Prisca Mupfumira asked in response to a request for comment about Cecil, who was at that moment topping global news bulletins and generating reams of abuse for his killer on websites in the United States and Europe.

The government has still given no formal response,

Just Another Clinton Foundation Scandal


From The Guardian:

Hillary Clinton’s overlap of private and political activities was once again in the spotlight on Thursday after a Wall Street Journal report that since Clinton helped broker a settlement in a legal tax case against UBS while she was secretary of state, the Swiss bank has increased its financial support and involvement in Clinton Foundation projects.

In February 2009, the IRS sued UBS and demanded that it disclose the names of 52,000 possible American tax evaders with secret Swiss bank accounts. In the months that followed – thanks to involvement of Clinton as secretary of state and Swiss lawmakers – a legal settlement was negotiated. On 19 August 2009, it was announced that UBS would pay no fine and would provide the IRS with information about 4,450 accounts within a year.

Since the deal was struck, disclosures by the foundation and the bank show the donations by UBS to the Clinton Foundation growing “from less than $60,000 through 2008 to a cumulative total of about $600,000 by the end of 2014”, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The bank also teamed up with the foundation on the Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative, creating a pilot entrepreneur program through which UBS offered $32m in loans to businesses, the newspaper reported. Other UBS donations to the Clinton Foundation include a $350,000 donation from June 2011 and a $100,000 donation for a charity golf tournament.

Additionally, UBS paid more than $1.5m in speaking fees to Bill Clinton between 2001 and 2014, the newspaper reported.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Disappointing Rand Paul Campaign

A lot of people thought Rand Paul might be one of the finalists this year, but that doesn’t seem likely now.  I saw him as Ron with the rough edges sanded off – the guy who might finally sell libertarianism to the public. It hasn’t worked out that way at all.

Politico has the story.
Rand Paul, once seen as a top-tier contender, finds his presidential hopes fading fast as he grapples with deep fundraising and organizational problems that have left his campaign badly hobbled.
Interviews with more than a dozen sources close to the Kentucky senator, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of an underfunded and understaffed campaign beaten down by low morale.
They described an operation that pitted a cerebral chief strategist against an intense campaign manager who once got into a physical altercation with the candidate’s bodyguard. And they portrayed an undisciplined politician who wasn’t willing to do what it took to win — a man who obsessed over trivial matters like flight times, peppered aides with demands for more time off from campaigning and once chose to go on a spring-break jaunt rather than woo a powerful donor.

Illegals Holding Steady at 11.3mil

Pew tells us that the illegal (or ‘unauthorized, as the PC crowd prefers) immigrant population has held roughly stable over the past five years. This is in line with other data I’ve seen.
An estimated 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the U.S. in 2014, according to a new preliminary Pew Research Center estimate based on government data. This population has remained essentially stable for five years after nearly two decades of changes.  […]

Pew Research estimates that, since 2009, there has been an average of about 350,000 new unauthorized immigrants each year. Of these, about 100,000 are Mexican, a much smaller share than in the past. In the years leading up to the Great Recession, Mexicans represented about half of new unauthorized immigrants.
Donald Trump should be pleased; fewer Mexicans = fewer rapists.
Due to the slowdown in new illegal immigration since the Great Recession, unauthorized immigrants are less likely than those in the past to be recent arrivals. The share of unauthorized-immigrant adults who have lived in the U.S. for a decade or more has nearly doubled, from 35% in 2000 to 62% in 2012, according to a Pew Research estimate released last year. Only 15% in 2012 had lived in the U.S. for less than five years, compared with 38% in 2000.

Because they are more likely to be long-term residents, unauthorized immigrants also are increasingly likely to live with children born in the U.S. Pew Research Center estimates that in 2012, 4 million unauthorized-immigrant adults, or 38%, lived with their U.S.-born children, either minors or adults. In 2000, 2.1 million unauthorized-immigrant adults, or 30%, lived with their U.S.-born children. (The total number of unauthorized immigrants with adult or minor children born in the U.S. may well be higher, as these figures do not count those whose children live elsewhere.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

El Nino Odds at 90%

This report from an expat website based in Ecuador says that odds are very strong we will experience an El Nino this year and next.
El Niño is a weather phenomenon that results from higher than normal temperatures near the surface of the Pacific Ocean and causes severe flooding and drought in much of the world.

In June, the Climate Prediction Center of the U.S. National Weather Service raised the chances to 90% for an El Niño to develop during the northern hemisphere summer and early fall. Ecuador’s Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology agrees with the analysis.
Watch for the weather variations caused by El Nino being cited as proof of Global Warming.

The Greek Economic Soap Opera Isn't Over

In case you thought the Greek economic clown show was over – nope, it rolls on and on.

Reports out of Athens are that the left wing of the ruling party tried to execute a seizure of the Bank of Greece’s reserves, a deal with Russia, and a return to the drachma.

From Reuters:
Some members of Greece’s leftist government wanted to raid central bank reserves and hack taxpayer accounts to prepare a return to the drachma, according to reports on Sunday that highlighted the chaos in the ruling Syriza party.

It is not clear how seriously the plans, attributed to former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, were considered by the government and both ministers were sacked earlier this month. However the reports have been seized on by opposition parties who have demanded an explanation. […]

In an interview with Sunday’s edition of the RealNews daily, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the hardline former energy minister who lost his job after rebelling over the bailout plans, said he had urged the government to tap the reserves of the Bank of Greece in defiance of the European Central Bank.

Lafazanis, leader of a hardline faction in the ruling Syriza party that has argued for a return to the drachma, said the move would have allowed pensions and public sector wages to be paid if Greece were forced out of the euro.

“The main reason for that was for the Greek economy and Greek people to survive, which is the utmost duty every government has under the constitution,” he said.
Financial Times adds in re Russia (quoted from Forbes):
Mr Lafazanis visited Moscow three times as Mr Tsipras’s envoy after Syriza came to power in January. In return for signing up to a new gas pipeline project, he hoped for at least €5bn in prepayments of gas transit fees, according to people briefed on the initiative. But the Russians rejected the deal the week before the EU summit.

“It was all a fantasy,” said a senior Greek banker. “The Left Platform’s dreams of free gas and a Russian-backed drachma have crumbled away.”
Forbes goes on to note that it is questionable at best that the pipeline will ever be built, anyway.

I’m glad the Greeks are back — they’re so entertaining.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Beer Shortage in Venezuela

One would think that a failed government would take pains to ensure a copious supply of alcohol as a way to deaden the senses.

Planned Parenthood Funding Sources

This purports to list companies (probably not all of them) that provide funding to Planned Parenthood, in case you’re interested in starting a boycott because of the recent videos about selling body parts.

I have some doubts about the list, since it includes Tostitos, which is not a company (it’s a brand belonging to Frito-Lay, which in turn belongs to PepsiCo, which is elsewhere on the list). Similarly, they list both Dockers and Levi Strauss.

Makes one wonder how carefully the list was put together.

Trump on Breastfeeding

This will not play well with female voters.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump called a lawyer and breastfeeding mother “disgusting” after she requested a break from a deposition in order to pump, according to a New York Times report on Tuesday.

According to the paper, lawyer Elizabeth Beck was questioning Trump in 2011 about a failed Florida real estate project. Beck, with her husband, represented clients who claimed to lose thousands of dollars in the deal. At one point, Beck, who had a 3-month-old daughter, requested a medical break which was contested by Trump and his lawyers, who wanted to continue, the Times says. That’s when Beck took out her breast pump to show that her request was urgent — she needed to pump for her infant. “You’re disgusting,” Trump told Beck before leaving the room.

The quote is not disputed by Trump’s camp.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Coming Municipal Pension Disaster

Everybody knows about Chicago, of course, but there are a number of cities and states with huge pension shortfalls.

Moody’s, which in 2013 began using a lower rate than governments do to calculate future liabilities, has estimated that the 25 largest U.S. public pensions alone have $2 trillion less than they need. Cincinnati and Minneapolis are among cities Moody’s has since downgraded.
 
The credit-rating company said in a report Friday that the shortfall in Dallas’s police and firefighters’ pension system will more than triple to $4.7 billion because of the accounting-rule shift.

Houston is mentioned elsewhere in the article as having been recently warned.

Many funds have hidden their deficits by assuming unrealistically high returns on their investments.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension, this week said it earned just 2.4 percent last fiscal year, one-third of the annual return it projects. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the second-biggest fund, gained 4.5 percent, compared with its 7.5 percent goal.

A Moral Dilemma

Let’s imagine that you are very much to the left on social issues.

As such, you are strongly in favor of gay rights, gay marriage, and everything those on the social right lump together and call the ‘gay agenda’. You are also 100% in favor of abortion on demand, with no restrictions, never, no how, no way.

So let us imagine further that science soon isolates a ‘gay gene':

A genetic analysis of 409 pairs of gay brothers, including sets of twins, has provided the strongest evidence yet that gay people are born gay. The study clearly links sexual orientation in men with two regions of the human genome that have been implicated before, one on the X chromosome and one on chromosome 8.
 
The finding is an important contribution to mounting evidence that being gay is biologically determined rather than a lifestyle choice.

I know many social conservatives don’t want to believe that anyone is born gay. But this isn’t a question directed at them. Remember, for this question, you are on the left socially. So, if this happens, would you, as the extreme social liberal described above, object to parents choosing to abort a fetus because it would be gay?

I find the question almost impossible to answer.

Bonus Question: Would liberals want to have such testing covered under Obamacare and/or require that it be covered under employer-provided insurance programs?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Landon by a Landslide: The Great Polling Disaster of 1936

There has been much breast-beating (some of it by yours truly) about the spate of recent polling failures (US 2014; UK, Scotland, and Greece this year).

For historical perspective, though, it’s good to look back on the polling disaster that almost killed the practice of polling in its infancy – the prediction by the Literary Digest (a leading magazine of the period) that Alf Landon would easily defeat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1936 election.

This link takes you to the October 31, 1936 edition of the magazine, in which they publish their results.

For the record, Landon carried two states: Maine and Vermont.

Partisanship Indicator

It is not at all an original observation to note the increasing negativity of the political scown-opposing partyene, in which partisans of both sides see each other as not just wrong, but evil. I’m actually old enough to remember when it wasn’t like this, when people respectfully disagreed in civil discussions rather than shouting matches.

As an aside: Fox and MSNBC would not have prospered in such an environment.

At right is a graph showing how bad things have become.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ban Dante!

A UN-affiliated group has recommended that Dante’s Divine Comedy be removed from schools around the world for being homophobic, islamophobic, and numerous other things they disapprove of.

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination. Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president.
 
“We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism,” Miss Sereni said.

There’s that classic formulation: “We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but …”

A happy note:

    Franco Grillini, the head of Gaynet, a gay rights’ organisation, said the suggestion that Dante’s writings should be prohibited marked “an excess of political correctness”.

The Benedict Option

What is it? It seems to have emerged from Rod Dreher’s blog. The Wall Street Journal quotes him as describing it thus:

    “… an inchoate phenomenon in which Christians adopt a more consciously countercultural stance toward our post-Christian mainstream culture.” Much as St. Benedict laid the groundwork for a later resurgence of Christian society in Europe by leaving Rome and founding the monastic movement in the early sixth century, Mr. Dreher argues, traditional Christians should partially withdraw from the culture, seeking to live moral lives together in like-minded communities.

WSJ goes on:

    … the recent Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges seems to have made many Christians particularly receptive to Mr. Dreher’s idea. The response has been so strong that he now says his next book will be on the Benedict Option.


I mostly support the Supreme Court decision, but I can see that a withdrawal from the political stage might to a reasonable (perhaps even attractive) option for many committed Christians who disagree with such things.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Swearing Maps


Jack Grieve is a linguist who has been mapping the frequency of use of different swearwords by geography, tracking words ranging from 'gosh' to things that might offend some of my readers..

Here's the 'damn' map – the others are here. I don't know about you, but I find this sort of thing damn interesting. Which I guess makes me a linguistic Southerner.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why Can't Republicans Get Over the Gay Thing?

A Republican representative from New Jersey, Scott Garrett, has told his fellow Republicans that he refuses to pay his dues to the National Republican Campaign Committee, “because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries.”


Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Ruins of Pompeii Are Falling into Ruin

Not sure how much sense that header makes, but read the article and you’ll understand.

On the other hand, Herculaneum is doing quite nicely, thanks for asking.

Competition Raises Prices

Here’s how little understanding some folks have of economics.
Yesterday Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would have privatized the sale of wine and liquor while liberalizing the rules for selling beer in the Keystone State. Wolf counterintutively argues that replacing the state monopoly with private businesses would be bad for consumers. “During consideration of this legislation,” he says, “it became abundantly clear that this plan would result in higher prices for consumers.” He also worries that letting private businesses sell beer and wine would result in “less selection for consumers.”
To be fair, Wolf probably knows perfectly well that competition lowers prices – the real motive behind his veto was most likely to protect the public employee unions.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Truth Is What I Tell You It Is

President Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes in an interview on Israeli TV on April 6:
Rhodes also claimed the new arrangements ensure “anytime, anywhere” inspections of any and every Iranian facility — contradicting complaints by Israel that no such provision is guaranteed.
Asked directly if the IAEA would have anytime, anywhere access, Rhodes said, “Yes, if we see something that we want to inspect.”
“In the first place we will have anytime, anywhere access [to] the nuclear facilities,” he said, referring to “the whole supply chain.”
CNN's Erin Burnett Tuesday:


Taxing Drivers for Every Mile Driven

Here’s a great example of governments getting caught up in the Law of Unintended Consequences. The feds have offered incentives for buyers of electric and hybrid vehicles, and they have mandated (and the market has forced drivers toward) greater fuel efficiency in gasoline vehicles. But the states are dependent upon gasoline taxes for a significant portion of their budgets.

Solution: Tax people by mileage driven, coming soon to Oregon, (a system cleverly named OreGO), with twenty-eight other states considering such programs.

Oregon’s Department of Transportation has been working on it for 15 years as a way to eventually replace the gas tax, which has been flat due to an influx of high mileage vehicles and people driving less.
Right now the program is voluntary and being capped at 5,000 participants, but an ODOT official told Fox News the ultimate goal is to make it mandatory and change the way states pay for roads — forever.
However:
Two of the three OReGO systems track and store a car’s every move.

A Contract for Sex

I can picture it: “”Uh, babe, we need to sign this contract, and then we’ll take a selfie holding the contract, OK? Yeah, I know you’re naked, so what? It’s the law. Babe, why are you putting your clothes back on? Leaving? Why?”
 A “yes means yes” advocacy group, the Affirmative Consent Project, is instructing college students to take a picture with a contract before they have sex with each other just to make absolutely sure both parties are officially consenting. In fact, the group has been distributing contracts to schools nationwide as part of its Consent Conscious Kit, according to an article in the Washington Examiner. If no camera is available, students are encouraged to fill out the form on the back of the contract which states, “On this date [fill in the blank], we agree to have consensual sex with one another” followed by a space for students’ printed names and signatures.
What, no space for the witnesses’ signatures?

The kit does contain breath mints and a condom, though.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Pope in Bolivia

From the Pope’s rambles through South America.
WTF??
Pope Francis has rebuked his host Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, after the left-wing South American leader presented him with a crucifix mounted on a hammer and sickle – the international symbol of the avowedly atheist creed of communism. 
The disapproving look on the pontiff’s face made abundantly clear that he was not impressed by the provocative greeting gift handed to him Mr Morales when he paid a courtesy call after arriving in the country. 
“That’s not right,” the Pope noted.

Morales is an extreme leftist who has been quite hostile to the Catholic Church, pre-Francis (he tried to prohibit the teaching of Catholicism in Catholic schools). Public ceremonies in Bolivia begin with an invocation of the Andean earth goddess, Pachamama.

NOTE: The Vatican later said that Pope Francis was not offended by the crucifix.

Olbermann Gets Canned Again

Keith just seems to have trouble holding a job for long.

The television personality, who rejoined the sports network in August 2013, won’t be renewing his deal to anchor his ESPN2 program. The news follows a THR report from July 1, which noted that ESPN management floated an ultimately unworkable caveat: that Olbermann cease engaging in commentary.
If you have a kid with this sort of work history, you sit him down and ask if he's noticed any patterns in why he gets fired. I hope somebody is doing the same for Keith.

Another note: ESPN was spending forty million bucks to rent a studio for him?!?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Zoroastrians Are Upset with Snoop Dogg

Zoroastrians in India are suing Snoop Dogg for mocking their religion.
Little known Iranian-born pop singer Amitis in June released on YouTube a music video co-starring Snoop, also known as Snoop Lion. No word from either artist on how the unlikely collaboration came about. The low budget video depicts the two luxuriating amid gaudy props and set pieces vaguely reminiscent of an ancient Persian royal court, smoking weed, and watching some almost-naked pole dancers. That’s where the trouble starts.
 

In one scene, Snoop smokes one of the 81 daily blunts he claims to enjoy while sitting on a throne under a gold Faravahar, the most sacred symbol of the Zoroastrian religion and an image frequently associated with Persian history. […]
Darayas Jamshed Bapooji, president of the Parsi Zoroastrian Association of Kolkata, a civic organization in the Indian state of West Bengal, watched the music video after receiving angry emails about it and decided to put his foot down. He retained attorney Phiroze Edulji and filed public interest litigation (a type of civic complaint) in a municipal high court in Kolkata alleging that the video infringed on Parsi’s “constitutional rights” and that the government should therefore ban its distribution.
What’s the likely result of the legal action?
The legal standing of the claims remains uncertain, but the Indian penal code does criminalize speech that promotes “enmity between different groups on ground of religion” or is otherwise “prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.”
A spokesperson for Snoop Dogg declined to comment.
Stay tuned, Snoop Dogg fans.

Compare Coverage of Trump and Sanders

Donald Trump’s every crazy utterance gets national attention and becomes something other Republicans must address (“Do you agree with Donald Trump that …?)

The New York Times (via Mediaite) tells us that Bernie Sanders, while writing for a radical paper in Vermont, opined that cancer (specifically cervical cancer) was caused by too few orgasms.
    Mr. Sanders contributed only sporadically… [H]e cited studies claiming that cancer could be caused by psychological factors such as unresolved hostility toward one’s mother, a tendency to bury aggression beneath a “facade of pleasantness” and having too few orgasms. “Sexual adjustment seemed to be very poor in those with cancer of the cervix,” he wrote, quoting a study in a journal called Psychosomatic Medicine.
We’re waiting for Hillary Clinton to be asked her position on the orgasm-cancer link.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Europeans’ Views of Europeans

The Independent (UK) offers a possible explanation for part of the Greece/EU divide. The Greeks simply view themselves very, very differently from how the rest of Europe sees them.


Chicago Downgraded Again

Ho-hum, another rating service downgrades Chicago.
    Citing the lack of a long-term plan to fund pensions for city police and fire personnel, another financial ratings agency has lowered its credit rating for Chicago city government.

    Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services announced Wednesday it lowered its rating on City Hall’s general obligation bond debt one notch, from ‘A-’ to ‘BBB+’ with a negative outlook. That’s still above its “junk” rating.

    The move follows Moody’s Investors Service rating the city’s debt at junk status in May. The Moody’s downgrade contributed to city taxpayers being forced to accept higher interest rates on a $674 million borrowing deal that occurred shortly after the rating was issued.
Hey, Detroit, make a bit of room there in the Bankruptcy Bin.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Tsipras Gets Sent to His Room


Other than their approximate equality in height, doesn't Alexis Tsipras look pretty much like a six-year-old getting a lecture from mom and dad?

Which is, come to think of it, pretty much what's happening.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A World Cup Kiss Goes Viral

After winning a major sports event, it is not uncommon for a player to run to the stands to embrace a family member, spouse or child. That's what Abby Wambach, one of the most popular players on Team USA did Sunday. Wambach's spouse is female, and the gesture gathered some comments on blogs. Here's a screen shot of a representative sampling from a popular conservative blog, Gateway Pundit.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Chinese Stockmarket

As if Grexit weren't enough to worry about in terms of the world economy...

Some Asian markets on Monday declined less than anticipated in response to Sunday's Greek No vote. It may be because the Chinese market was being propped up. Per USAToday:
    On Saturday, China’s 21 largest brokerage firms said they would spend a whopping 120 billion yuan (about $19.3 billion) to try to stabilize the market, according to Chinese state media. The firms will actually buy stock funds themselves.

    The goal is to show regular mom and pop investors that the big players still think buying stocks is a good idea. It’s a similar strategy to companies buying back their stock when they think it’s undervalued.
The Economist had this to say about the situation:
    The crash has underlined the burgeoning role of debt in Chinese share-trading. Goldman Sachs reckons outstanding margin financing, at 2.2 trillion yuan ($355 billion) earlier this week, was the equivalent of 12% of the value of all freely traded shares on the market, or 3.5% of China’s GDP. Both “are easily the highest in the history of global equity markets,” its analysts noted. With Chinese shadow banks and peer-to-peer lenders also offering cash to investors, the amount of hidden leverage in the market is estimated to be as much as 50% higher. That debt helped fuel the initial rally. It is now adding to the pain, as leveraged investors rush to sell their holdings to cover their debts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How Dumb is Donald Trump?

In his campaign kick-off, Donald Trump said a bunch of stupid things. His comments about Mexican illegal immigrants got the most attention, but he also said:

“When did we beat Japan at anything?”

When' just a couple days later, the USA beat Japan in the Women's World Cup (USA! USA!) a lot of people took pleasure in laughing at The Donald. :

Even before the game though, it was a really, really stupid thing to say (even by Trump’s standards). Is he not aware of what has been called Japan’s ‘Lost Decade’? Is he stuck in the ’90s or something?
The Lost Decade ... is the time after the Japanese asset price bubble's collapse within the Japanese economy. The term originally referred to the years from 1991 to 2000, but recently the decade from 2001 to 2010 is often included, so that the whole period of the 1990s to the present is referred to as the Lost Two Decades or the Lost 20 Years... Over the period of 1995 to 2007, GDP fell from $5.33 to $4.36 trillion in nominal terms, real wages fell around 5%, while the country experienced a stagnant price level. While there is some debate on the extent and measurement of Japan's setbacks, the economic effect of the Lost Decade is well established and Japanese policymakers continue to grapple with its consequences.
What Trump said was the sort of thing people were saying twenty-five years ago.

Wedding Cake Gag Order Explained

I had heard about this 'gag order'  forbidding a bakery in Oregon from stating their opposition to being required to provide wedding cakes for same-sex marriages. It sounded like a pretty outrageous violation of free-speech rights (regardless of one's position on SSM itself)

This explanation (read the whole thing) by Eugene Volokh (a libertarian/conservative) in The Washington Post makes it much more understandable.
Statutes prohibiting similar communications (including as to race, religion, and sex, and as to employment and housing as well as public accommodations) are common, and generally thought to be constitutional. But why? Here’s what I think is the right answer, though I agree that courts haven’t been clear on it. 
Assume that it is indeed against the law to refuse to serve someone based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and so on — and, in particular, to refuse to provide a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony. Then, saying we “will … refuse[]” to provide a cake is essentially a true threat of illegal conduct. 
To be sure, it is not a threat of violence, or even a threat to commit a crime, but it is a threat to act illegally (by violating the anti-discrimination statute). And it is a threat that would have much the same effect as an outright refusal to provide a cake to someone who shows up and asks for it, because it tells people that it’s futile to even ask.
Makes sense. Of course, if one does not believe the state has a right to order the bakery to bake the cake, then the question is moot, but as far as the gag order is concerned, based on this logic, it seems reasonable..

7/7/1921

That's the day my mother was born.

Were she still alive, she would be 94 today.

Happy birthday, Mom! I miss you very much.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Scott Walker May Be Damaging His Electability

This is, as one would expect from any article in The New York Times dealing with Republicans, quite negative. But I agree with the overall point, as summarized in the headline: “Scott Walker’s Hard Right Turn in Iowa May Hurt Him Elsewhere.” I'm concerned that Walker's recent attempts to make himself into a culture warrior may be damaging what I see as his major selling points -- an ability to appeal to all major factions of the party and electability.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

WWC Anticipation

About forty minutes to kick-off. I'm getting really excited. Hope the game is woth the butterflies.

Go USA!!

The British Schindler Is Dead

Sir Nicholas Winton has died at the age of 106. I had never heard of him until his death. He was called the British Schindler and is credited with saving hundreds of children – mostly Jewish – from the Nazis, transporting them to Britain, and finding homes for them.

Requiescat in Pace.

Our Society Is Truly Moving Past Racism – Part II

On Friday, I noted that the US, having moved to the point where everything is racist, has obviously also achieved an ideal state in which nothing is racist. Further evidence is provided by Oregon's Gresham-Barlow school district, which each year wastesspends $100k on sending administrators and teachers to a 'White Privilege' re-education camp.
The manual defines this “white culture” with a list of values, such as “promoting independence, self expression, personal choice, individual thinking and achievement,” because apparently those are strictly “white” concepts and not emphasized in black communities.  
The training instructs participants to stop “blaming when students don’t meet standards” and instead start “examining our beliefs and practices when students don’t meet standards.” It advises faculty to avoid “controlling or teaching discipline to students” and to instead think about “changing school practices that alienate students and lead to disruptions.”
The manual also includes a bunch of 'microaggressions' to be avoided – probably mostly the same ones as mentioned Friday. Plus this gem:
The conference materials also include a document explaining the “attitudes and behaviors” that allow participants to become “Anti-Racist White Allies” — the first line of which is: “All white people are racist. I am racist.”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Why Is Donald Trump Polling So Well?

National Journal explores this question, which has most sane human beings scratching their heads. This assessment, from a Democrat's perspective, struck me as being pretty close to right:
"He obviously benefits from his celebrity, but I think more to the point, there is no question that there is a segment of the Republican electorate that is strongly anti-immigrant and there is an overlapping piece of the Republican electorate that is anti-politician," says Geoff Garin, the president of the Democratic polling firm Hart Research. "Donald Trump appeals to those voters, and not in the most sophisticated way possible, but in the loudest way possible."
NJ goes on with a hopeful note:
But with so many qualified Republican presidential contenders out there, Trump's rise is not expected to last. Several pollsters consulted for the story say the recent bump may reflect the entrepreneur's high name ID more than it shows genuine voter support. And at a time when the Republican field is so fractured, with more than a dozen candidates in the race, Trump's low, double-digit poll numbers are enough to fling him toward the top. If he cannot expand his base, though, he's expected to fizzle out fast.
Trump's biggest impact may be the result of sucking up media oxygen – this will mostly impact the bottom feeders of the Republican field. If so, bad news, Bobby Jindal.

The Worst-Case Scenario

Much talk recently about 'Grexit' -- the collapse of Greece's economy and the possibility that they may leave (or be tossed out of) the Euro and maybe even the EU. Grexit = GReek EXIT.

Tomorrow they are holding a referendum to decide if they will accept their creditors' final offer. Except the creditors have withdrawn the offer, so they are voting on whether or not to accept a deal that doesn't exist. Which is pretty much the degree of reality with which Greece has been conducting itself throughout this whole thing.

Anyway, as we await the results of the Greek psuedo-referendum, Foreign Policy has a look at what might happen if Grexit were combined with an implosion of the Chinese stock market.
If Greece defaults and eventually has to abandon the euro, the currency’s sheen of invulnerability will disappear. The impossible will have become possible, and investors will be forced to consider the fact that other countries — Portugal may be next in line — might someday exit the eurozone as well. 
Uncertainty about the underlying value of the euro will increase dramatically. There will be no way to know what the euro or euro-denominated securities ought to be worth if the makeup of the eurozone itself is unpredictable. Central banks built up euros as a counterweight to dollars in their reserves for years; that trend, already in reverse, could turn into a swan dive.
And then there's China.
Now throw in the bursting stock-market bubble in China. Companies there have used high stock prices to pay off debt through new public offerings. But investors have borrowed hundreds of billions to finance their portfolios, pushing prices still higher. If the markets crash — and even a loosening of rules on margin trading hasn’t been able to stop their recent slide — free-spending companies will have garnered an undeserved measure of solidity at the expense of millions of Chinese households. Billions in private saving will have financed a raft of pointless projects, destroying wealth and distorting incentives at the same time. 
The global implications will be equally bad. Many financial institutions have undoubtedly bet against the Chinese markets, but those that held onto Chinese securities will be forced to pull back the riskier assets in their portfolios. Any contagion of Greece’s problems in other less-creditworthy countries will be magnified. Meanwhile, Chinese investors will have to sell their holdings abroad to cover their margins and losses at home. Major markets will drop, except for the beneficiaries of the usual flight to safety.
In addition, FP goes on, China will cut way back on imports, impacting numerous countries (China buys ¼ of Australia's and South Korea's exports).

Read the whole thing, it's interesting, and a bit scary. How likely?:”This week, analysts gave Greece up to a 50 percent chance of leaving the eurozone. The Shanghai Composite has already plunged by 20 percent since June 12.”

Happy Independence Day

I hope you enjoy the day, and have a chance to consider what it is about.

An appropriate video:


Friday, July 3, 2015

Ain't Socialism Wonderful?

In Cuba, if you wait in line for two hours and pay 10% of your monthly salary (assuming you're at the top of the wage scale), you can get a single scoop of ice cream from the state-owned ice cream shop.

Your choices are strawberry and … strawberry.

Our Society Is Truly Moving Past Racism

It might seem strange to read a headline like that, given the constant talk about racism, but I think the case can be made. If, after all, we have reached a point where virtually everything one could possibly say is racist, then voila!, nothing is racist – problem solved.

The latest evidence is from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point which has posted a guide to 'Racial Microagressions' on the university website. The following statements are cited as examples of racism:
“America is a melting pot.”
“There is only one race, the human race.”
“I believe the most qualified person should get the job.
It's also amusing that “Overabundance of liquor stores in communities of color” is an example of racism. I presume owners of liquor stores (or other types of retail) open, close, or re-locate their outlets based on how much business they get. But I guess that's too-free market an idea for academics to deal with.

Jefferson Davis to Get the Heave-Ho in Apache Junction

Some stretch of highway in AJ is apparently going to be renamed.
Gov. Doug Ducey says he'll have the state transportation department review the name of a highway memorializing the Confederacy's president, Jefferson Davis.
Ducey said Friday that he'd like to see those stretches of highway renamed after Arizonans. 
Rep. Reginald Bolding earlier this week called for a highway marker on U.S. 60 in Apache Junction that bears Davis's name removed and the highway renamed. He said honoring supporters of slavery isn't right.
I don't have a strong feeling about this – or to put it more bluntly: “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.” In part that may be because I never knew there was such a highway designation. It's also hard to see what connection ol' Jeff has to Arizona (or to Apache Junction).

I threw in the Gone With the Wind quote since some folks think we should ban that, too.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

WWC Summary

So we're down to the Final Four. My money (if I had any, and if I were inclined to gamble with it) would probably be on Germany. They've been very impressive. The USA has been just good enough to win, which is not, when you think about it, a bad thing to be. They've stepped up their game at each level, and looked good against China in the quarters.

Japan and England both were good in their quarters wins today, although neither impressed me tremendously.

The best game in the tournament, by far, was Germany over France -- it was a classic. USA will have to step it up a good bit on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Strange Obsession

Some guy has done 2300 painting of Barack Obama, one on each day of his presidency, and plans to continue as the duck gets lamer. I'm not
sure if it’s the subject matter or the painting style, but I don’t care much for the paintings shown.

Here's one. There are a bunch more (though not all 2300) at HuffPo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Acknowledging the Arguments Against Free Trade

I am a fairly hardcore free-trader; sometime, I’m afraid, just reflexively so. I think, however, that it may be time to re-examine my position, and be more careful about judging each trade proposal on its own merits.

I was impressed by this article by David Frum in The Atlantic, which is predominately pro-trade (and, more specifically, pro-TPP), but it ends with this cautionary note that I think free-traders such as myself should take heed of:

Trade is a pro-growth policy. But when the proceeds of growth are not widely shared, and not perceived as widely shared, it becomes difficult to sustain the consensus in favor of pro-growth measures—especially when those measures seem to impose costs on American workers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Samsung Intros the See-Thru Truck

Ever been stuck behind a big semi on a not-divided highway, and you don't know whether it's safe to pass it or not? Of course you have.

Well, those days may soon be coming to an end, thanks to this great new piece of technology.
In an attempt to make the roads safer for drivers, Samsung has unveiled a new ‘transparent’ truck. 
The prototype truck uses a front-facing camera that is live streamed onto its back doors, so drivers following the over-size vehicle can see what is ahead. 
“This allows drivers to have a better view when deciding whether it is safe to overtake,” Samsung wrote in a blog post.

Thank you, Samsung.

How to Print a Bridge

I still want my flying car. I was promised one, and I expect the promises to be fulfilled.

In the meantime, though, this is almost as cool.
The 3D-printed home has been accomplished — and apparently the next step is something a little more structurally challenging. A 3D-printing company based in Amsterdam has developed a revolutionary, multi-axis robotic 3D printer that can “draw” structures in the air — and it’s planning to build a bridge over a canal in the heart of the city.
Construction is scheduled to begin in September. The accompanying picture is an artist’s conception of the process. A video and bridge plans are at the link.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Brian Williams to Move to MSNBC

Insert jokes about credibility here.

Russia Is Going to Investigate the US Moon Landings

Get out your tinfoil hats – Russia is going to do an investigation to determine whether US astronauts did indeed ever land on the moon.
In an op-ed published by Russian newspaper Izvestia, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the government’s official Investigative Committee, argued that such an investigation could reveal new insights into the historical space journeys. 
According to a translation by the Moscow Times, Markin would support an inquiry into the disappearance of original footage from the first moon landing in 1969 and the whereabouts of lunar rock, which was brought back to Earth during several missions.
In some convoluted way, this investigation seems to be connected to Russian annoyance over the FIFA scandals.
So, why is Investigative Committee member Markin speculating about conspiracy theories surrounding US moon landings that happened decades ago? In his op-ed, the Russian official also emphasized that “US authorities had crossed a line by launching a large-scale corruption probe targeting nine Fifa officials,” according to the Moscow Times.
I don't see the connection, but I guess I don't need to.

A Personal Email from Scott Walker

There may be some who doubt my credentials as a big-time political insider. Well, if so, I’ll have you know that I’m on a first-name basis with Scott Walker.

Just today I got this highly personalized message from my pal Scott asking my advice on an important decision he’s trying to make.

Bob,
Let’s get right to the point … 
I am nearing a decision on whether to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States and the strong support I receive in the coming days will help me decide. 
That is why I am reaching out to key conservatives like you, Bob. Please let me know you support a run with a contribution of $10, $35, $50, $100, $250, or even $500 right now. 
We will need the strong support of like-minded conservatives from all across the country if we decide to run. If you think I should run — and will support a run — please let me know right now with a generous contribution today.

Etc.

I’m still working out how to advise ol’ Scotty. Anyone want to advise the advisor?

PS: Did you note that part about “key conservatives like you” — how ’bout that? And you thought I was just some nobody.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Flag Controversy

Apropos the recent controversy about the Confederate flag, someone dug this up from twenty-plus years ago:


Will Belgium Sue FIFA for Fraud?

Belgium and Netherlands bid together on the 2018 World Cup, spending $10.2 mil in the process. If Russia got the host job through fraud, Belgium wants their money back.
Belgium may seek compensation over the €4.5m (£3.2m) spent on its unsuccessful 2018 World Cup bid if Fifa’s decision to award the finals to Russia is found to be fraudulent. 
“If fraud is proven, it is obvious to me that we will seek compensation,” the Belgian Football Federation chairman, François de Keersmaecker, told Het Nieuwsblad. The country made a joint bid with the Netherlands that cost €9m.
The article doesn't mention if Netherlands has decided also to sue.

What Do You Do When Your Whole Freaking Country Is Full of Demons?

You perform an Exorcismo Magno, of course.

Given the county's high levels of violence, drug running, abortion (and, no doubt, the spread of gay marriage), it should be no surprise that two Mexican archbishops and a top exorcist recently performed a national exorcism  to rid the country of demons.
Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, the archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara, presided at the closed doors ceremony, the first ever in the history of Mexico.Also participating were Archbishop Jesús Carlos Cabrero of San Luis Potosí, Spanish demonologist and exorcist Father José Antonio Fortea, and a smaller group of priests and lay people. 
The event was not made known to the general public beforehand. According to Archbishop Cabrero, the reserved character of the May 20 ceremony was intended to avoid any misguided interpretations of the ritual.

Tomorrow Will Be Interesting in Athens

I've been following the Grexit drama for what seems like most of my life, though in reality it has only been several months (with roots reaching back to 2009). But we finally seem to be coming to the end game.
Dorothea Lambros stood outside an HSBC branch in central Athens on Friday afternoon, an envelope stuffed with cash in one hand and a 38,000 euro ($43,000) cashier’s check in the other. 
She was a few minutes too late to make her deposit at the London-based bank. She was too scared to take her life-savings back to her Greek bank. She worried it wouldn’t survive the weekend. 
“I don’t know what happens on Monday,” said Lambros, a 58-year-old government employee. 
Nobody does. Every shifting deadline, every last-gasp effort has built up to this: a nation that went to sleep on Friday not knowing what Monday will bring. A deal, or more brinkmanship. Shuttered banks and empty cash machines, or a few more days of euros in their pockets and drachmas in their past - - and maybe their future.
Good luck to the Greeks, but this seems unlikely to end well for them. As Margaret Thatcher noted, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money, and Greece has run out.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

WWC Brackets

Now that we're in the knockout phase, here are how the brackets look.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mexico's Supreme Court Has Effectively Legalized Same-Sex Marriage

Another country, one we may not have expected, has (effectively) legalized same-sex marriage.
In ruling after ruling, the court has said that state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals are discriminatory. Though the decisions have been made to little public fanfare, they have had the effect of legalizing gay marriage inMexico without enshrining it in law. 
Several other countries in Latin America have done the same as Mexico. This may run contrary to our perceptions about highly-Catholic populations and macho cultures.
… the Mexican court’s rulings have added the country to a slowly growing list of Latin American nations permitting same-sex unions.  
Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil already allow same-sex marriage. Chile plans to recognize same-sex civil unions this year; Ecuador approved civil unions in April; and Colombia grants same-sex couples many of the same rights extended to heterosexual married couples.