September 30, 2013

Thursday Hillary Bash - Monday Bonus Edition - What's She Hiding?

Via Fox News comes the scary news that the Clinton biopic for CNN has come to a grinding halt, thanks primarily to the Clintons themselves.  The circumstances surrounding the decision were in large part driven by a wall of silence:
The filmmaker who was planning to produce a controversial documentary on Hillary Clinton has pulled out of the project, claiming that Clinton aides exerted pressure on him and that dozens of potential sources refused to grant interviews.

Director Charles Ferguson...indicated the strongest resistance came from the Clinton world.

"When I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film," he said. "Not Democrats, not Republicans -- and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration."

Government Shutdown Like A Carnival Ride

If you've ever been to a local carnival where the rides are rolled out of trucks and stood up on temporary stands in a shopping mall parking lot, or perhaps a picnic area on the edge of town, then you know what it feels like riding a miniature roller coaster that feels like the tracks are going to collapse out from underneath the ride at any moment.  In that case, what's going on with Capitol Hill right now won't come as a new sensation for you.
World markets seem to be waiting to see what happens.  It's as if they are on the ride, not knowing when the twists, turns, drops and climbs are going to occur.  The carnival ride analogy fits there as well - nobody knows how this situation is going to resolve itself, least of all me.  I have my suspicions that there will be a deal before the shutdown actually occurs.

September 29, 2013

Sunday laughs

Wait, this really isn't all that funny.

September 28, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Connections 2, Separate Ways

James Burke, thinker.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997). 

Series continued from Episode 7.

Note - If you are interested in the Connections series or Connections 3 or The Day The Universe Changed, they can be found here.

Here's episode 8 of Connections 2, Separate Ways.

September 27, 2013

Tom Harkin, unuseful idiot

Contests can't declare themselves impartial observers Tom Harkin.
Tom Harkin, in speaking about how the United States congress is looking more and more like a pre-civil war America ratchets up the hate speech.  In an alarming lack of understanding of his own hypocrisy, he blasts Ted Cruz and the Tea Party for causing such angry partisanship and acrimony - by insulting them.
On the Senate floor before 10 a.m. Friday, the senator gave a speech describing how American politics have reached the level at which "a small group of willful men and women who have a certain ideology"—read: the tea party and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas—have been able to take over the congressional budget debate in the last week. "Since they can't get their way," Harkin said, "they're going to create this confusion and discourse and hope that the public will be so mixed up in who is to blame for this, that they'll blame both sides."

This isn't just congressional business as usual, Harkin said. It's much, much more dire:
It's dangerous. It's very dangerous. I believe, Mr. President, we are at one of the most dangerous points in our history right now. Every bit as dangerous as the break-up of the Union before the Civil War.
This isn't the first time the senator has spoken out about the spiraling budget and the fight over Obamacare. Harkin suggested Thursday that Cruz looked "foolish" for his "little tirade" that lasted from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning. Harkin called out Cruz as being part of "the most extreme tea-party wing" of his party, and for his "ideology-driven obstructionism."
That's really helpful Senator. Thanks for that - way to throw gasoline on a brush fire.
I titled my post "Tom Harkin, unuseful idiot". I have always argued that name calling adds exactly zero to debates. In case you missed it, the title is intended to be ironic.
Tom Harkin will not read that and think, "Gee, you know what, I am being an unuseful idiot and I should change my tone to a more civil one if I want to change the minds of my political adversaries. If I really want to promote civility in politics and ratchet down the hyper-partisanship, I probably shouldn't resort to name calling."

Then again, Tom Harkin is actually as much a part of the problem of hyper-partisanship as anyone in the Senate, if not more.  So I wouldn't expect him to read more civil critique of his actions and change his mind either.

Friday Musical Interlude - More Ting Tings

The Ting Tings "That's Not My Name" has been featured in a number of places, including a Suburgatory commercial.  I've posted it here before in the Friday Musical Interlude.  Today however, I offer their 2008 entry - Shut up and let me go.

September 26, 2013

Ted Cruz's pointless triumph

A few days ago I wrote that Ted Cruz, whom I agree with 100% on substance (so far), was waging the war on Obamacare the wrong way. John Podhoretz at the NY Post agrees.
(emphasis added)
Every single one of those Cruz includes in the “surrender caucus” opposes ObamaCare and voted against it. The writers and talkers he includes in the “surrender caucus” have written or spoken tens of thousands of words against it and are as committed to stopping its harmful effects as Cruz is.

They simply don’t see the value in this game of brinksmanship; in fact, they — we — see that it might be harmful to the cause of stopping ObamaCare. This disagreement is over tactics, not core convictions.

This is enraging to Cruz and his followers. They want confrontation, even if the confrontation is purposeless at this moment — and doesn’t even involve ObamaCare.

They confuse style with substance. Cruz and others think that standing your ground and fighting at every turn is actually more moral than working on a long-term strategy to get rid of ObamaCare.

That long-term strategy involves winning elections in 2014 and 2016. A budget fight in which the Right is blamed for shutting down the government will be harmful to these crucial goals.
 Well put. The issue some conservatives have with going nuclear is all about the tactics - it won't work in the short term and will make matters worse in the long term.  What defeats Obamacare is winning Congress, Senate and White House.  Alienating the public does not achieve that.
Podhoretz raises another question - if you are against the tactics, why are you suddenly declared an enemy of conservatism and those who do support such tactics?  There's still a common goal - getting rid of the bloat that Democrats have thrust and continue to thrust upon the government.

Thursday Hillary Bash - Richie Rich

Another item from Jim Geraghty on Hillary Clinton earlier this week, worth sharing.  This time it comes in the form of potentially good news for Hillary bashers, as her actions in this instance make her more vulnerable to suspicion of nefarious behavior.
The Clinton Foundation is going to be the subject of a lot of scrutiny from here on out:
Hillary Clinton’s announcement in May that she would be joining her husband’s foundation seemed, to outsiders, like the most natural thing in the world: A high-minded, charitable base for whatever the former Secretary of State might choose to do.

But inside Clinton’s circle, the decision provoked a frisson of worry: Clinton was giving up, some thought, the (genuinely) plausible deniability that could protect her from a charitable venture that had always had, up close, a seedy side.

The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis Sunday night opened what are likely to be three years of close public scrutiny of the very private, elite, and lucrative shadow of the Clinton foundation — and specifically, the question of what the foundation’s big donors got in exchange for their hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions. MacGillis’s article is a profile of the architect of what he describes as the “transactionalism” at the heart of Clinton-land, his former aide Doug Band, and his role in shaping a singular charitable enterprise. Band maintained, simultaneously, an “executive consulting” firm called Teneo, whose dealings are totally opaque, aside from having let Band spend $8.8 million on an Upper East Side apartment.
This might not seem like a big deal but the Clinton Foundation has had a lot of money swirling around it for years, and there are a lot of questions about a lot of that money.  Hillary offers herself no more arms-length deniability with respect to any suspicious activities.
On the other hand if they have started the process  of cleaning up the foundation, then why not step in and take credit for some of that white hat action?  I'm sure the Clintons see beyond the optics and are looking for angles on everything.  I'm not convinced though that the foundation will suddenly become squeaky clean and someone needs to stay on top of the details of what's going on with the foundation, just in case.

Thursday Hillary Bash - Don't Steal My Cam Bro'!

Jim Geraghty at National Review had the details earlier this week on a photo-sensitive Hillary event;
There’s a certain authoritarianism that seems to circulate in the air around certain political figures. From the Miami Herald:

Hillary Clinton quietly slipped into Miami on Thursday to address a travel agents convention in a speech where the former secretary of state said little about troubles abroad or the future ambitions of the likely presidential-race frontrunner.

Clinton slipped a question about what it would take for the United States to elect its first female leader, Clinton was quick with a joke. 

“Well, it’ll take a crazy person,” she said, drawing laughs from the crowd at the American Society of Travel Agents’ global convention. 

Though ostensibly not political, Clinton’s address had the makings of an introductory campaign speech. Campaigns are often highly controlled events, but the ASTA conference at Hyatt Regency Miami kicked it up a notch.

At one point, a member of the audience, Andrew Rothberg, had his Galaxy Note II smartphone taken from him by security, which removed his picture of Clinton onstage and then gave his device back in front of a Miami Herald reporter in the auditorium stands.
I get the controlled environment idea - control the conversation, control the pictures (look at what happened to John McCain in The Atlantic's photos.  But to take photos away from citizens just wanting a picture leaves a bad taste in the voters' mouths.  It comes across as both heavy handed and also very controlling and ultra-sensitive to potential media portrayals of her.  Let's see if it happens again. I am pretty sure it will.

September 24, 2013

Droning On

While Kenya is the hotbed of the day with respect militant Islamic jihad, Pakistan is still a bigger deal, where Christians are being murdered because, they are Christian.  Suicide bombers have declared war on Christianity. 

The president doesn't care.  The drone attacks continue and the details of Christian deaths in Pakistan are startlingly underplayed, as Christians don't seem to matter if they aren't American.

The Guardian however, has taken note of it.
...Some of the congregation were in bare feet as they filed out of the Anglican church on Sunday morning straight into the blast zone of one of two suicide bombers from a Taliban faction that has vowed to kill non-Muslims until the US cancels its lethal drone strikes in the country.

A day later and a blood-soaked jumble of shoes still lies in a pile on the right-hand side of the tall wooden doors where female worshippers usually congregate.

According to a tally based on information from local officials, 85 people were killed and more than 100 injured, although one doctor who arrived at the scene moments after the blast believes that even more died but their bodies were recovered by relatives before they could be accounted for.

Whatever the number, it was Pakistan's worst attack on Christians, sparking impassioned, country-wide protests.

Christians are a tiny and politically weak minority in Muslim-majority Pakistan who suffer from prejudice and sporadic bouts of mob violence. But Sunday was the first time that bombs had been used to such deadly effect on worshippers.
This is genocide, just like in Syria, but the victims are a persecuted minority and they feel the root cause of the actions of their attackers are American drone attacks. They also have some harsh words for the West in general and the sentiment is not unjust.
"It's not safe for Christians in this country," said Mano Rumalshah, the bishop emeritus of Peshawar, who was standing in the courtyard, comforting sobbing parishioners who clasped his white robes.

"Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim-majority countries. The European countries don't give a damn about us."

September 23, 2013

Don't get the tactics wrong on fighting Obamacare!

I'm a fan of Senator Ted Cruz.  He legitimately gets the problems with Obamacare (among other things) and he genuinely seems to want to do something about it.  He's taking bold steps that others in the GOP seem to be shying away from doing (in fact, some in the GOP seem ready to torpedo Cruz at any opportunity).   The problem in this case is that those bold steps might not be the right steps to take.

NYT piece on Obamacare starts from wrong

Via strata-sphere.
The New York Times had a piece yesterday talking about the inevitable trade-off on Obamacare.  The premise, that lower healthcare costs would mean less choice, shockingly admits that there is indeed a downside to the plan.  The real problem is that the NYT starts from a place that isn't based in reality.

I would applaud the NYT for pointing out a flaw in legislation they so vehemently supported in the past.  I would, if that were really the case.
They have another agenda though.

September 21, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Connections 2, Photo Finish

James Burke, innovative thinker.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997). 

Series continued from Episode 6.

Note - If you are interested in the Connections series or Connections 3 or The Day The Universe Changed, they can be found here.

Here's episode 7 of Connections 2, Photo Finish .

September 20, 2013

Republicans do indeed have spines.

Well would you look at that!  The GOP has voted to defund Obamcare at the same time providing a stopgap funding bill.  So not only do they have spines, they've got a bit of brains to go with them.

House Republicans passed their stopgap funding bill Friday to keep government open while terminating the new health care law, setting up a final showdown next week with Senate Democrats and President Obama who have firmly rejected the GOP approach.

The 230-189 vote, which split almost exactly along party lines, is the precursor to the big action next week, when the Democratic majority in the Senate is expected to strip out the health care provisions and send the bill back to the House — where Republicans will have to decide whether they can accept it at that point.
Well played - for now. It's what happens next that matters.  But hey, at least the GOP did something proactive.

Friday Musical Interlude - Come Home

A 2012 entry from the band Chappo. The melodic trippy song Come Home was apparently featured in a 2010 iPod commercial but I don't recollect that personally.

September 19, 2013

Memo to Obama - Just stand back on Egypt

ATTN: Pres. Obama

TOPIC: Keep your nose out of Egypt for the present
SUMMARY: Egyptian security forces are engaged in weakening Islamist strongholds after police were killed by Morsi supporters.  This does not concern U.S. interests.  This is not violent suppression of innocent protesters.  Let the situation play out and do not condemn the action. Stand back, and let this internal matter be handled internally.  Just like you did on Syria for a year, and unlike you did initially in Egypt.
NOTE:  The crucial detail is buried well into the story and is still positioned as an anti-government news item.  Do not fall victim to this ploy president Obama.

DETAILS: (emphasis added)
KERDASA, Egypt (AP) - Egyptian security forces backed by armored fighting vehicles and helicopters stormed a town known to be an Islamist stronghold outside of Cairo near the Great Pyramids on Thursday, coming under barrages of fire from gunmen on rooftops as they searched door to door for militants.

A police general fell in the first moments of the battle at around 6 a.m. Gen. Nabil Farrag had just given a pep talk to his men on the street, preparing them to roll into the town of Kerdasa, when they came under a hail of gunfire, according to an Associated Press photographer and video journalists at the scene.

Army soldiers and policemen ducked for cover behind armored vehicles and behind walls. Farrag fell with a bullet wound in his right side, getting past the body armor he was wearing. He lay in the street for nearly 15 minutes, blood soaking through his white uniform, until his men could reach him and carry him into a sedan to take to a hospital.

The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police, later announced Farrag's death.

The assault on Kerdasa underlined a stepped-up resolve by the military-backed government to suppress strongholds of supporters of Egypt's ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. Earlier this week, a large army-police force stormed Dalga, a town in southern Egypt, to break the hold of Islamic militants who took control there after the military toppled Morsi on July 3.

Kerdasa carries more strategic importance than Dalga since it is a short drive away from Cairo's center and is near the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt's primary tourist attraction.

The town witnessed a brutal assault on security forces last month when heavily armed Morsi supporters killed 15 police officers and mutilated their bodies. The attack was part of a wave of retaliatory violence around the country after security forces cracked down on the main pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo with heavy assaults that killed hundreds.

Does Obama Just Not Understand?

Forget economics, forget debt, maybe the president just doesn't understand how money works.  In this video via CNS News, the president says some frighteningly uneducated things.  We're talking "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" type things.

CNSNews highlights the following quote;
"Now, this debt ceiling -- I just want to remind people in case you haven't been keeping up -- raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy. All it does is it says you got to pay the bills that you've already racked up, Congress. It's a basic function of making sure that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved."

Obama went on to suggest that "the average person" mistakenly thinks that raising the debt ceiling means the U.S. is racking up more debt:

"It's always a tough vote because the average person thinks raising the debt ceiling must mean that we're running up our debt, so people don't like to vote on it, and, typically, there's some gamesmanship in terms of making the President's party shoulder the burden of raising the -- taking the vote."
The president could not be more wrong on this.

Thursday Hillary Bash - Worried Yet?

Hillary Clinton appears to be unstoppable as the presidential nominee and eventual winner in 2016.  Are you worried yet?  You should be.
A national poll released Monday finds former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton an overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, while Republicans remain heavily divided on who they want to see as their candidate.

Clinton tops the CNN/ORC poll with almost two-thirds of Democrats in her corner in 2016. With the support of 65 percent of those surveyed, Clinton, who ran for president against Barack Obama in a close primary in 2008, has a clear lead over her potential Democratic rivals.

Vice President Joe Biden places a distant second behind Clinton with 10 percent. Over the weekend, Biden visited Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus, to attend a Democratic event. Biden ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008.

Plan of the Day: Syria's WMDs

Over at Plan of the Day, there's a brief post on Syria's WMDs that reminds us about Iraq's WMD's and connects the dots to Syria. US and Israeli intelligence knew Iraq's WMDs were moved by the Russians to the Beqaa Valley in east Lebanon.

Go read more, it's a great reminder that the Bush administration understood foreign affairs a lot better than they were ever given credit for understanding.

September 18, 2013

President's congressional support level proves something

The New York Times today has an article about how the president is seeing defiance from within the Democratic party in Congress.  But the interesting thing about the article is a statistic well down in the piece about the unprecedented level of support the president has received in Congress and what it says about his agenda.
Via NYT (emphasis added):
...The White House discounted suggestions of trouble with Congressional Democrats and produced voting statistics showing that, with the exception of Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama had more support from his own party in his first four years than any president through Dwight D. Eisenhower. Democrats stood behind him on health care, Wall Street regulation and budget battles.

“President Obama has received unprecedented support from his party in Congress,” said Dan Pfeiffer, his senior adviser. “Of course we won’t agree on everything all the time — every family has its squabbles — but the periodic disagreements in the Democratic Party pale in comparison to the epic existential civil war for the soul of the Republican Party that is leading to so much dysfunction.”

The White House’s statistics show that Senate Democrats voted with Mr. Obama more than 90 percent of the time over his first four years, compared with Mr. Clinton, who had support in the 80 percent range over a similar period and President Ronald Reagan, whose party voted with him in the 70 percent range.
President Bush had support soar in light of the 9-11 attacks and therefore represents an anomaly in terms of support.  Don't expect president Obama's support to fall to the same extent George W. Bush's likely did.  But the most interesting detail is that 90% lockstep support far exceeded the party line support that Clinton received.  And far exceeded the support that Reagan got.
That proves a couple of things. 
(1) Democrats vote party lines with a homogeneity that is clearly indicative of groupthink.  Republican support levels for Republican presidents varies so much that it certainly indicates a much higher level of independent thinking among Republicans.  That's a double edged sword of course.  Thinking is valuable and should be encouraged.  Democrats could learn from Republicans in that regard.  However, for Republicans it is harder to get big things done because of that critical thinking on any given subject.  Another problem with it is that Republican breaking of party line votes can come from liberal Republican RINOs, and they tend to just be voting with Democrats - often just to be re-elected in their left-leaning states. 
(2) President Obama owns the results of his first term.  He cannot pass the buck.  The first half of his first term there was no dissent from Democrats and little resistance from Republicans.  Sadly, they accomplished quite a lot - things that will prove destructive to the economy of America for years, until they are finally undone. The support level he enjoyed during those legislative accomplishments will not stop the president from trying to share the inevitable failures with Republican obstructionism. 
As Obamacare spirals into entropy, watch for Obama to try to place the blame for the trouble on Republican's early (and subsequent) efforts to scuttle the legislation.  The problems now, he will try to argue, is that in order to get the law through an uncooperative Congress, a lot of special tweaking had to happen and it made the law too convoluted to work properly.  That's true, except the special deals that were made, were all with Congressional Democrats who were supposed to be onside without the kickbacks.
One additional thought on the Obamacare blame game - don't expect the president to start it before his term ends if he can help it.  The president will want to get through this term pretending there are no problems with Obamacare at all.  He doesn't want to be sullied by any impression of problems with it.  Igf it happens after he leaves office he can always blame the troubles on his successors.  Only if the president is forced into talking about the issues with Obamacare earlier will he do so.

September 17, 2013

Gun control - Gun rights debate redux

President Obama is eager to use the latest D.C. shooting to advance his political agenda on gun control.  He's not the only liberal to hop on this tragedy for political purposes, but he certainly will be the most visible.  And it will be the most visible when he fails.

In the wake of the shooting at the Navy Yard, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president is implementing executive actions and reiterated his commitment to strengthening gun laws, including expanding background checks to sales online and at gun shows.

“The president supports, as do an overwhelming majority of Americans, common-sense measures to reduce gun violence,” Carney said.
Of course everybody supports common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.  The problem Mr. Carney is that not everybody defines common sense the same way you or the president do.  And the president had better tread carefully on this one - the gun debate was a loser for him not long ago and despite the deep sorrow of the tragedy, the return to common sense over gun control versus gun rights won't take long.  The debate is not a winnable one for the president.  Common sense is not the issue, the issue is the uncommonness of these types of crimes and the root cause.  What gun control and 'executive actions' will do is convey to everyone except the gun control zealots that the president believes himself to be above the constraints of power placed upon his office.  He is not. It won't help him. 
Besides the debate being a political loser for the president, it won't help the problem.  No amount of gun control will stop mass killings. It just won't. Evil is evil, and mental illness is mental illness. Gun control doesn't do a thing to change either one.  The stress of society is pretty bad for a lot of people.  While it may not have mattered in this instance, better economic times would certainly relieve stress at an individual level and may correlate to lower instances of violent crime.  How about you stay pivoted to jobs Mr. President?  At least there your heavy handed efforts will have minimal impact on society.

D.C. Mayor - Politics at its Worst

In light of the D.C. shootings yesterday, trust a liberal to get out in front of this with a political agenda, that is as incorrect as it is revolting in this time of loss.  Nevertheless, D.C. mayor Vincent Gray blames the shootings on, believe it or not, the sequester.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said he wondered if budget cuts had something to do with a gunman getting onto the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, killing 12 before being killed himself.

“As I look at, for example, sequestration, which is about saving money in the federal government being spent, have we somehow skimped on what would be available for projects like this and then we put people at risk,” Mr. Gray said on CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday morning.
The shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords immediately had liberals running to Tea Party blame, which turned out to be incorrect as well as targeting Sarah Palin because she wanted conservatives to 'target' districts for Republican wins.  Again, grossly inaccurate and politically motivated.  Oh, and morally wrong in addition to factually wrong.
Liberals it seems, can't let a tragedy go to waste.  Most conservatives won't blame this on say violent video games or other conservative concerns the way liberals jump to conclusions.  We tend to realize that this is the act of a sick mind (or minds).
But Liberals are all to eager to cast blame in conservative directions because they know they won't generally be called out on their vapid accusations by a tacitly complicit media.  There's no cost to throwing out unfounded accusations for them so they feel emboldened to spout ridiculousness.  That's not changing any time soon, which is unfortunate because it is politics at its worst.

September 16, 2013

Time Magazine sticks America's head in the sand for Obama

The media love affair with Obama it seems, is unabated in some quarters.  Time magazine is happy to spread the word internationally that Russia is the savior of peace and America has become a weak and waffling nation.  But it won't tell Americans.  That'd look bad on the president. Time can't have that.
Via the Daily Caller:
Time Magazine’s cover for its September 16 issue features a picture of contented-looking Russian president Vladimir Putin, complete with a black background and a damning caption that declares “America’s weak and waffling, Russia’s rich and resurgent.”

But Time’s editors are shielding Americans from the demoralizing picture, putting a cheerful, sky-blue photo on the covers of magazines distributed in the United States.

“It’s time to pay college athletes,” says the chirpy, non-political U.S. cover, which shows a ball-carrying football player with arm outstretched.

The cover most Americans saw at the checkout counter safely overlooked a widely perceived fumble by President Barack Obama that left Russia to carry the ball in the Syrian war.
It's one thing to be clearly biased for a president, but to actually tell the rest of the world that America has become weak and waffling, isn't that actually playing a part in downgrading the nation worldwide?  It's almost treasonous what Time has done.

I'm from the government, tell me about your sex life.

I'm not going to touch this one.  Via the New York Post.
‘Are you sexually active? If so, with one partner, multiple partners or same-sex partners?”

Be ready to answer those questions and more the next time you go to the doctor, whether it’s the dermatologist or the cardiologist and no matter if the questions are unrelated to why you’re seeking medical help. And you can thank the Obama health law.

“This is nasty business,” says New York cardiologist Dr. Adam Budzikowski. He called the sex questions “insensitive, stupid and very intrusive.” He couldn’t think of an occasion when a cardiologist would need such information — but he knows he’ll be pushed to ask for it.

The president’s “reforms” aim to turn doctors into government agents, pressuring them financially to ask questions they consider inappropriate and unnecessary, and to violate their Hippocratic Oath to keep patients’ records confidential.
Read the whole thing here.

September 15, 2013

Sunday Laughs

This actually isn't that funny.  Society is undergoing a dramatic shift in how people interact and with all of the electronic talking going on, no one seems to be talking about the changing ways in which people interact.  I'm not saying the changes are good or bad - they have elements of both - but it is worth having conversations about the implications of the changes, and it doesn't seem to be happening.
It should be happening.  It has political implications but even bigger social implications.
All that said, it is still kinda funny to see a sign like this.

September 14, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Connections 2, Echoes of the Past

James Burke, British dude.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997). 

Series continued from Episode 5.

Note - If you are interested in the Connections series or Connections 3 or The Day The Universe Changed, they can be found here.

Here's episode 6 of Connections 2, Echoes of the Past.

September 13, 2013

Friday Musical Interlude - Respect Yourself

From 1972, a live performance from The Staple Singers: Respect Yourself. Very nice, and a song with a good message to boot.

September 12, 2013

On Syria, Dowd blames Bush again. Misses the irony.

After Maureen Dowd this week spent a good portion of an article talking about how directionless and reactive the White House has been on the situation in Syria, she felt the need to go back to the Democrat playbook and, surprise, surprise, blame it all on George W. Bush:
While most Americans shudder at the news that 400 children have been killed by a monster, they recoil at the Middle East now; they’ve had it with Shiites vs. Sunnis, with Alawites and all the ancient hatreds. Kerry can bluster that “we’re not waiting for long” for Assad to cough up the weapons, but it will be hard for him to back it up, given that a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicates that Joe Sixpack is now a peacenik; in 2005, 60 percent of Republicans agreed with W. that America should foster democracy in the world; now only 19 percent of Republicans believe it.

W., Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld launched a social engineering scheme to change the mind-set in the Middle East about democracy and the mind-set at home about the post-Vietnam reluctance to be muscular about imposing our values through war. They did manage to drastically change the mind-set in the Middle East and at home, but in the opposite way than they intended.

In a crouch after 9/11, the country was happy to punish an Arab villain, even the wrong one. That mass delusion, plus the economic vertigo, has sent Americans into a permanent crouch. And that’s too bad.
Aside from trying to herself throw Obama a lifeline (as she claims Putin had done with his clever, manipulative proposal to avoid American military intervention), Dowd misses entirely the very progressive liberal achievement of having the U.S. public become more isolationist and anti-war. 

That's something Democrats would have salivated over in 2006.  You'd think as an anti-war liberal (or at least anti-war liberal sympathizer) she'd be applauding him for that outcome she believes has happened today.  Nope.  It's just another opportunity to bash Bush

Could Arcade Fire's New Video Save (or Kill) MTV?

Arcade Fire has a new video out for their new single.  MTV has moved away from being strictly a music video platform.  It's arguable that music videos offered a lot more to the youth of America than The Jersey Shore.  Should MTV be in the music video business only?  Should TLC be showing Honey Boo Boo?  Ratings drive content and unfortunately nobody wants to know about the fall of Rome and fewer people want to see the latest Katy Perry video on television (they can use Vevo for that) than want to see reality shows about trashy people.  That's a sad commentary on the viewers that drive ratings and hence revenue for television.

Nevertheless, bands still make videos and some of them still want to make waves with their videos.  That doesn't have to be done with scantily clad models or swearing or gunshots.  Here's a behind the scenes look at what might be the worlds first interactive music video.  From a technological perspective this is really cool.  From a standpoint of art, it is inventive.  Will it kill or save MTV?  Probably neither, but that doesn't mean that MTV isn't worth killing or saving.  They've certainly lost their way.

Arcade Fire's new song is called Reflektor.

Thursday Hillary Bash - Chuck Todd Missed The Ball

Back in August Mediaite reported NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd was bemoaning the Hillary Clinton mini-series.  Except he missed the obvious while he was busy fretting over what impact it would have on NBC News.
On Morning Joe Thursday morning, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd bemoaned his network’s proposed NBC miniseries on Hillary Clinton, which, though it has not yet been written, has already raised criticism of a conflict of interest between NBC Entertainment and NBC News, including an ultimatum from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to drop the project or lose any 2016 GOP debates.

“This mini series is a total nightmare for NBC News,” Todd said. “There’s this giant firewall, we have nothing to do with it, we know that we’d love probably to be as critical, or whatever it is going to be, if it comes out. But there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Distancing NBC News from NBC entertainment misses the point. Frankly nobody cares if the issue comes from one division of NBC or another. What matters is that it is free press for a likely presidential candidate in the midst of campaign season. That's wrong on so many levels - fairness, electoral rules, and the dangers of groupthink to name a few. But Todd remains preoccupied with taking flak for it.
“We’re going to only own the negatives,” he continued. “Whether it’s negative because it’s the Clinton people are upset that it’s too tough on them, or negative because the Republicans think it’s this glorification of her—no matter what, only we are going to own it, because people are going to see the peacock and NBC and see NBC News and think: ‘Well, they can’t be that separate.’”
Chuck - where is your journalistic integrity? What about all of the aforementioned issues with the mini-series? Care to comment on those? If you don't the reputation of NBC (Nobody But Clinton) is harmed far more than the damage caused by airing the documentary in the first place. There's no counterbalance from NBC and there's not even a critical review of the action of airing it. there certainly is no evidence of even-handedness. All we are left with is "Don't blame us."
We won't blame NBC news then, but don't expect us to trust you as a news source either.

September 11, 2013

2 Million Bikers Rally gets it right

Sarah Palin was right again; siding with bikers is not a bad thing.  They are patriotic Americans - at least this lot clearly are.

Afghanistan's Death Toll Under Obama Is Shocking

Photo: Secretsofthefed
U.S. president Obama's watch has seen 73% of American casualties in that war, in 33% of the period of the entire war.  Where is the CBS-NBC-ABC death watch on this tally???
(CNSNews) - Twelve years ago today, nineteen al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four U.S. commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

In the war that Congress authorized against al Qaeda only three days after that attack, the vast majority of the U.S. casualties have occurred in the last four and a half years during the presidency of Barack Obama.

In fact, according to the database of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, 73 percent of all U.S. Afghan War casualties have occurred since Jan. 20, 2009 when Obama was inaugurated.

The 91 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan so far in 2013 are more than those that occurred in the first two full calendar years of the war (2002 and 2003) combined, when 30 and 31 U.S. troops were killed there.
Imagine if Bush had inherited the war from Obama what the headlines would be today.  But in order for people not to have their faith shaken in this president, clearly, they clearly cannot be exposed to these sort of facts.

Obama tried to make the best of a no-win situation. Failed.

Last night president Obama spoke to the nation about the situation in Syria.  After being snookered by Putin and Assad, Obama was still trying to be all things to all people.  He agreed that the Russian proposal to have Syria turn over all of its chemical weapons to international authorities - whatever that means in practice - was a good idea.  At the same time, he pressed ahead with his ask for Congress to authorize military action.  On the surface, it seems like Obama's speech was successful. It wasn't.
  • The president appears not to have swung public opinion in his favor on Syria, at least when it comes to military action
  • Furthermore, the delay plays to Assad and Putin.  It grants them the time necessary to hide the chemical stockpiles and if the handover option is followed, Assad can retain some of his stockpile that's been buried out in the Syrian desert somewhere.
  • The president commented in the speech that he is not comfortable with the United States being the world's policeman.  In the same speech he said that it was important that the United States act in order to send a signal that the world will not tolerate genocide.  It sounds a lot like he's wanting America to act like the world's policeman.  The having it both ways motion Obama wants is transparent.
  • In his frequent references to Iraq he's trying to remind Americans that he's not Bush.  It's clear he still regards the U.S. actions in Iraq as interventionist and he's against that.  Except in the case of Libya and Egypt. 
  • The president still came across as reactionary and having no vision or solutions on foreign affairs.  The White House is operating on a Chinese fire drill crisis management model. It's becoming more clear to the American public, at least on foreign affairs.
The president tried to assure the public that he has a good handle on the situation.  He used phrase like "let me explain what that means' (condescending) and he threw a lot of statistics at the audience (line of sight does not mean control).  The president is in a tailspin on Syria and with a public that requires dogged determination on the economy from its leadership, Obama is once again pointed in the wrong direction.  He's out of step with the issues of the day as he has been since the days of Obamacare.  He hasn't just failed on Syria, president Obama is consistently failing in his presidency.

9-11, Lest We Forget

From Laurence Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen",

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

September 10, 2013

Latest Global Warming Problem - Record Ice Sheet Growth

Global warming alarmists of course say that they had predicted the record ice growth all along:
After Arctic sea ice experienced record 60-percent growth in August 2013 compared to August 2012, global warming activists now claim they predicted the expanding polar sea ice.

Writing in the UK Guardian, alarmists John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli claim global warming alarmists predicted the record growth in Arctic sea ice because even alarmists realized the low amount of summer 2012 sea ice was unlikely to be duplicated in 2013. And all those claims of doom-and-gloom predictions about Arctic sea ice in 2012? They were apparently just figments of our collective imagination.

So when you click on this New York Times article, you really aren’t seeing what you think you see, because global warming alarmists apparently told us last year the 2012 Arctic ice season was unlikely to be repeated in 2013.
There is no factual evidence whatsoever that cannot be refuted by blind allegiance to global warming hysteria it seems. So this won't help;
A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century.

If correct, it would contradict computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming. The news comes several years after the BBC predicted that the arctic would be ice-free by 2013.

Despite the original forecasts, major climate research centres now accept that there has been a “pause” in global warming since 1997...
The changing predictions have led to the UN's climate change's body holding a crisis meeting, and the the IPCC is due to report on the situation in October. A pre-summit meeting will be held later this month.

But the leaked documents are said to show that the governments who fund the IPCC are demanding 1,500 changes to the Fifth Assessment Report - a three-volume study issued every six or seven years – as they claim its current draft does not properly explain the pause.
No matter, the IPCC will still find some way to blame humanity for this clear sign of global warming.

Obama HAS to blink now

Russia president Vladimir Putin issued a flawed analysis that amounts to an ultimatum to the United States.  As a result, the president who has painted himself into a very tiny corner on Syria just might be right - this could cost him any relevance for the remainder of his presidency.  His presidency is at stake in a sense as he has apparently told Democrats.  So he can't blink.  Except he has to blink.

Spitzer cleaner by association?

Today voters in the New York City Democratic primaries have some interesting choices to make.  A couple of unpalatable candidates may both not survive.  But don't put it past Democrats to try to salvage at least one of the two career politicians.
And don't put it past Democrats to pull something sneaky either.  New York City has not a Democratic mayor in two decades.  It doesn't matter to them that mayor Bloomberg acts like a nanny-state liberal Democrat, he isn't a registered Democrat so he doesn't count.  Democrats only care about getting and keeping power.  Actions speak louder than words, and for the party that has Blank Panthers stand outside a polling station to discourage white voters, finds ballots in the trunk of a car to push Al Franken over the finish line, wants illegal citizens and incarcerated convicts to have the vote, and isn't beyond having dead voters cast ballots, what really counts as beyond the pale?

September 9, 2013

Kerry Off

It looks like the Obama administration has gone from bad (Hillary Clinton) to worse (John Kerry) at the State Department.

Via Breitbart:
In what looks like an off-the-cuff blunder, Secretary of State John Kerry might have accidentally given Russian President Vladmir Putin the opportunity to muddy the international diplomatic waters and buy his friends in Syria some time.

During a press briefing on Monday, Kerry said that Assad could avoid American air strikes by giving up all his chemical weapons within a week. Within hours, the State Department was forced to walk Kerry's new red line back with the claim that he was making a "rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used."

It seems, then, reasonable to conclude that Kerry spoke out of turn. Kerry was not authorized to offer Syria an "out" or a new ultimatum. But Kerry's hypothetical hyperbole appears to have already backfired.

In an obvious desire to make Kerry pay for his flub and throw a wrench in Obama's determination to go to war with Syria, Putin has seized upon Kerry's hypothetical and called on Syria to accept Kerry's offer and turn over all of its chemical weapons. No one believes Assad would ever willingly give up his chemical weapons, but should he agree to an offer the Obama administration did not mean to make, it could stall American action for weeks and even months.

Syria is already warming to the idea.
Blunder indeed.

Morality Lessons from Breaking Bad

I was late to hop on the Breaking Bad bandwagon.  I discovered the show when they were in Season 3 and went back and watched the first two seasons in a couple of marathon sessions and got caught up and followed along from there.  The show is ending this season after only a few more episodes.   The show is extremely well written and full of symbolism, character development, clever plot twists and smartly raises questions about morality for the viewer before resolving them in it's own unique way. 

For those of you who haven't seen it, the premise is that a gifted chemistry teacher (Walter White) who is diagnosed with lung cancer and hasn't done enough to provide for his family after his death, is drawn into the easy money of making crystal meth in order to provide for his family after he dies.  From there, the story follows his descent into ever darker and more evil acts in order to keep his source of incredible income up and running.  At some point along the way, most people stop cheering for Walt as he crosses the various lines of morality that require increasingly immoral or evil acts.

September 8, 2013

Sunday Laughs

A laugh but a great point from Reagan as well.

September 7, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Connections 2, Something for Nothing

James Burke, historian.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997). 

Series continued from Episode 4.

Note - If you are interested in the Connections series or Connections 3 or The Day The Universe Changed, they can be found here.

Here's episode 5 of Connections 2, Something for Nothing.

September 6, 2013

Syria Later Boys.

Iranian copies Babe Ruth?
Now that Iran has threatened violent retaliation against U.S. citizens (including president Obama's family), is the president going to back down?  It wouldn't be the first time he has backed down with respect to Iran.  Back during Iran's Green Revolution, when people were being killed in the streets by government thugs, Obama blinked, several times. He also gulped audibly, I'm quite sure.  It didn't go unnoticed in Iran, where the leadership has clearly been emboldened by his inactions of the past.

In an unusually harsh statement, Iran has stepped up its game.
Alireza Forghani, the former governor of southern Iran’s Kish Province, threw down the gauntlet last week. Forghani is an analyst and strategy specialist in the supreme leader’s camp and closely aligned with Mehdi Taeb, who heads the regime’s Ammar Strategic Base, a radical think thank, and thus speaks with the blessing of the Islamic regime.

“Hopefully Obama will be pigheaded enough to attack Syria, and then we will see the … loss of U.S. interests [through terrorist attacks],” he threatened. “In just 21 hours [after the attack on Syria], a family member of every U.S. minister [department secretary], U.S. ambassadors, U.S. military commanders around the world will be abducted. And then 18 hours later, videos of their amputation will be spread [around the world].”
It could be bluster, or they honestly believe they can really hurt U.S. interests.  It seems like the former is the case though.  Otherwise, why go Babe Ruth and call the shot before undertaking terrorist activities?  The U.S. has shut down embassies in anticipation of activities based on intercepted communications.  Recently, in fact.  It wouldn't be much of a stretch to divert security forces to protect those mentioned as targets.  So it sure seems more like bluster.
What's a president to do?  It would not be surprising for Obama to blink again.  In fact handing the decisioning off to Congress, he has blinked already. In saying he didn't draw the red line  he was just echoing others, he blinked again.  Iranians probably realize this and in anticipation, have set themselves up to look like they've stared down the Great Satan.  It looks good domestically, it reinforces their hold on Syria and even if the U.S. does go ahead with plans to attack Syria, they probably feel in Iran that it gives them license to perpetrate all sorts of gruesome activities in the name of well, whatever.
Obama on the other hand isn't done blinking.  He seems genuinely intimidated by Iran.  Of course the geopolitics of an attack on Iran would be difficult.  Russia and China are adamantly against action. There is little appetite for action in the E.U. There won't be a lot of allies to lean on if the president were to take action.  And enabling Al Qaida by destabilizing a regime that they are currently invested in fighting makes the outcome far more likely to be a totalitarian extremist regime  and much less attractive and than a miraculous dawning of a pluralistic democracy in Syria.  Obama also has a problem with his left flank who expect him to be a peacenik president, at some point, eventually...
Obama will not take action on Syria. That's my prediction. He couldn't call the shot like Iran just did if he wanted to do it. He's flummoxed.

Friday Musical Interlude - A musical documentary

Switching gears a bit, this week's Friday Musical Interlude features a documentary Hotel California: LA from The Byrds to The Eagles which explores the Los Angeles California music scene, in part, from the mid 60sthrough the mid 70s.

September 5, 2013

Thursday Hillary Bash - Elton John Edition

Hillary Clinton has received the Elton John AIDS Foundation honors for her work  promoting gay rights and fighting AIDS and apparently all this for a speech. No kidding. Remember, if you are a liberal, that's all it takes to be recognized as great.
NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton's support of gay rights has earned her a special honor from the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The former secretary of state will receive its first Founder's Award. In a statement Wednesday, the foundation cited a 2011 speech in which Clinton asserted that gay rights were human rights for helping envision a world without AIDS.
Bill Clinton has also received this award.

Isn't that heartwarming? Elton John recognizes a speech, so of course he must have recognized all of the great work by president Bush on AIDs.  Or maybe not so much:
...we asked Elton if he thought the Bush administration had made good on his grand plan to fight AIDS.

"They've made a grave error in giving millions to abstinence programs," he told us. "They don't work. They were told in the beginning that it wouldn't work. It's a tragic waste of money. Please don't listen to those idiots. God almighty."
Which is at odds with a lot of people considering how much George W. bush actually did to fight AIDS.  Via Time:
George W. Bush didn't get a whole lot of attaboys on his way out of the White House. But on World AIDS Day near the end of last year, the outgoing U.S. President was the man of the hour, fielding praise from global health advocates and world leaders for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPfAR, which increased tenfold the number of HIV-infected patients in Africa who receive antiretroviral treatments. At megachurch pastor Rick Warren's Global Health Forum on Dec. 1, 2008, Bush lingered to discuss this untarnished highlight of his presidency, a commitment of $15 billion over five years to combat HIV/AIDS. "No U.S. President or political leader has done more for global health," said Warren.
So let's just cross that item off her resume when Hillary runs for president in 2016. I'm sure that for Elton John the Hillary move is political. If Hillary wins in 2016, as the odds seem to indicate she will, an award for Hillary is a foot inside the tent for Elton. Still, the shameless and disgraceful politically driven motivation for an award is disgusting to see. What's next, another Nobel Peace Prize for Obama?

Mexcican Female Vigilante Killing Bus Drivers

Mexican prosecutors said Monday they are investigating claims that a woman who killed two bus drivers last week in this northern border city was seeking revenge for alleged sexual abuse of female passengers.

The claims made in an e-mail from the self-styled "bus driver hunter" echoed deeply in Ciudad Juarez, which has a grim history of sexual violence against women aboard buses.

A woman wearing a blond wig — or dyed hair — boarded one of the school bus-style vehicles that serve as transport in Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday morning. She approached the driver, took out a pistol, shot him in the head and left the bus. The next day, apparently the same woman did exactly the same thing to another driver on the same route.

Over the weekend, media outlets began receiving e-mails from the address "Diana the hunter of bus drivers."

"I myself and other women have suffered in silence but we can't stay quiet anymore," the e-mail said. "We were victims of sexual violence by the drivers on the night shift on the routes to the maquilas," a reference to the border assembly plants that employ many residents in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. "I am the instrument of vengeance for several women."

The newspaper Diario de Juarez reported that a witness quoted the killer as telling the second victim, "You guys think you're real bad, don't you?" before shooting him.
Vigilantism is not something that should be condoned but this does underscore the point that there is a level of lawlessness in Mexico that has yet to be contained by Mexican authorities. Women in Mexico have been subject to a lot of violence.  That is not new.  But it is in reality just a symptom of a society that cannot afford to properly dispense justice and provide basic protections for its citizens.

The reason I bring this story up is because it serves as a reminder that allowing guns to cross the border into Mexico under the Fast and Furious program was a uniquely terrible idea. How the FBI thought they could keep control of that operation is beyond comprehension. The idea was astoundingly dumb. And yet the scandal has quietly and slowly disappeared.
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