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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, June 29, 2012

WORD AROUND THE NET


"We had a chance to cover it right. And some people in here don’t get what a big deal getting it wrong is."

Obama Phone
Lately it seems like the justice department can't get anything right. From blown cases by hapless or sloppy federal prosecutors to idiotic schemes, its been ten years or more since the FBI and other law enforcement agencies seemed like they've know what they are doing. The latest fiasco is the Megaupload case. A federal judge has ruled that the FBI illegally sent clones of the online storage company's hard drives to the US, failed to have a properly prepared warrant and thus raided "Kim Dotcom's" house illegally, and held material they had deemed irrelevant to the case. Sloppy? Lazy? Too used to just getting away with lousy procedure and getting caught these days? Who knows.

Yet another procedure using adult stem cells has been developed. This one involves creating disease in cloned human tissue samples, so the researchers can closely study how the disease develops and how to combat it. The stem cells used were adult but treated so they had the same properties as embryonic ones. Embryonic stem cell research meanwhile has continued to be nearly worthless and highly controversial and ethically challenged.

Can we at least agree that a bill that deals only with health insurance is not a bill about health care at all? Stop calling this debate health care please. Stop using that phrase. Its just insurance. All this is about money and who controls the cash flow, not how good the care is.

Unfortunately in the cable news business, haste can get you into some serious trouble. The need to beat out competition and especially the internet to get your news out first has created problems in the past, but CNN really stepped in it recently. Michael Hastings reports at Buzzfeed:
A producer inside the courtroom, Bill Mears, communicated the information to a relatively junior reporter, Kate Bolduan, the face of the network's coverage outside on the courthouse steps.

Bolduan then reported, on air, that the invidual mandate was “not valid,” citing producer Mears.

“It appears as if the Supreme Court justices struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece,” of the law, she said.
CNN had "individual mandate struck down" in text at the bottom of the screen for seven minutes, although the legislation wasn't actually thrown out by the court, it was ruled a tax instead. Of course the Buzzfeed piece focuses on how little experience and how pretty the reporter is and how MSNBC (andfoxnews) got it right.

Probably not helping CNN's image is the recent reference to the sensationalistic fictional Dan Brown books as authoritative in depicting the Roman Catholic Church, which is like using Dr Seuss to describe cuisine.

Attorney General Eric Holder has been held in contempt of Congress for his stonewalling on Fast & Furious documentation, not to mention his lies and reversals. 15 Democrats joined the Republicans, and Holder scoffed at it. The Congressional Black Caucus walked out in protest, suggesting that they're racist (they wouldn't have done this if Holder was white). The vote is largely symbolic, congress can't really do anything about it.  The agency that would take them to task legally is... their own agency, which shock of all shocks declines to take action.

Walter Russel Meade argues that while the President not long ago admitted no project was "shovel ready" for the "stimulus" spending despite his speeches to the contrary trying to get it passed, in truth nothing is shovel ready these days.
The time between planning a project and actually carrying it out stretches into decades. To those who bemoan the lack of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects in America: this is why.

Even if you are a Keynesian and believe that deficit spending helps the economy to grow, infrastructure projects won’t do the trick anymore. By the time you’re actually actually able to get the project off the ground, the recession has been over for years.
Between bureaucratic delays, environmental studies, protests, lawsuits, and delaying tactics, planning, and corruption, it takes ages to get any major product started.

Temper, temper. A group of idiot hooligan teenagers threw a milkshake at a woman (possibly just throwing it out the window, but probably just "ha ha watch this"). She retaliated by throwing the only thing she had in hand: her alligator skin purse, which flew through the window of the Range Rover, containing her personal effects and $2000 in cash. Is that technically robbery?

Peter Orzag, head of the White House Office of Management and Budget recently called for a law to force everyone to vote. His argument is that it would reduce negative campaigning and the cost of get-out-the-vote spending, but the real reason is likely that Democrats aren't as motivated to get out and vote for Obama this time.

Lost in the deluge of the recent Health Insurance bill ruling is the fact that the "Stolen Valor" act was thrown out as well. This bill made it illegal to wear or lie about gaining military honors such as a Purple Heart or Medal of Honor. Intended to protect the honor of these awards and the men who have earned them, the court ruled that it was an impermissible limitation of free speech rights. Then the members of the court went out and kicked puppies, giggling with glee.

Unemployed, a man was at the elevated train when he saw a gust of wind drive a baby carriage containing a baby onto the tracks. Without thinking about it, he says, he jumped down, got the baby to safety, and went on with his business. A company heard about it and hired the guy because of his character, they said.

Nearly 80% of the so-called "Farm Bill" that the Senate passed with Republican support consists of Food Stamp money. What exactly this has to do with farming is not immediately apparent, but this yearly legislation has long been a favorite to pack with various other spending and get through based on its farming content. Given the rest is stuff like subsidies, price support, and wetlands conservation projects the whole monstrosity should be shot down.

Black teens mobbed an Albertson's grocery store in Oregon, robbing and terrorizing customers. At least forty hoodie-wearing punks were involved, from ages estimated at 13-15. The store employees say the kids were bragging about how they could do anything they wanted, and the employees were overwhelmed. This is part of a chain of previous events in the Portland area and nationwide, where black youths rob, beat, and terrorize particularly white people in mobs.

Climate Change computer modeling is a total, utter, and objectively proven failure. They fail to model past events when the data is plugged in, they give radically different results based on which is used (but always wrong), and they are often pre-loaded to give specific results such as the "hockey stick" model. Ross McKitrick writes at the Financial Post about a study done by the Journal of Forecasting, which studies predictive efforts. Their study gives a score of 0 to a perfect model, fewest errors like golf:
The climate models, by contrast, got scores ranging from 2.4 to 3.7, indicating a total failure to provide valid forecast information at the regional level, even on long time scales. The authors commented: “This implies that the current [climate] models are ill-suited to localized decadal predictions, even though they are used as inputs for policymaking.”
then, climate change alarmism isn't the only failure when it comes to predictions. Political "science" second only to "sociology" as a false science, is lousy too. Jacqueline Stevens writes at the New York Times:
It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money.

[examples snipped]

How do we know that these examples aren’t atypical cherries picked by a political theorist munching sour grapes? Because in the 1980s, the political psychologist Philip E. Tetlock began systematically quizzing 284 political experts — most of whom were political science Ph.D.’s — on dozens of basic questions, like whether a country would go to war, leave NATO or change its boundaries or a political leader would remain in office. His book “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” won the A.P.S.A.’s prize for the best book published on government, politics or international affairs.

Professor Tetlock’s main finding? Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts.
Because inelegant, messy complications such as grievances and inequalities are very difficult to quantify, they're just ignored. And the situations are too complicated, open ended and unpredictable to... predict.

Want an Obama Phone? Yeah, the cell phone program where the US Government gives poor people a cell phone has been around a while, despite being completely insupportable by common sense or constitutional law. But they're calling it specifically the "Obama Phone." This is not a joke. This is not a parody. This is a real program that started in 2008, and the Obama administration specifically pushes the idea of this being connected to the president.

In order to get a license to drive a taxi in New York City, you have to buy a "medallion" for your service. This medallion is one of the least disguised systems of corruption, favor-brokering, and graft in government today, as Jeff Horowitz and Chris Cumming write about in Salon. Its a big money maker - over a million bucks for one last year - and as many New Yorkers have noted its no protection for quality of service. What's funny is that the article first complains about the cost of a taxi ride and how little drivers make then turns around and complains the Bloomberg wasn't able to force the taxis to be hybrids, which would have skyrocketed the costs.

According to the White House National Renewable Energy Laboratory, president Obama's "green economy" initiatives created jobs at the cost of over nine million dollars each. As Ezra Levant points out, this isn't a GOP ad, its from the White House its self. And despite this huge pile of cash thrown at them, the companies keep collapsing, going bankrupt, and leaving the country.

Steve Maley at RedState points out through careful research and helpful images that while fracking has the environmental movement screaming and tearing its hair out about the damage to water supply (damage which has never yet demonstrated to have taken place anywhere), actually the non-fracking model of drilling for oil is more likely to affect the water supply. But why should that let people stop panicking? This isn't about the water supply or environment, its about blocking a new energy source to keep gas prices going up and move people away from fossil fuels.

China's house-of-cards economy is teetering even more, if this story is accurate. Keith Bradsher writes at the New York Times:
As the Chinese economy continues to sputter, prominent corporate executives in China and Western economists say there is evidence that local and provincial officials are falsifying economic statistics to disguise the true depth of the troubles.

Record-setting mountains of excess coal have accumulated at the country’s biggest storage areas because power plants are burning less coal in the face of tumbling electricity demand. But local and provincial government officials have forced plant managers not to report to Beijing the full extent of the slowdown, power sector executives said.
Corruption and lying by Chinese officials? Never!

Although Robert Parker died last year, his Spenser novels are still popular (even if the last couple went downhill pretty badly). Now writer Ace Atkins has been tapped to carry on the popular mystery series. Hilariously, some Spencer fans are outraged that someone other than Parker write these books, given how he wrote several (frankly poor) books about Raymond Chandler's detective Phillip Marlowe.

Babysitting is an old tradition in America at least, and having an older sibling care for the younger ones is quite common. However, the SEIU recently tried to get that job unionized to control it (and failed), and recently a mom was arrested for letting her 13 year old babysit her other 3 children. Because parents aren't really in charge of their kids or family, its government which has the power.

Businesses once they get past a certain size are basically forced to lobby and give gifts to the federal government - tribute, if you will - to survive and prosper. Timothy Carney writes about how this worked for Microsoft in America, in the Washington Examiner:
...it grated on Hatch and other senators that Gates didn't want to want to play the Washington game. Former Microsoft employee Michael Kinsley, a liberal, wrote of Gates: "He didn't want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone."

This was a mistake. One lobbyist fumed about Gates to author Gary Rivlin: "You look at a guy like Gates, who's been arrogant and cheap and incredibly naive about politics. He genuinely believed that because he was creating jobs or whatever, that'd be enough."

Gates was "cheap" because Microsoft spent only $2 million on lobbying in 1997, and its PAC contributed less than $50,000 during the 1996 election cycle.

"You can't say, 'We're better than that,' " a Microsoft lobbyist told me on Friday. "At some point, you get too big, and you can't just ignore Washington."

"You can sit there and say, 'We despise Washington and we don't want to have anything to do with them,' " the lobbyist said. "But guess what? We're going to have hearings about the [stuff] you do."
Lobby or we'll go after you. You must kiss the ring of congress. Its essentially a cost of doing business for big companies in America, but too many think it goes the other way, with corporations in charge and politicians cowering before them. Who is John Galt?

Meanwhile, lawyers continue to go crazy, cost us all millions, and make life miserable:



Indeed. Nor is the problem confined just to a few models. In a 2010 paper, a co-author and I looked at how well an average formed from all 23 climate models used for the 2007 IPCC report did at explaining the spatial pattern of temperature trends on land after 1979, compared with a rival model that all the experts keep telling me should have no explanatory power at all: the regional pattern of socioeconomic growth. Any effects from those factors, I have been told many times, are removed from the climate data before it is published. And yet I keep finding the socioeconomic patterns do a very good job of explaining the patterns of temperature trends over land. In our 2010 paper we showed that the climate models, averaged together, do very poorly, while the socioeconomic data does quite well.
They're worthless, dealing with something far more massively complicated than the scientists are interested or able to model, all pushing for a specific outcome to get more of that sweet research cash, fit in with their alarmist friends, and help push a political outcome.

But
  • There is now one lawyer in America for every 257 people. In 1950 that ratio as 1:750, and that's still too many.
  • A New Jersey woman is suing a little league baseball catcher after he threw a ball into her face. The 11-year-old was warming up a pitcher and overthew the ball; she wants $150,000 in damages.
  • Museums and art scholars are pretty quiet about the validity of works these days, out of fear of lawsuits. If you say something is fake and get proved wrong, you're open to a suit.
  • The Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California is arguing before court that an illegal alien should be admitted to the bar and allowed to practice. Sure, a lawyer is an officer of the court who must obey the law or be thrown out but does being illegal really count? Not in California, it seems.
  • New Jersey, a judge ruled that Netflix must have close captioning available on all their content. In fact, he made it clear from the beginning that's exactly how he was going to rule, no matter what.
Readers of this blog know I mock the press pretty hard for their failures, and the coverage of Egypt was one of the big failures. And the BBC recently admitted they did a lousy job of it.
Head of news Helen Boaden admitted that her journalists got carried away with events and produced ‘over-excited’ reports.

She told a BBC Trust report that in Libya, where reporters were ‘embedded’ with rebels, they may have failed to explore both sides of the story properly.

Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was among those criticised in the study into coverage of the uprisings, which found that ‘excitement’ did sometimes ‘infect’ the reporting, which some viewers described as ‘too emotive’ and ‘veering into opinion’.

The document, published yesterday, also raised concerns about the corporation’s use of footage filmed on mobile phones and other user-generated content. It noted that the BBC failed to warn viewers with ‘caveats’ about the ‘authenticity’ of such footage in 74 per cent of cases.

It also warned that the corporation ignored events in some countries as it concentrated on ‘big’ stories.
Excitement over the idea of the glorious revolution and the people overthrowing tyrants led many n news outlets into this kind of stupidity, but at least the BBC has come clean about it.

Border patrol agents are being taught to duck and cover when confronted by illegals, according to a new report. Well, I guess that would cut down on the police casualties from Fast & Furious.

Our local newspaper the Statesman-Journal would be a tenth its size (and mostly ads) if the AP or UPI wires stopped working. There's just virtually no local reporting in it, which is cheaper, I suppose but pretty weak for a newspaper. And they're hardly alone in this practice; a recent report out of Australia notes that
Fairfax sites theage.com.au and smh.com.au shared a monthly mean of around 97% of their content with at least one other metro, while at Brisbane Times mean sharing was 88% and at WAtoday, 95%. In comparison Melbourne’s heraldsun.com.au was the highest average news-sharing site studied in the News Digital network at 13.6% monthly. The couriermail.com.au was next highest at 7.2%, the dailytelegraph.com.au at 5.1%, and perthnow.com.au shared a mean of 3.5% of its stories in our two categories of top and national news.
By total coincidence, the more left leaning the news source the more it simply uses wire reports.

Prominent San Francisco homosexual activist Larry Brinkin has been arrested for child molestation and child porn charges. The actual evidence in the case are pretty awful and I won't repeat them here, but he clearly lusts after young boys. But then... how's that wrong, based on the usual homosexual activist set of morality? Where's the evil in this if you think love conquers all and we shouldn't judge people? Yeah I know blah blah consent, but as I've said many times before consent is a legal structure.

Oregon is trying to replace the very limited coal burning power generation the state uses with biomass. The theory is that this will pollute less, but while anthracite is compacted in highly efficient, concentrated black bits, biomass isn't so much.
Converting the Boardman plant to run on biomass could also change the way agriculture is done for 50 or even 100 miles around, PGE says, because growing enough giant cane to meet that demand around the clock would take more than 60,000 acres, triple the area of Manhattan and a substantial share of the irrigated farmland near Boardman.

The boiler would need to burn 8,000 tons of plant material each day to keep its water steaming and its turbine spinning.
Why even bother? Well Oregon law mandates that utilities must also get 15% of their electricity from "renewable" sources by 2015, and up to 25% in 2025. Even if its stupid, inefficient, expensive, and ultimately can't be done.

German politicians think they have the answer for blackouts, rising energy prices, and other consequences of the "renewable" energy demands they keep forcing on people.
VdK Social Association of Hesse-Thuringia is demanding social tariffs. VdK chairman Udo Schlitt says that without a price rebate, more and more people with low incomes are going to have their power shut off. He proposes:

"Therefore all power producers must be mandated to offer binding social rates by law.”

So in summary, here’s Germany’s latest energy plan: 1) Force power companies to buy exorbitantly-priced, inefficient and intermittent-supply green energy on one side, and then force them to give it away, or sell it at a low price, on the sales side!
Brilliant! This can't possibly go wrong!

Judaism is illegal in Germany. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but German courts just ruled religious circumcision as illegal, a fundamental and ancient Jewish religious ceremony. Of all the countries on earth, you'd think that GERMANY would want to avoid that kind of thing.

Sixteen-year-old Becky has gone missing. She was last seen at Occupy Chicago with a guy who called himself "Nemo" and no one can find her. The Occupy movement has been working to find her without contacting the police, probably to avoid publicity that an underage girl has vanished in their midst, and in no small part due to a hatred of police. Nemo says she isn't with him and will show up, but now Occupy is looking for Nemo, too. And the cops got involved eventually because the girl's mom contacted them. Letting your daughter go to an Occupy event is practically child abuse.

Although some tried to portray it as such, the Roberts Supreme Court has been the least activist in modern memory, according to Gabriel Malor at the Ace of Spades HQ. His thesis is based on overturning laws:
(1) The Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist Courts overturned precedent decisions at an average rate of 2.7, 2.8 and 2.4 per term, respectively. By contrast, the Roberts Court overturned precedent only at an average rate of 1.6 per term.

(2) The Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist Courts overturned laws at an average rate of 7.9, 12.5, and 6.2 laws per term. By contrast, the Roberts Court struck down only 3 laws per term.
By the way, before the decision was announced yesterday, many on the left were wailing that a 5-4 decision showed how politicized and horrible the courts had become. Funny, you don't hear them saying that now about the 5-4 decision in their favor.

Although a lot of companies block much of the internet and discourage social media use on the job, some are starting to encourage it. Kamelia Angelova writes at Business Insider:
Companies will soon start implementing social media literacy training that would become as common as ethics training and diversity training.

Some corporations, such as PepsiCo, have already allowed easy-sharing options in their company newsletters that encourage its staff to promote internal company news, thus, harnessing the social media power of over 300,000 employees.
How could this possibly go wrong?

Last week, I noted that an ABC report said that activist Christians at a Dearborn Islamic festival were causing problems and resulted in Muslim retaliation. This week, some more news: cops stood by and did nothing as the Muslims attacked the Christians. Then they threatened the Christians with arrest and ordered them to leave. This is why Dearborn had to pay a gargantuan settlement last time around; its one thing to stir up trouble, its another for the police to shrug when bad things result and pick on the Christians only. But then, the bulk of the population of Dearborn is Muslim, so that outcome is almost predictable.

Scott Johnson at Power Line has a question:
Has the Supreme Court ever served as a bulwark of constitutional liberty when the chips were down?
Expecting the Supreme Court to protect American citizens from outrageous or excessive legislation and defend their liberties is not just foolish, it is counterproductive.

Its being hammered and is difficult to load, but Roll Call has the story where Congressman Issa (R-CA) has read the wiretap data they've managed to obtain from the Justice Department about the purpose of Fast & Furious. Here's an excerpt:
The tactic, which was intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder scene.
You get that? They were hoping to track the guns by finding them at crime scenes. Its just possible that the Obama administration instead of trying to back door gun control was just so unbelievably, inexcusably stupid as to think this was an effective, proper way to track guns. That they'd just be rounded up in raids and drug busts, not at murder scenes and mass slaughters by drug gangs.

Which means instead of being evil, they're just inconceivably idiotic and naive to the point of being dangerous to all humanity. And given how idiotic the left views the world? I'd say this is even likely. I may have been wrong about the motivation all this time. Except if this was the motivation, why didn't they just say so?

And finally, if you like movies, there are over five hundred free-to-watch public domain movies online you can view at your leisure. These films range from the excellent to the horrible, and all of them are guilt-free to watch.

And that's the Word Around the Net for June 29, 2012.

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