Monday, November 22, 2010
Nobody is safe.
Velma Hart, who burst onto the media scene after telling President Obama she was scared about her financial future, has been laid off. Hart was let go as the chief financial officer for Am Vets, a nonprofit Maryland-based veteran services organization.
DOES THE TSA KILL? More on risk-shifting and risk-increasing. “According to the Cornell study, roughly 130 inconvenienced travelers died every three months as a result of additional traffic fatalities brought on by substituting ground transit for air transit. That’s the equivalent of four fully-loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year.”
Last Sunday, at 5:58pm, the USAF launched NRO LR-32, a secret US military spy satellite so massive that it required this Delta IV Heavy rocket to reach orbit. In fact, the mysterious spacecraft is the largest satellite in the world.
Everyone knows that the reason we have to take off our shoes, have our toothpaste confiscated, and get photographed naked or groped at the airport is because Religion of Peace keep trying to kill us. We go through these intensely irritating rituals so that our liberal rulers can make it clear that they would rather we suffer than profile the Muslims who commit terror attacks. Twisting it another notch tighter, the very people who should be profiled reportedly get exemptions from the intrusive searches they have made supposedly necessary for the rest of us. It sure helps to have friends in high places:
Exemptions for Muslim women wearing traditional garb may be the brainchild of Mohamed Elibiary, who recently was made a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Mr. Elibiary is president and chief executive officer of the Texas-based Freedom and Justice Foundation and a self-styled "de-radicalization expert" whose star has risen during the Obama presidency. He previously was appointed to Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism Working Group.
In December 2004, Mr. Elibiary spoke at a conference honoring the life and works of the "great Islamic visionary," Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In 2008, Mr. Elibiary denounced the conviction of Hamas-connected members of the Holy Land Foundation for material support of terrorism. Most alarmingly, Mr. Elibiary is an admirer of the work of Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual and spiritual godfather of modern jihadism.
No one who has read Qutb's work can mistake it for anything but an all-out assault on the American way of life and a call for a global Islamic takeover. The 9/11 Commission noted Qutb's role as an inspiration to al Qaeda and concluded that, "No middle ground exists in what Qutb conceived as a struggle between God and Satan. All Muslims — as he defined them — therefore must take up arms in this fight. Any Muslim who rejects his ideas is just one more nonbeliever worthy of destruction." Qutb — who lived in the United States as a student in the late 1940s — developed a comprehensive anti-American ideology that's widely cited as the basis for the contemporary violent Islamic extremism with which America is at war.
WSJ: A Sucker's Play -- Each $1 in Higher Taxes Results in $1.17 of New SpendingWall Street Journal op-ed, Higher Taxes Won't Reduce the Deficit, by Stephen Moore (Wall Street Journal) & Richard Vedder (Ohio University, Department of Economics):
The draft recommendations of the president's commission on deficit reduction call for closing popular tax deductions, higher gas taxes and other revenue raisers to drive tax collections up to 21% of GDP from the historical norm of about 18.5%. Another plan, proposed last week by commission member and former Congressional Budget Office director Alice Rivlin, would impose a 6.5% national sales tax on consumers.
The claim here, echoed by endless purveyors of conventional wisdom in Washington, is that these added revenues—potentially a half-trillion dollars a year—will be used to reduce the $8 trillion to $10 trillion deficits in the coming decade. If history is any guide, however, that won't happen. Instead, Congress will simply spend the money.
In the late 1980s, one of us, Richard Vedder, and Lowell Gallaway of Ohio University co-authored a often-cited research paper for the congressional Joint Economic Committee (known as the $1.58 study) that found that every new dollar of new taxes led to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Subsequent revisions of the study over the next decade found similar results.
We've updated the research. Using standard statistical analyses that introduce variables to control for business-cycle fluctuations, wars and inflation, we found that over the entire post World War II era through 2009 each dollar of new tax revenue was associated with $1.17 of new spending. Politicians spend the money as fast as it comes in—and a little bit more. ...
Muslim pupils learn to cut off hands of thieves
Muslim children are being taught how to chop off thieves’ hands and that Jews are plotting to take over the world at a network of Islamic schools, it has been disclosed.
A diagram from one of the text books
Up to 5,000 pupils attending weekend schools across Britain are being exposed to textbooks claiming that some Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and that some offences could be punished with stoning. One book for six year-olds warns that those who do not believe in Islam will be condemned to “hellfire” in death.
Another text for 15 year-olds teaches that thieves who break Sharia law should have their hands cut off for a first offence and their feet amputated for a subsequent crime. Teenagers are presented with diagrams showing where the cuts should be made.
Alcohol is glorious even if it is more dangerous than crack
The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva
Alcohol is the universal drug. Most cultures have enjoyed millennia-long affairs with drink, using it medically, socially and as a means to explore the mystical. It helps humanity communicate with gods through the Eucharist, stimulates artists like Jackson Pollock to create beauty and contributes to a joy in being alive.
The dark side makes it all the more interesting. At the beginning of this month a survey by Professor David Nutt found that alcohol causes more harm than heroin or crack cocaine. Prohibitionists tell us that it is a blight on society and has led to every imaginable vice. I find it inspiring.
The power of alcohol is indicated in the vast amounts of cash generated by the drinks industry. A single brewer AB Inbev (home to Stella Artois and Becks) listed revenues of $36.8 billion last year. This is almost twice what the US government spends on its space programme annually. Clearly a lot of people find it inspiring too.
Dogs are cleverer than cats because their friendly character has helped them develop bigger brains, a study set to end the argument between pet lovers has shown.
Researchers have discovered that cat?s brains are smaller because they are less social Photo: REX
For the first time scientists have charted the evolutionary history of the brain across different groups of mammals over 60 million years and identified huge variations in how their brains have changed.
They found that there was a link between the size of an animal’s brain in relation to the rest of its body and how socially active it was.
The study analysed available data on the brain and body size of over 500 species of living and fossilised mammals. The brains of monkeys grew the most over time followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs.
It found that groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tended to live in stable social groups. The brains of more solitary mammals such as cats, deer and rhino, grew much more slowly during the same period.
Science has many colorful figures, but nobody quite like Tycho Brahe. Beyond his astronomy genius, he lost his nose in a math-fueled duel, possibly inspired Shakespeare to write Hamlet, and maybe made his even greater successor Johannes Kepler a murderer.
It's hard to avoid getting a bit sensational when talking about Brahe. Everything about his life seemed off-kilter and larger-than-life, even from his earliest origins. When he was two, his uncle, the wealthy Danish noble Jørgen Brahe stole young Tycho from his parents...who proved to be strangely OK with this. Most everything else that followed in Brahe's life was just as unlikely, eccentric, and more than a little awesome.
The rest of the story at: http://io9.com/5696469/the-crazy-life-and-crazier-death-of-tycho-brahe-historys-strangest-astronomer
Jury Convicts Salvadoran Illegal Immigrant of Murdering Chandra Levy
Chandra Levy (AP)
DEVELOPING: A jury has convicted Salvadoran illegal immigrant Ingmar Guandique of murdering former D.C. intern Chandra Levy.
The incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association recently proposed transferring over-eager TSA agents to the Mexican border.
"How about we take all those TSA agents and put them on the border with Mexico where they can do some security there?" Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked rhetorically in a statement quoted by The Hill.
"That's where we need security substantially more than in our airports and what we're seeing out of this bunch."
Was Stuxnet Designed to Wreck Iran's Nukes?
(Nov. 19) -- Experts analyzing a powerful computer worm that may have been designed to slow Iran's nuclear program have discovered the malicious bug was programmed in a way that could cause nuclear-fuel centrifuges to self-destruct.
Since its discovery by a Belorussian anti-virus firm this summer, the Stuxnet worm has been found on some 44,000 computers worldwide, 60 percent of which are located in Iran. (Just 1,600 are in the U.S.) But the exact purpose of the world's first so-called cyberwarfare super-weapon -- a digital program designed to destroy a real-world target -- has puzzled experts.
Some have speculated that it was aimed at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant or its fuel-refining facility at Natanz. Others have said it may have killed a major Indian TV satellite in September.
Pictured is the reactor building at the Russian-built nuclear power plant in Bushehr, southern Iran. Some have speculated that the plant was the target of the Stuxnet computer worm.
The new forensic analysis isn't definitive, but it has reduced the field of possible targets. Experts had already established that Stuxnet is programmed to search for and infect a specific Siemens programmable logic controller (PLC) -- a computer that controls machinery in automated industrial production lines. But a report published last week by computer security giant Symantec revealed that once inside the PLC, Stuxnet hunts for unique identification numbers that can be found only on "frequency converter drives" made by two companies in the world: Fararo Paya in Iran and Vacon in Finland.
Frequency converter drives are a type of power supply that can change the frequency of their output to control the speed of a motor. Stuxnet seeks out drives set at the very high speeds a centrifuge must achieve to separate and concentrate uranium isotopes for use as nuclear fuel. That fuel can then be used in a nuclear reactor or, if refined to a far higher concentration, in an atomic weapon.
But Stuxnet could potentially interfere with that refining process, as it commands the drives to intermittently fluctuate between ultra-high and low electrical currents -- causing the centrifuge to spin extremely fast and then slow -- over a period of several months. Such extreme speed adjustments could tear the centrifuges apart.
Orrin Hatch’s likely primary challenger and vanquisher, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), had the prescience to try and stop the TSA:
December 2009: Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz inserted language into the Homeland Security appropriations bill barring the use of fully-body image scans as “primary” screening tools at airports, and it passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 310-118. Both the ACLU and the NRA backed it. The amendment also made it illegal to store and copy these images. It died in the Senate.
From Matiullah Mati for CNN:
An Afghan Christian, detained for months for allegedly converting to Christianity from Islam, could face trial as early as next week - and could face a potential death penalty, officials said Sunday.
Said Musa was arrested by Afghan Interior Ministry intelligence authorities near the German Embassy in Kabul because of the allegations, said Qamaruddin Shenwari, director of the Kabul courts' north zone. The exact date of his arrest is not known.
(Reuters) - Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was "not a good policy", weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.
Why did gold—and not osmium, lithium, ruthenium or any other element—become the one we humans use as money? Sanat Kumar, a chemical engineer at Columbia University, goes through the periodic table and explains why the rest wouldn't work.
Right off the bat, Kumar explains to NPR, the rightmost column of the table of the gets X'd out—they're gasses, which would be problematic for obvious reasons. 38 more elements get the boot for being too reactive—corroding or igniting when they're exposed to air. The two rows hanging at the bottom are radioactive, so those are no good either. We're already down from 118 elements to 30. That was quick.
After that, Kumar says you want the metal to be rare but not too rare. That leaves five precious metals: rhodium, palladium, silver, platinum and gold.
Silver is good, but it tarnishes. Rhodium and palladium weren't discovered until the early 1800s, so they're out. Platinum's melting point is over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so you'd need a serious furnace to melt and shape it into coins, a furnace more advanced than one developed by ancient civilizations.
So that leaves us with good old gold, and Kumar says that if we had to replay history from the start, we'd probably end up with gold again today: "For the earth, with every parameter we have, gold is the sweet spot...It would come out no other way."
Audacious: Ground Zero Mosque Applies for $5M Federal Grant
Developers of the controversial Park51 Islamic community center and mosque located one tenth of a mile from Ground Zero earlier this month applied for roughly $5 million in federal grant money set aside for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11th, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
The reason it got postponed.
Apparently, the Charlie Rangel ethics trial was just the warm-up act. The New York Times reported over the weekend that the House Ethics Committee suddenly postponed the trial of Maxine Waters on ethics violation because it found more evidence of direct intervention by her office to benefit the bank in which her husband owned a substantial interest.
'Nerd Penalty': Social Costs of School Success Are Highest for African Americans, Study Shows
ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2010) — African American and Native American teens who do well in school suffer from a higher "nerd penalty" than white, Asian, and Hispanic youth, according to a new analysis.
For black students and for Native Americans, the relationship between GPA and social acceptance was reversed: the higher their GPA, the lonelier they were likely to report feeling, and the more they were likely to report that others had been unfriendly or disliked them.
While Hispanics overall displayed a pattern similar to whites and Asians, the researchers found significant differences between students of Mexican descent and those of Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Central and South American heritage.
The Mexican students showed patterns similar to blacks, particularly when they were a small proportion of the population in high-achieving schools.
Barbara Bush: Palin Should Stay in Alaska
In an interview with CNN's Larry King scheduled for airing Monday, Mrs. Bush says she sat next to Palin once and "thought she was beautiful."
The outspoken wife of former President George H.W. Bush says Palin, who is considering a presidential run in 2012, seems "very happy in Alaska" but then adds, "I hope she'll stay there."
BOBBY JINDAL ON THE TSA: Feds Shouldn’t Care More About Terrorists’ Rights Than About Ours.
“Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) blasted the Obama administration’s handling suspected terrorist and called the Transportation Security Administration’s controversial search procedures excessive during NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.”
Also, “Enron had better PR” than the TSA.
Top political scientist: U.S. voters are 'pretty damn stupid'
Political reporters often rely on University of Wisconsin political scientist Charles Franklin for expertise. In just the past few months, his insights have appeared in articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Associated Press, Politico, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. He's also a co-founder of the influential website Pollster.com, as well as co-director of the Big Ten Battleground Poll.
So Franklin answered with considerable authority when he was asked, at a recent forum on the November 2 election results, why Republicans emerged victorious in so many races. "I'm not endorsing the American voter," Franklin said. "They're pretty damn stupid."
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/2010/11/top-political-scientist-us-voters-are-pretty-damn-stupid#ixzz160z1wmnP
A Forecast That Obama Could Love
You might not think so, given the flow of news lately. His foreign policy has met with limited success, at best. And, back home, unemployment is mired at 9.6 percent. Earlier this month, in a major political blow, Democrats lost more than 60 seats and control of the House of Representatives.
So what is there for Mr. Obama and his supporters to cheer about?
Try this: Based on the facts at hand right now, Mr. Obama is likely to win the 2012 election in a landslide. That, at least, is the prediction of Ray C. Fair, a Yale economist and an expert on econometrics and on the relationship of economics and politics.