June 28, 2013

Friday Musical Interlude - Stevie Nicks on SNL

From 1983, Stevie Nicks singing her then new single, Stand Back on Saturday Night Live. This was back when lip syncing was frowned upon.

June 27, 2013

Thursday Hillary Bash - Tapout Edition

I'm preoccupied today with my wife's dental adventures, and I'm also feeling pretty low energy.  So instead of investing an effort in pointing out obvious potential flaws with a Hillary Clinton presidency, I thought I would just tap out and say, yep - she's going to win in 2016.

But I'm not THAT tired.  Instead, enjoy this video of her cynicism in 2000.  Hopefully the NSA has done some investigating of her emails while it was busy collecting everyone else's.

June 26, 2013

It's Prism, not black and white

Not the point of it all.
After my last post, there are those out there who if they read it would say I've gone off of the conservative reservation.  Jed Babbin had a column at the American Spectator that I think would have him included in the list of people who think I'm suddenly a liberal anti-American scumbag. To someone like him, the Snowden revelations are clear cut, black and white.

Babbin recently opined:
Without making too fine a point of it, Snowden is a punk, a thief, and comparable only to Bradley Manning, the Army private now being court-martialed for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified emails. Snowden, like Manning, stole the information he leaked. Like Manning, he inflicted — with malice aforethought — damage on his country. Manning apparently did it in protest of the burden inflicted on him — he’s a gay activist — by the army. Snowden, a 29-year-old employed by a contractor working for NSA, doesn’t even have that excuse.

There’s still no problem telling right from wrong here. Neither of these pusillanimous punks had the right to decide for himself what should be leaked or not. But that’s not enough to dissuade some on the left, including one Laura Donohue, a Georgetown Law professor who, to the university’s undying shame, directs the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law.

In a Saturday op-ed, Mizz Donohue opines that the NSA’s surveillance programs not only violate the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, but they also gather “…millions of Americans’ emails, photographs and documents.”

According to Donohue, it’s also improper for Verizon to be ordered to give the government the metadata on its customers’ phone calls. She contends that the law is being abused, wholesale, in violation of the Constitution.

Apparently, Donohue has confused the NSA with the IRS. They are not hunting for Americans to oppress because of their politics or even their religion. If you read, for example, the NSA procedure on targeting individuals for interception of data, you’ll see that the NSA spends an enormous amount of time scurrying around and debating with its lawyers to avoid gathering data on the wrong person.

Public Service Announcement: Avoid cybersnooping happening to you

Do you want to avoid the NSA cybersnooping on you? Want to surf anonymously?  Here's a few ideas. First via Reason TV, information on the Tor Project.

Duck Duck Go, a search engine, allows you to surf anonymously.

Tech Chop in 2012 talked about some ideas in 2012 about how to avoid creepy government cybersnooping. They also discuss Tor.  You can skip to 4:05 to see the anti-snooping portion of the video. 

Hope this helps give you some starting ideas.

Supremely confused

The Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. It is easily arguable that this is not a conservative court. A lot of people will be making that argument today.  I am not hopping on that pile today.
However while it is legally understandable that if gay couples are allowed to marry, it is less arguable that marriage should have its definition changed to fit the times.  Churches are not being forced to perform marriages that do not fit their belief systems (or synagogues or mosques).

But church goers are now being forced to subsidize tax, and health benefits for those who do not share their definition of marriage - the common, historical definition.

It is the same as Obamacare requiring Catholic hospitals to provide birth control if they want continued government funding.

This will bring states' rights back into focus.

The Supreme Court is extremely confusing of late. With another Obama term and a possible Hillary term  following it could get far worse for a long time.

June 25, 2013

Obama's climate yawner.

President Obama's second term, aside from the quagmire of scandals, it seems will be dedicated to saving the planet, placating Al Gore and destroying American energy independence for all time.  His sudden attraction to something he promised after his nomination (the seas will stop rising), is just a ploy to distract America from his scandal-plagued administration. Worse still, he is making cookie-cutter speeches to the liberal issues that play to the current 'crowd'.

Written like a dyed in the wool liberal, Raf Sanchez at The Telegraph tells the story.
In sweeping proposals released after four years of frustrated efforts, Mr Obama ordered new curbs on carbon emissions from power plants and called for America to ready its defences [SIC] against an already-changing climate.

The president also surprised environmentalists by signalling he would reject a controversial oil pipeline if it was found to “significantly exacerbate” the problem of carbon pollution.

“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing,” Mr Obama told students at Georgetown University. “As a president, as a father and as an American I’m here to say we need to act.”

Mr Obama first promised a new push on climate change during his inagural address on a freezing morning in January, warning that failing to cut emissions “would betray our children”.

Today, as Washington sweltered in the summer heat, Mr Obama finally laid out the details of his plan, which can be carried out by executive order and therefore do not need Congressional approval.
Yawn.  Who cares any more?  The climate stopped heating up a long time ago.  And Obama gave almost this same speech in Berlin earlier except you have to delete the nuclear arms reductions points and insert climate change points and is trying it out again because apparently, no one was listening.  Another reason it's a yawner, the American public, and the constituency he is attempting to appease, have kinda sorta moved on:
There has been a sharp decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising. And fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem – 35% say that today, down from 44% in April 2008.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that 57% think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71% said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.

Over the same period, there has been a comparable decline in the proportion of Americans who say global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Just 36% say that currently, down from 47% last year.
NOT A LEADER. Just ask this guy. Frankly, lame duck is now too good a term for this president.

Full on Hillcult can be found here


June 24, 2013

Quick Hits inspired by Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey has opted out of promoting his new movie because of the gun violence involved. He is being consistent in his principles - having been an avid anti-gun advocate since Sandy Hook.  But the same consistency cannot be seen in his career. His star has dwindled and he is sabotaging his own career by refusing to promote the film. But that aside, he has been paid a salary - would that not including efforts at promotion for the film, as a contractual obligation?  I disagree with his stance on the second amendment, but I am not questioning his commitment to his cause.  I am questioning his commitment to his obligations.


In the same story I was reminded about something that has bothered me for some time.  There was a quote from the Executive Producer, about films not being responsible for changing behavior in those who view it;
"Ultimately, this is his decision, but I've never quite bought the notion that violence in fiction leads to violence in real-life any more than Harry Potter casting a spell creates more Boy Wizards in real-life."
That's a common cry from Hollywood - don't blame us for the violence or moral decay in society.  We are a mirror of society not an inspiration for it.

Okay, then explain to me why there are so many activist actors trying to influence the public with their politics.  And why is that reflected in movies and music and television show advocacy?  It's not hypocrisy, it's duplicity.


Jim Carrey's post Sandy Hook twitter tweet was also mentioned in the article:

"20 mass shootings a yr in America. Are you ok with that? I'm not. ;^\"

Great Jim. But aren't you still a Canadian citizen as well as an American citizen? Yeah, then you might want to commit to a country before you commit to a political stance anathema to the Constitution of one of those two countries. Just saying.


People from other countries unwilling to commit to the new nation ultimately end up being a burden and disruptive to their host nation. Carrey's a burden because he's trying to change the culture to suit his own views.  He's okay with making money from a violent movie but he doesn't want people to watch it. WTF?

Given that dichotomy what are we to make of illegal immigrants from Mexico who clearly do not identify as American, aren't willing to conform to its rules (in fact their very presence is a violation of those laws)?  What is their motivation?  Where is their national allegiance?  The answer it seems, is to naturalize these millions of people. Right now.  And what will they bring to the nation should they be legalized? With those questions still unanswered or the answers dubious at best, there should be ZERO rush to pass immigration reform that offers amnesty.

June 23, 2013

Irony, American style

Americans don't get fourth Amendment protections from the Constitutions because the government feels like it can blanket collect email and phone data on its own citizens even though they haven't broken the law.

Illegal immigrants should be granted amnesty and given a path to citizenship because the government doesn't know what to do with them.  They broke the law but are being rewarded for it.

That's irony, American style.

Here's a bonus irony for you - those illegal immigrants, if nothing changes, will have their Constitutional rights systematically taken away too, after they become citizens.

Testify: It's all lies

If the president were serious about how the United States is perceived in the world, he would not have handled the scandals involving spying on the press, and spying on citizens the way he has mishandled it all. There is so much down side - not for the president, but for the country - to not taking control of this situation. In the eyes of the world, it's all lies.

I don't mean taking control politically.  That seems to be the path the president is taking. He is busy blaming Bush, arguing that it has helped foil terror plots, and that he welcomes the debate over security vs. liberty - as if he can't wait for Bush's terrible policies to finally be put to rest.  He is trotting out obscure people to make statements and take questions so as to disassociate his own face with these scandals, and to spread the image of accountability as far and wide as possible. Those are the actions of a self-serving politician.  What would a real leader do?

The first thing a real leader would do is, to borrow the vernacular, recognize.

A real leader would recognize the issue.  The issue is multifaceted. First of all there is the foreign impression this creates.  There are so many people in this world who despise the United States, who truly believe that all of the talk from America about liberty, and virtue and human rights is just talk. This despite the Obama apology tour.  And with these scandals coming out one after another, their suspicions about the United States, in their minds are confirmed. Pravda, People's Daily and the Islamic Republic News Agency have enough from these scandals and the ensuing non-answers to last their propaganda mills for years.  The United States is suffering immeasurable PR damage and it needs to be stopped.

Domestically, the damage is even greater.  If the government does not believe in its own Constitution, then the country is not what it claims to represent.  Why should citizens believe in a government that does not believe in its own rule of law?  How is that different from a Ghaddafi government in Libya?  The covenant between the American government and its citizens has been broken - by the government.  Why should the government then be respected or kept, by the people of America? What nation is left to believe in?  THAT is scary.  

No fourth amendment -> no Constitution -> no country.

Having recognized the significance of the situation, a leader, a real leader, would repudiate a lot. He would level set on what the Constitution means to the country and to him personally.  He would testify as to his believe in the Constitution and he would repudiate any wrong-doing on the part of the government.  He would the agree that as much as possible must be brought forth with respect to how the government is dealing with it's own citizens so that the truth is known and any errors in judgement and any .  He would differentiate between what the government will do with foreign threats and operatives (yes, spies are still necessary) and what protections it will ensure are afforded to the people of America.  He will delineate how those liberties will be protected.

He will repudiate any foreign accusations of American hypocrisy by saying that one brief period of errors is not a pattern unlike what has happened in Russia or China or Iran or Syria (for example).

That's what a real leader would do, not hide, not cover his own ass or compound lies with more lies.  A real leader does not spout slogans and platitudes - a real leader leads, and fixes problems. Now if only America had a real leader.

Snowden's What Happens Next

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is on the move.  Stories have him leaving Hong Kong and now on the move to Equador, or Cuba or Russia. The extradition request from the United States it seems, was a day late and a dollar short.  But the most interesting question is this:  The president promised to put an online petition on the White House website.  Having done so, there is now a petition out there closing in on the 100,000 signature threshold to be reviewed.  The petition relates to Edward Snowden and seeks to have him pardoned for leaking the information he has leaked.

The Daily Dot has the details:
President Obama will now be forced to weigh in on the public's desire to pardon PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden, despite a carefully crafted effort to neither praise nor condemn him.

A We the People petition titled "Pardon Edward Snowden" reached the requisite 100,000 signatures Saturday morning. By the Obama administration's own rules, any petition that reaches that threshold will receive a formal response from the White House, though there’s no formal timetable for the official comment.
What the president decides to do with the petition is an interesting point. He could agree, he could go the route of a representative republic and say it is not in the public's best interest to pardon Snowden, or he could obfuscate and stall (or defer in more delicate terminology) - after all, bringing Snowden to America, prosecuting him and then considering a pardon may take long enough to outlive the presidency of Obama. I wonder what Hillary Clinton would have to say on the decision.

Speaking of which, has anyone asked Clinton what she thinks of the NSA Prism scandal?  Shouldn't they?

For Snowden, he will likely be able to find someplace happy to take him in and not extradite him back to America.  But the hunt for Snowden has taken on political significance too. It is no longer just a matter of national security.  The administration is using national security as a shield to protect itself from the scandal and the charges of hypocrisy directed at the president.

No matter what the president does, he risks further damaging his brand.  Though each option also presents some opportunity as well.  Given the dizzying array of scandals facing the president, damage it seems, is far more likely a result.

Agreeing to exonerate Snowden is probably the most noble approach for the president.  It's in line with his pre-election claims of transparency.  But there's that little problem of non-transparency, duplicity, and hypocrisy after his first election.

Disavowing the petition of course is blatantly anti-democracy in the eyes of many of his supporters, and hemming and hawing about these things will take time to sort themselves out is equally disingenuous (a la the Keystone pipeline non-decision.

No matter what happens, Snowden should have no misconception that his fate, petition-wise, will be dependent on the political calculus of what works for president Obama, and not on the merits of the petition.

June 22, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Six Sigma (Part 7)

In a continuation from last week's Saturday Learning Series (Part 6), the MIT course on Six Sigma continues to look at the supply chain.

June 21, 2013

Friday Musical Interlude - Bonus item

Canadian band The Kings in 1980 released a McCartney-esque single This Beat Goes on/Switching To Glide.  It's 2 songs in one, like a lot of McCartney penned tunes (Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey or Band on the Run),  Of course Queen also did it most notably with We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions.  In any case, if you are going to force two songs into one, they both better be good or at least catchy.  The Kings accomplish that with This Beat Goes on/Switching To Glide.

Friday Musical Interlude - Cruel To Be Kind

Nick Lowe from 1979 with his single Cruel To Be Kind. A song that once in your head, is hard to get out of there.

June 20, 2013

Thursday Hillary Bash - Hero Worship

A lot better than 57 states.
If you don't think Democrats are lining up for a Hillary Clinton presidency in 2016, think again.
Ready for Hillary? You better be.

Just six months into President Obama’s second term, the 2016 coronation for his former rival has begun, and Vice President Biden — ever the bridesmaid, who for three decades has harbored his own presidential hopes — has largely been abandoned by his party. It’s Hillary for president, period.

The super-PAC named Ready for Hillary, designed to “draft her,” has been vacuuming up dollars and big-name endorsements since it formed in January, including loyalists and veterans like James Carville, Harold Ickes and former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.). Last month, a National Finance Council was created by the political action committee, headed by former White House political director and senior adviser to Bill Clinton Craig Smith. Ready for Hillary is no effort of grassroots groupies but a proudly, unsubtle campaign in waiting.
So there's hero worship happening. That didn't work out so well for the country with president Obama after 2008. But it did work put well for Democrats that year and to a lesser extent again in 2012. They could pull it off again with Hillary. The scary thing is that these people are re-treads from previous election cycles and they should be entirely beatable.

The candidate herself is entirely beatable and that should matter even more. Pointing out the fallacy of hero worship should be a top grassroots effort on the right over the next 36 months. Hillary Clinton is not some unbeatable icon. Obama himself proved that and there's no need to fear her candidacy IF the right starts weakening her underpinnings sooner rather than later.  

A good place to start might be Benghazi. Push hard enough and maybe in an effort to save his legacy, we might get Obama to throw her under the bus.  Wait too long and it won't matter.  Maybe that's why all these scandals mysteriously sprang up when there started to be smoke on the Benghazi scandal.

Thursday Hillary Bash - Generations Edition

Making no sense whatsoever.
Hillary Clinton's daughter Chelsea doesn't get the irony that she wouldn't be around to make a statement like this if what she stated should have been different had been different like she wanted (whew);
New York, NY (CFAM) — From the stage at the recent Women Deliver conference, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea revealed that her much-admired maternal grandmother was the child of unwed teenage parents who “did not have access to services that are so crucial that Planned Parenthood helps provide.”

Chelsea’s grandmother was born of an unintended pregnancy. And new research shows that her family is not alone in treasuring a person who – if Planned Parenthood had been successful – would not have been born.

“Every child a wanted child” is the rallying cry of family planning organizations that promote abortion as a way to achieve that goal. The New York Times Magazine recently described a study of women who were turned away from abortion clinics because their pregnancies were too far along. Researchers found that in the vast majority of cases – 95% – the mothers bonded with their babies. A significant percentage later denied having ever sought an abortion, despite the fact they were included in the study on that basis.
Her much beloved maternal grandmother could have ended up as an abortion and Chelsea Clinton wouldn't have been around to endorse abortion if abortion had been around in her great-grandparents' time.  That is all that needs to be said about her comments.

However, one has to wonder if Hillary has had some thoughts similar to Chelsea's having raised her and shaped her daughter's views.  She needs to be asked, on the record, for an opinion on her daughter's statement.

Thursday Hillary Bash - Donor Edition

With Democrats moving focus from Obama to Hillary Clinton, the focus of Republicans need to change as well.
Hillary Clinton has already racked up a couple of endorsements for the 2016 presidential race — and she hasn’t even announced she’s running yet. Requests are flooding in for the former secretary of State to campaign for candidates.

Of course, President Obama remains the most sought-after figure, but his star power could fade in the coming months as the chatter about his successor intensifies. His approval rating has fallen as his administration has grappled with a variety of controversies ranging from IRS overreach to government snooping.

“The political focus of the Democratic Party will shift to Hillary, and in some ways it has already,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who, as a staunch Clinton supporter, has an interest in seeing his forecast come true.
Luckily, some focus has indeed started shine on Clinton from the right.  Via Breitbart a few weeks ago;
A northern Virginia businessman was sentenced Friday to more than two years in prison for illegally funneling nearly $200,000 to Hillary Clinton's political campaigns in 2006 and 2008.

William Danielczyk, 51, of Oakton pleaded guilty in February to violating campaign-finance laws by reimbursing employees of his company, Galen Capital, and others who were recruited to attend fundraisers and make contributions Clinton's Senate and presidential campaigns.

There are no allegations Clinton or her campaign acted improperly.
It's no smoking gun but at least someone is looking in the right direction.

June 19, 2013

Privacy versus Security is the wrong debate

I'll make this relatively short.  President Obama said a while back that he welcomes the debate about how much investigative power and leeway the government has to combat terrorism.  On the face of it, that debate makes sense and in fact it is an important debate that goes all the way back to Ben Franklin's quote "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." That's a great quote but using it in this contexts overlooks one aspect of the situation that is a glaring problem.

Is Lindsey Graham the worst Republican ever?

He's got a lot of competition from Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, and even the likes of Scott Brown - all RINO Republicans.  But they all tend to have an excuse - they are or were in blue, Democrat states and had to be as mildly Republican as they could possibly be in order to have a shot at election or re-election.  Even then, it didn't always work for them - see Scott Brown for example, losing his re-election bid to a woman who had no business winning in Massachusetts or anywhere.  Lindsey Graham has no such excuse.  His home state of South Carolina was a deeper red than Mitt Romney. And there's John McCain who is no slouch when it comes to being a faux Republican.

Yet Graham's out there time and again talking about Republicans permanently losing relevance or in the middle of the bitter Tea Party versus Obamacare debate wanting to work with the president. He's out there fighting for capitulation on immigration.  And then there's this:

Of course there's always Richard Nixon he can point to as worse.

June 18, 2013

Maybe Google has a spine?

Via WaPo,
Google asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday to ease long-standing gag orders over data requests it makes, arguing that the company has a constitutional right to speak about information it’s forced to give the government.

The legal filing, which cites the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, is the latest move by the California-based tech giant to protect its reputation in the aftermath of news reports about sweeping National Security Agency surveillance of Internet traffic.

Google, one of nine companies named in NSA documents as providing information to the top-secret PRISM program, has demanded that U.S. officials give it more leeway to describe the company’s relationship with the government. Google and the other companies involved have sought to reassure users that their privacy is being protected from unwarranted intrusions.
Maybe a little bit late but at least they are distancing themselves from the administration.  It's amazing what self-preservation will cause people and companies to do.

Timing is almost everything

I've got a job interview - actually a phone screen interview - this morning and yesterday I came down with a wicked head cold and some sort of infection.  Timing is almost everything.  Nevertheless I will muddle through as best I can, because perseverance and preparedness have to count for something, right? Details matter.

If I were the president and these scandals were all unfolding, I would make sure that I controlled how the information about each of these scandals came out.  I wouldn't be surprised if the terrible leader was still being a very good politician and doing everything he can behind the scenes to control not only the spin on everything coming out, but the timing.

I hope his political opponents are thinking the same thing. Look at the Guardian interviews with whistleblower/traitor Snowden on the NSA leaks.  Not everything came out at the same time, and the ACORN investigation/sting run by James O'Keefe was bled out slowly with one video at a time.  It made the scandal loom larger, hold the public consciousness longer and also gave the agency enough rope (time) to hang itself by claiming, each time, that these were isolated incidents.

My point is simple - those involved in investigating these scandals are facing a hyper-political administration.  There had better be some thought going into managing the politics and the timing of revelations.  All at once could overwhelm the administration and also the public's perception, but it could also result in a temporary impact.  It could also mean that the various scandals will compete for the headlines and to a degree, cancel each other out.  That may be what the president is hoping to have happen.  On the other hand, a slower, staggered release of scandal-related material may have a longer lasting impact but take longer to take hold.  There are pros and cons to how to handle all these concurrent scandals.  I'm not sure that Republicans are staying on top of how to manage them all, but they should be.

Meanwhile, I hope my voice holds up for an hour.

June 17, 2013

CBS News compares Iranian Mullahs to...the Tea Party

Bias-free, neutral CBS News? When was that? This blows that notion out of the water.
Those radical Muslim hard-liners lusting for a nuclear bomb to wipe the stain of Israel off the map of the Middle East are just like the American tea party.

That’s according to CBS News London correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, who commented Monday on the results of Friday’s sham Iran election, which was won by a delusionally described “moderate,” one of eight candidates approved to be on the ballot for the Islamic Republic’s voters to “choose” from...

How could anyone compare the American tea party to a slate of candidates that had to get the supreme leader’s approval to run for president of Iran?

In Palmer’s words, Rowhani is “extremely close to the centers of power in Iran,” which doesn’t quite sound like the tea party at this point.
Disgusting.  That's all I will say about that. 

Quick hit: Supremely Disappointing Court

Just happening this morning, the Supreme Court has ruled Arizona's law that requires proof of citizenship for voting purposes illegal.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.

The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona's voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal "Motor Voter" voter registration law.

Federal law "precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself," Justice Antonia Scalia wrote for the court's majority.

The court was considering the legality of Arizona's requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal "motor voter" registration law.
Is it just me or does this seem like a 10th Amendment issue?  We'll need more details to determine the decision's logic, but if this is supposed to be a conservative court, I'm not impressed.

Quick hits: Immigration, Sequestration & the Pope

Immigration reform: There is supposed to be a covenant between the people of America and the soldiers who risk their lives to protect the freedoms. The soldiers who protect American freedoms are not tasked with protecting the freedoms of those who are not Americans. Those who are in the country contrary to the rule of law, and are likely not paying taxes, aren't living up to their end of the covenant.  Granting them citizenship status is a slap in the face of the soldiers who risk their lives to defend freedom.  They are not supposed to be defending dishonesty.


Sequestration:  Has the government fallen apart since the sequestration cuts kicked in earlier this year? Um, no. So why did the Democrats, particularly the president go into "the sky is falling" mode before the cuts, and then afterwards saying the pain is still coming?  Because they don't want to cut spending, they want to grow government.  They will never be satisfied with any sort of government cutbacks unless the cuts are from defense spending.


Pope Harley?  Just an image concern here.  There's nothing wrong with Harley Davidson donating motorcycles to the Vatican or Pope Francis blessing a swath of bikers, except for the image that is creates.  I'll let you decide to whose image I am referring.


Bonus: Add this to your list of impinged freedoms. Who owns your personal information?  This isn't the same as the Verizon, AP and Prism scandals which are about metadata.  This fourth amendment issue is about your actual health records.

June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there

"I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd." I think a lot of dads think that way.  You want to do your best for your children always, and it isn't always easy. But they are worth the effort.

June 15, 2013

Palin by request

A reader sent me a note asking about what Sarah Palin was up to these days.  While I haven't been paying attention much, since she has sorta disappeared, I do have an update.  Here's an update - from the Family Faith Coalition making a speech today.

For the guy who asked, you're welcome. (Hat tip Common Cents)

Kleptocracy Russia

It's long been suspected that post Soviet-era  Russia as headed by Vladimir Putin was just a front for the former KGB and dictatorial strongman to line his own pockets with insane amounts of wealth.  The government was one of theft from the people by those at the top - a kleptocracy if you will.  It might seem far fetched, but today I read this:
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft revealed the real story behind a 2005 meeting with Vladimir Putin, during which the Russian president pocketed his Super Bowl ring, worth more than $25,000. Kraft, at the time, claimed the diamond-encrusted bauble was a gift, but he now admits Putin stole it, and the White House intervened when he demanded it back.

Kraft explained the incident happened while Sandy Weill and other business execs were in St. Petersburg. “I took out the ring and showed it to [Putin], and he put it on and he goes, ‘I can kill someone with this ring,’ ” Kraft told the crowd at Carnegie Hall’s Medal of Excellence gala at the Waldorf-Astoria.“I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.”
Kleptomania if it's true.  Bizarre claim if it's not true.  In either case, weird. 

Saturday Learning Series - Six Sigma (Part 6)

Last week on the Saturday Learning Series, MIT's ongoing lecture series on Six Sigma (Part 5) was an outside the classroom video and instead was a plant tour.  Today we go back to the classroom for a simulation-based hands on discussion.  It revolves around building a Lego airplane.

June 14, 2013

Chinese Imperialism in Ghana

Those who blame every ill in the world on the United States should watch this documentary,The Price of Gold from The Guardian.

Now is the time! Uh, now?

President Obama has finally decided to arm the rebels in Syria. After resisting evidence of brutality and even chemical weapons being used - his red line - the president has finally decided to help the Syrian rebels. Now is the time to do something.  Apparently.

Why is now the time? After all the rebels have a lot of Al Qaida operatives in their midst now. And the red line was crossed long ago.

The American public do not want to get involved in another war right now.

But now is the time. Why? This is Yugoslavia-Lewinsky all over again.  The president needs a war to distract from the myriad of scandals.

That's why now is the time.  There is no other reason.

Friday Musical Interlude - Tamacun

Rodrigo y Gabriela's Tamacun performed live. While Rodrigo S├ínchez and Gabriela Quintero are Mexican, this is not a post related to immigration reform. While they are vegans and animals rights supporters and have played in Cuba, this is not about politics at all, it is just about enjoyable music.  

The studio version of this song was featured in an episode of Breaking Bad.

June 12, 2013

Leaker Snowden crossed a line

Prior to today, Edward Snowden who leaked a lot of details about the government's secret collection of vast amounts of electronic data of citizens without a warrant or probable cause, has crossed a line.  Previously it could be argued that he was putting liberty ahead of national security. After all, what does national security matter if the principles the nation was founded on and which were enshrined in the Constitution, aren't being protected? Is the nation worth defending at that point?

The debate over those questions has gone away, the debate over whether Snowden himself was a patriot or a traitor, just went south.  There's no doubt he's a traitor now, after this:

Via the decidedly liberal partisan Washington Post, it turns out, that Snowden has started to reveal details about U.S. spying on China.  That's aiding and abetting a rival (if not adversary).
HONG KONG — Edward Snowden, the self-confessed leaker of secret surveillance documents, claimed Wednesday that the United States has mounted massive hacking operations against hundreds of Chinese targets since 2009.

The former contractor, whose work at the National Security Agency gave him access to highly classified U.S. intelligence, made the assertions in an interview with the South China Morning Post. The newspaper said he showed it “unverified documents” describing an extensive U.S. campaign to obtain information from computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Despite the Washington Post's political bent, it's hard to argue that Snowden is clearly sharing information with the Chinese after that South China Morning Post interview.  Snowden is no hero, he's a traitor.  China does not need to know that we are spying on them (or how).  I mean, we know it, they know it but he has damaged both the details and the deniability for America.  But that does not one thing to undercut the information he has shared about government spying on its own citizens.  That is a scandal with serious implications and needs to be investigated, and explained and discussed with all of the seriousness it deserves.  Liberty versus security deserves a lot more than a two minute drill and not to be derailed by the actions of Snowden.  After all, the spying on citizens (the AP scandal, the Prism scandal and the Verizon scandal) and the enemies list (the IRS scandal), are reminiscent of a past president who faced impeachment and ultimately resigned.  

Immigration reform under the radar, Alinsky style

I think the current crop of progressives have developed a new tactic to add to the Alinsky playbook.  The additional rule for radicals would go something like "Overwhelm your opposition with issues all at once, and some of your objectives are sure to get through in the chaos."  That seems to be what's playing out here. A diversion, or at least, using existing circumstances as cover for an agenda item.

With Obama seeking to cement his progressive liberal achievements in his second term he is going to want to have some signature achievement to bookend his first term Obamacare passage.  What that might end up being is a political achievement - getting citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, very likely predisposed to vote Democrat once they are eligible.   Passing the current immigration reform bill floating around Capitol Hill would cement that legacy of one ominous social/governmental achievement (Obamacare) and one political achievement of a (potential) permanent shift of voter demographics to the left, ensuring progressive liberal domination for perhaps decades.

Sliding immigration reform through the Congress would be difficult were it the sole issue facing the country.  But with government overreach at an all time high, and the myriad of scandals facing the administration, the president can leave the efforts on an immigration reform deal to his party and allow some sort of compromise (where Republicans once again get hosed on enforcement of laws) to others in his party.  And that, is creative politics.  It's not good for the country, it's good for Democrats.  It's avoiding the debate on immigration, one the Democrats probably believe they can win anyway.

But while Congress and the public's attention is focused on the scandal the chances of sneaking one agenda item through certainly are no worse and possibly higher than with so many resources who believe the rule of law should apply to immigration, being focused elsewhere.

That may seem cynical and ascribing too much deviousness to the president, but I remember the days when someone in his administration was advising "never let a crisis go to waste".

June 11, 2013

Quick observation - NSA' scandal's biggest loser

I was reading Bob J's Rants moments ago and he made a point that I think encapsulates the entire problem that has bubbled to the surface since the 9-11 attacks.  The NSA's scandal's biggest loser is you.  Yes, you.

You have a segment of the global population - jihadists - intent on wiping out your country on on hand, and on the other hand you have a government not sophisticated enough to capture or monitor terror suspects without majorly eroding your personal privacy.  

The country the jihadists want to destroy might not be around for them to come after if they ever got aroud to doing it successfully.


June 10, 2013

Trading liberty for security

The debate that president Obama supposedly welcomes - how much security versus how much liberty - is one that is just now getting started. I plan on writing a lengthy position on it in the near future.  I need to analyze my own thinking on the subject first.  It's something I have recommended others to do as well.  Everyone should think about this - it is a very serious issue.  

The 'debate'  Obama wants is necessary. But I don't think it really should amount to a debate. A debate implies two resolute, absolute and mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive positions.  But I don't believe that is the case here.  The false choice president Obama has implied are on the one hand unfettered operational environment for terrorists but absolute personal privacy and Big Brother on the other hand.  There are clearly possibilities between those two extremes.

June 9, 2013

The face of the NSA Prism leak: Edward Snowden

The Guardian has been brilliant in its slow roll of the NSA leak scandal.  Today, with the express permission of the leaker, they released a few pieces on his identity.  The big reveal is the video.  The shock is that he has gone public with his identity at all.

Setec Astronomy. Sneakers come to life.
Click the link above to watch the video.  It's important to watch, whether you believe him or partially believe him or not at all.

UPDATE: Video embedded below.

It's a fascinating watch.  Whether it changes the direction of the debate over remains to be seen. It certainly will change the course of events. Does the NSA go after Snowden?  What about the interviewer Glen Greenwald? Is Snowden an Occupy Wall Street type? Or did he vote for the Libertarian party in 2008?  Is he a plant by the NSA to distract from the real search for the leak? Will he be extradited from China?  Is he a communist sympathizer for that matter? What about Booz Allen - who are they and what do they do for the NSA?

And if this guy claims there are no secrets that can be kept from the government, why does he have no Facebook Page?  The government knows all about him already anyway and he planned all along on going public, so the need to be secretive is lost on me.

Magic: Make a coin disappear

Here's how you can magically make a coin disappear.  For the real trick though, watch the second video.

The real trick is to make a lot of money (trillions of coins) disappear all at once, not just a coin. Obama is the master at the disappearing money trick;

Popular Mechanics: Why the NSA Prism Program Could Kill U.S. Tech Companies

This prism is destructive.
Unintended Consequences reasserts its ugly head validity.  Popular Mechanics was quick off the mark to point out that the government spying via the Prism program could really hurt some of America's most successful companies.  One has to wonder - is this an ingenious plot of a socialist president to destroy yet another sector of the American private economy? If so, his ineptitude is actually evil, socialist brilliance.

Popular Mechanics asserts the argument:
How much should we worry about a program that is aimed at monitoring the digital communications of foreigners? We should worry quite a bit, because this issue goes far beyond just respecting the civil liberties of non-Americans.

Think for a second about just how the U.S. economy has changed in the last 40 years. While a large percentage of our economy is still based in manufacturing, some of the most ascendant U.S. companies since the 1970s have been in the information technology sector. Companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google are major exporters of information services (if you can think of such a thing as "exportable") through products such as Gmail, iCloud, Exchange, and Azure. Hundreds of millions of people use these services worldwide, and it has just been revealed to everybody outside the U.S. that our government reserves the right to look into their communications whenever it wants.

If you lived in Japan, India, Australia, Mexico, or Brazil, and you used Gmail, or synced your photos through iCloud, or chatted via Skype, how would you feel about that? Let's say you ran a business in those countries that relied upon information services from a U.S. company. Don't these revelations make using such a service a business liability? In fact, doesn't this news make it a national security risk for pretty much any other country to use information services from companies based in the U.S.? How should we expect the rest of the world to react?

Here's a pretty good guess: Other countries will start routing around the U.S. information economy by developing, or even mandating, their own competing services. In 2000, the European Union worked out a series of "Safe Harbor" regulations mandating privacy protection standards for companies storing E.U. citizens' data on servers outside of the E.U. For U.S. companies, that means applying stronger privacy protection for European data than for our own citizens' data. And now there is considerable reason to believe that Prism violated our Safe Harbor agreements with the E.U.

Has it come to this?
Indeed it has.  

Earth's 10 most mysterious events

A palette cleanser for Sunday to take your mind off of all of the government scandals for a little while. Here are 10 mysterious events from the earth's history that cannot be explained (NOTE: Obamacare does not make the Top 10). 

June 8, 2013

Data versus Information versus Wisdom

Setting aside the privacy issue for a moment, the United States government has served itself a wealth of your personal data. But that doesn't mean it has intelligence on you.  Intelligence requires that it do something with that data to have insights.
WASHINGTON—The National Security Agency's monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency's activities.

The disclosure this week of an order by a secret U.S. court for Verizon Communications Inc.'s VZ +0.54% phone records set off the latest public discussion of the program. But people familiar with the NSA's operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. T -1.01% and Sprint Nextel Corp., S -1.36% records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card providers.

The Obama administration says its review of complete phone records of U.S. citizens is a "necessary tool" in protecting the nation from terror threats. Is this the accepted new normal, or has the Obama administration pushed the bounds of civil liberties? Cato Institute Director of Information Policy Studies Jim Harper weighs in. Photo: Getty Images.

The agency is using its secret access to the communications of millions of Americans to target possible terrorists, said people familiar with the effort.

The NSA's efforts have become institutionalized—yet not so well known to the public—under laws passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Most members of Congress defended them Thursday as a way to root out terrorism, but civil-liberties groups decried the program.
There's a lot of data being collected.  But data is a long way from insight and knowledge, let alone wisdom.  Those of us in the data and analytics field understand the difference.  Just because the government has collected a large amount of data - big data - doesn't mean it has the ability to convert that data into information, let alone knowledge or wisdom.  If it did, the Boston Marathon bombings might have been prevented.  There is a hierarchy of transforming data into understanding, as can be seen in this graph.

The BAD news: The federal government is indeed sitting on a trove of data, and it is ill-gotten data.  The GOOD news:  Given the government's track record for bungling, it is doubtful they will ever be able develop wisdom about you. The EXTRA BAD news: They will still try, and they will still probably fail to prevent further terrorism on U.S. soil, or overseas.  The WORST news: No matter what, many on the left as well as the right, will feel that the government is justified in its snooping efforts. And the government will continue to feel empowered to do more of this sort of thing.

Saturday Learning Series - Six Sigma continues (Part 5)

Last week was Part 4 of the MIT Six Sigma lecture series. Today's Saturday Learning Series continues with the next lecture.  This one is a recorded plant tour and not a lecture hall presentation, which offers some variety to the series.

NEXT: The WalMart president

The next president will have an agenda that he or she will not be able to focus on, at least for their first term.  Unless it's Hillary Clinton.  The next president will be consumed, for several years doing what I refer to as being the WalMart president.  They will be responsible for doing rollbacks.  WalMart's advertising quite often focuses on price rollbacks.  The next president will be responsible for rolling back so much of what the current president has done, they will be too busy to enact their own agenda.  The over-reach has permeated everything - the IRS, the NSA, the EPA, Obamacare  for example - that it needs to be rolled back, aggressively.  Of course if it's Hillary Clinton running things, she may just decide to build upon the over-reach   started by this president (remember Hillarycare? Same mindset as Obama).  Otherwise, it has to be a priority if you want America to live up to its original promise.

The Fourth

Because you can do it does not mean you should do it

Do your job.
The United States government has long had the technical ability to electronically gather phone and internet records of anyone they felt the need to monitor.  They didn't always do it though.   The government under the Patriot Act expanded it's ability to monitor communications, electronic or telecommunications. It was intended to focus on threats, not on everyone in the country.

Bill Whittle on Happiness

Bill Whittle explains why happiness is important and as an aside, why Benghazi was such a critical failure of this president.

June 7, 2013

Scandal #5? Obama wants cyber target list

According to America's investigative newspaper of choice, the U.K.'s The Guardian, president Obama last year asked intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential targets for overseas U.S. cyber attacks.  To many this might represent yet another scandal.  But I\m willing to give Obama a pass on this one.
Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals.

The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) "can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging".

It says the government will "identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power".
The truth is, something like this should have been drawn up during the Bush or even Clinton presidency.  The U.S. had contingency plans for a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe.  No doubt they have secret plans for dealing with a theoretically militarily aggressive China.  They are being subjected to cyber attacks from China and probably elsewhere.  So why not have targets in mind that meet the national interest?

So should Obama get a pass?

Hubris, arrogance and more scandal.
People on the unicorn wing of the Democratic party may have issues with this offensive-minded contingency. And it might make the press in the U/S. as well as the left-leaning Guardian because it's not what they want from Obama.  They want more of the Nobel Peace Prize Obama (you know, the one who lost Chicago the Olympic Games).  And it's starting to look that the mainstream media are ready to drop Obama like he's hot.  After all he can't run again and this won't hurt Hillary Clinton at all. So it's no big deal for the media.

There is one other thing to consider before giving the president a pass on this revelation.  The Guardian continues the story:
The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the US, though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency.
Really, more domestic stuff? attacks to go with all the domestic spying? No, Obama doesn't get a pass for this either.  Obama's hubris like with everything from Obamacare to domestic spying, has made him go too far.

Friday Musical Interlude - Alabama Shakes

More new music that sounds pretty darn good.  Alabama Shakes southern-blues-rock-sounding hit Hold On.

BONUS - Always Alright on Saturday Night Live.  Some really good guitar in this one.  Subtle, but they really make the song.

Meanwhile U6 unemployment remains high

Under the radar

The BLS released the latest unemployment statistics for May of 2013.  The dull news, the U3 unemployment rate rose modestly from 7.5% to 7.6%.  The other dull news, the U6 unemployment rate - the one that represents, underemployed and those who have given up looking for employment - moved from 13.4% in April to 13.4% in May.  In other words it went nowhere. Yes it's dull, but it's dull in that it remains terrible and there's no good news.

Nothing this president does works except getting himself elected.  We hear about soft landing recessions, but this has to be the softest recovery takeoff ever.  This is Obama's economy except that he has yet to actually pivot to it like he always says he will.

It's evident he doesn't care about real economic recovery for the middle class.  Just like it's clear he doesn't care to be bothered with Muslim extremism or anything that is off-agenda for him.  If it's about growing government he's all in, otherwise it;s just a waste of his time.

Rush: They are still blaming Bush

Rush Limbaugh correctly calls liberals to task for blaming Bush, yet again, for Obama's mistakes:
We have in the Obama administration -- there's nobody even close to the violation of privacy and civil liberties, nobody even close. They can talk about Bush here, but nobody compares to what Obama's done. In fact, folks, as you know, I read the tech blogs.... And in all these tech blogs, they just love Obama.

They have bought the myth. They drink the Kool-Aid that Obama's the greatest civil libertarian, that Obama's into privacy, that Obama's just the greatest liberal that's ever been -- and they can't believe this. They just can't believe that Obama would do this! They hated Bush for doing this! They can't believe that Obama did this. I don't expect this to change anything, but our buddy Ron Fournier has this Verizon story with the NSA monitoring.

It's not monitoring. What they're doing is this: They have demanded that, for three months, Verizon turn over the records of every phone call, what is called the "metadata."...

...There's nothing like this that has ever happened. And the media, they just can't believe it, either. So our buddy Ron Fournier writes: "Welcome to the Bush-Obama White House -- They're Spying on Us."

Welcome to "the Bush-Obama Era..." Whose name is first in this story? Bush! And it's not just Ron Fournier. It's all over. F. Chuck Todd at NBC says this is all Bush's fault. If Bush hadn't been the guy that started this, Obama and Holder would not be doing it themselves. (I kid you not.) "Welcome to the era of Bush-Obama, a 16-year span of US history that will be remembered for an unprecedented erosion of civil liberties and a disregard for transparency...

They think they are Obama. They think they're the same culture, the same education, the same value system, the same pedigree, the same worldview, the same age. All of it! They think they are Obama, and they wouldn't do anything like this. So it has to be some hidden, sinister force that is tugging Obama in this direction that's totally against his own instincts -- and it has to be that Bush paved the way to make it possible!
Rush is absolutely right about this.  As theses scandals continue to spill out of the White House, the left is going to run out of excuses.  They have already gotten to the point of complete lameness.

Benghazi - nothing was wrong, this is just a lunatic right wing conspiracy to get Obama and/or Clinton

IRS persecution of conservative groups - we are outraged and we will fix it.

The Justice Department versus the media - it was necessary for national security (specifics will not shared)

The Prism program spying on everyone in America - blame Bush

And as each of these scandals become more involved and more is revealed the rationalizing and excuses will expand and change over time.  They will get weaker and weaker and less intelligible. They will become, in a word, laughable.

What's next on the scandal parade?  I think there's a money scandal to come. Just a hunch.

America's lost credibility on human rights

While the growing scandals of government invasion of privacy do not rise to the level of China and massacres like Tienanmen Square the president has surely done a lot of damage to America's credibility on human rights. The timing as far as China is concerned, couldn't be better.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping this weekend is likely to be impacted in more ways than one by yesterday’s revelation that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting private information on individuals from major Internet companies.

Just as Obama prepares to meet with Xi to discuss issues such as cyber-security and civil liberties, it has emerged that the US government ordered the widespread collection of private information and may also have sanctioned hacking of internet companies’ private data.
President Obama is meeting with Chinese officials shortly, those meetings are now likely to be less productive for obvious reasons, on two fronts.  Firstly, the hacking issue will be pushed back because the U.S. federal government is going places with private data in a similar way to what they claim China is doing.   China when confronted with allegations of internet spying have a hammer for a reply as a result of this scandal.

And trying to get China to treat its people properly needs to be shelved for a while now; America is no position to lecture about human rights at this point. China can plead U.S. hypocrisy on both issues.

So the president's visit to China is likely to prove pointless except as an escape for the president from a (finally) hounding press.

Way to go.
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