Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Character actor Leonard Nimoy, 83, has died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nimoy famously portrayed Mr. Spock, the half-Vulcan science officer on the iconic TV series Star Trek, and in several films which extended the franchise.

Arguably the best-known of Star Trek characters, Spock was the favorite of nerds and geeks everywhere. Requiescat in pace, Leonard.

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The finest compliment I received in 30+ years as a professor was the following, quoted verbatim from an anonymous student evaluation of a long-ago class:
He has a mind like Spock.

Dilbert Redux

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, writing about the non-infallibility of corporations:
There's a lot of Dilbert even in the best organizations.
DrC - a retired Management prof - wishes it were not true.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Coulter: Illegal Aliens the Immediate Threat

Ann Coulter writes that while we focus on ISIS, which has killed maybe 4 Americans total in Syria, illegal aliens kill that many or more of us inside the U.S. every week. Somehow our government is helpless when it comes to protecting us from this immediate threat. Coulter's column is found at Patriot Post.

Wood: What ISIS Really Wants

Graeme Wood, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, has written an article for that magazine that bids fair to become a classic. It is entitled "What ISIS Really Wants." You owe it to yourself to read the article.

Wood reports ISIS believes that the apocalypse is near, that ISIS is God's protagonist in that battle, that God's plan involves killing many, perhaps most of the world's people, and that ISIS is on board with that goal, is in fact the chosen instrument of God's will.

ISIS's murders, immolations and beheadings are in fact religious acts, "sacraments" a Christian would call them. One is reminded of the worship of Kali, goddess of death, by the Thugs of India who also killed as many as they were able.

Reasoning with people sincerely holding such views is futile, killing them in wholesale numbers is not.

Hillary "Knowingly Lied" About Benghazi

National Review reports State Department emails, obtained as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests by Judicial Watch, show the following:
From the very first moments of the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aides were advised that the compound was under a terrorist attack. In fact, less than two hours into the attack, they were told that the al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya, Ansar al-Sharia, had claimed responsibility.
The article contains a minute by minute tick-tock of what happened when and who knew when. It continues:
Despite this evidence that her top staffers were informed from the start that a terrorist attack was underway and that an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group had claimed credit for it, Secretary Clinton issued an official statement claiming the assault may have been in “response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

Gregory Hicks, Ambassador Stevens’ deputy who was in Tripoli at the time of the Benghazi attacks, (snip) further testified that the video was a “non-event” in Benghazi.
The article concludes by quoting the Judicial Watch president:
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton asserted that the e-mails left “no doubt that Hillary Clinton’s closest advisers knew the truth about the Benghazi attack from almost the moment it happened.” Mr. Fitton further opined that “it is inescapable that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knowingly lied when she planted the false story about ‘inflammatory material being posted on the Internet.’ The contempt for the public’s right to know is evidenced not only in these documents but also in the fact that we had to file a lawsuit in federal court to obtain them."
Notice the September 11 date, less than 2 months before the 2012 election. Her lie was in support of the President's false campaign claim that he had al Qaeda on the run.  The suppressed facts about Benghazi directly contradicted Obama's claim and supported the alternative narrative of opponent Mitt Romney.

Documented lying in high office, about matters of life and death, should entirely disqualify Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate. Unfortunately it will do no such thing, a sad commentary upon her party.

Trouble in Brazil

Carnival is almost done for 2015; Rio de Janeiro is sobering up and looking forward to autumn, arriving in three weeks. Sadly, The Economist reports the Brazilian economy is a mess.

When a strong president is needed, Brazil has a weak leader in President Rousseff. During much of the period when Petrobras corruption has been alleged, she chaired the Petrobras board.

Permeating Latin America, Iberian culture has great charm. However, it is only rarely associated with clean government or economic rationality.

In lectures I've given on Latin America, I formerly said Brazil was one of the strong nations of the region, along with Chile and Peru. These were places I might consider investing or living.

Today, I wouldn't mention Brazil in that group. Brazil does remain stronger to varying degrees than Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay or Venezuela.

A New (to Me) Usage

Like Jay Nordlinger - whose work I enjoy at National Review - I am interested in the evolution of our mother tongue, English. So it was with some interest that I read research abstract at the Urban Institute's website which used the term "survival sex."

Reading further, it wrote of young people (often runaways)
Who get involved in the commercial sex market in order to meet basic survival needs, such as food or shelter.
Survival sex is certainly not a new behavior, but perhaps the label is a relatively new usage, at least outside the sex trade and social worker fields, for whom it is described at Wikipedia.

A Credible Threat

The New York Times reports an Argentine judge has thrown out the complaint against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. This after the prosecutor who filed the complaint was found shot in the head, in what was supposed to look like a suicide.

Do you suppose the judge concluded he risked death by allowing an investigation into the charges? In his shoes I might reach the same conclusion - without looking at the facts in the case.

Bad Company

The Independent (U.K.) reports ISIS burned thousands of rare books and manuscripts in Mosul. Apparently these were insufficiently Islamic.

The action plus mass murders puts ISIS in the same category with Mao's Red Guards, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and Hitler's Nazi brownshirts, all of whom engaged in similar acts of cultural genocide now universally detested.

Quote of the Day

Monica Crowley, writing for The Washington Times about how little we know of Obama:
Digging into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s college years is called “vetting.”
Digging into Mr. Obama’s college years is called “racism.”
The MSM is certainly in the tank for Obama. Thus he remains a stranger in a strange land (hat tip to Robert Heinlein for loan of the book title).

Why Build Sprawl?

CityLab carries an article the title of which is an intriguing question, reflecting the puzzlement of urban planners who prefer dense urban living spaces:
Why Are Developers Still Building Sprawl?
The article goes on at some length but the short answer is because sprawl sells. Most people still want a suburban ranch house or McMansion on a cul de sac, with a 2-3 car garage. Every time gas prices drop people go back to buying their preferred SUVs and pickup trucks, too.

This is obviously related to what we wrote yesterday about most Americans driving to the grocery store, and wherever else they go within 100 miles.

Why Women Vote GOP

Amanda Marcotte, writing for Slate, examines a question that bemuses feminists: why do many women vote Republican? Citing several data points, she concludes:
There's been an increased interest in recent years in what motivates Republican women, particularly as the party has amped up its assault on reproductive rights. This data, which jibes with countless studies have shown that women are more likely to be religious than men, helps answer that question: It's religion.
Other studies have shown that married women are likely to vote Republican, unmarried women - not so much. Perhaps a Venn diagram of married women and religious women would show a large area of overlap.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Unwarranted Assumption

John Hinderaker, blogging at Power Line, reports on the arrest of three men, two of whom wanted to leave the U.S. to join ISIS in Syria. Two were Uzbeks and one a Kazak. Hinderaker labels them "non-Muslims" but provides no evidence of their faith.

An Associated Press story on the arrests says nothing about them being non-Muslim and infers strongly that at least one was very involved in Islam. Checking the CIA's World Factbook online, I find that Uzbekistan is 88% Muslim and Kazakstan is 70% Muslim.

I expect what Hinderaker meant was that these men were not Arabs. Most people from both countries are considered Turkic - not precisely Turkish but members of the same ethno-languistic group.

Ukraine Invasion a Laugh to White House

The Washington Free Beacon reports on White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice being interviewed by PBS host Charlie Rose, their site also has the video:
The National Security Adviser for President Obama laughed uncontrollably when asked about how humiliating it was to have Ukrainian troops retreat. Rice accused Charlie Rose of trying to get her off track while still laughing.
Rice demonstrates what President Obama privately assured Russian President Dmitry Medvedev two plus years ago, courtesy of Fox News:
This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.
In this case, the flexibility to laugh off a Russian invasion of Ukraine. This laughter must scare the crap out of people in Kiev, also those in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

More on Rudy's View

Lucianne.com links to a Mediaite article which references a HuffPost/YouGov poll asking people if they believe Obama loves America. Unsurprisingly, 85% of Democrats said yes and roughly 70% of Republicans said no. Independents split basically evenly, 42% yes vs. 38% no.

Lumping all three groups together, less than half (47%) see clear evidence Obama loves America. Some 35% believe he doesn't, and 18% have no opinion or refuse to answer.

In addition to the question about Obama's feelings, respondents were asked about their own personal love of country, or lack thereof. The poll's most interesting finding is that 15% of respondents under 30 say they do not love America. Given the large number of unemployed or underemployed Millennials still living with parents, we shouldn't be surprised.

As you would guess, liberals are more likely (13%) to say they don't love America compared with moderates (5%) or conservatives (4%). Fortunately for our country, large majorities of all parties and groups do love America, even liberals and the young.
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Lucianne.com also links to a Breitbart Big Government story which references a post on the Facebook page of Rev. Franklin Graham, son of and successor to Rev. Billy Graham. Graham writes concerning whether Obama doesn't love America:
I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that the president defends Islam and chastises Christians, rebukes our allies and befriends our enemies, and fully supports gay marriages and abortion but denies the religious freedoms of those who don't agree.
In other words, Obama's behavior is that of a person who does not much love America.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bag Ban Interrupted

Yahoo News carries an Associated Press story reporting that the ban on plastic grocery bags, scheduled to go into effect statewide in California in July, will be put on hold. A group opposed to the ban has qualified a referendum for the 2016 ballot aimed at overturning it and allowing the continued use of these bags.

The bag ban isn't widely popular with Americans, we don't shop like Europeans. They normally carry their own shopping bag to market, shop almost daily, and often do so on foot or by bicycle.

Americans often purchase more than one can easily carry home in a single bag. Most of us shop weekly by auto. Our homes and refrigerators are 2-3 times as large as theirs and most of us drive to the market.

I hope Californians vote in 2016 to overturn the bag ban, any defeat of the nanny state is a victory for individual liberty. And there is no reason those who choose to use their own bags cannot do so.

Meanwhile, our household reuses plastic grocery bags to take out garbage and trash. If we didn't get them with groceries, we'd have to purchase garbage bags. Net benefit to the environment: zero.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rudy Is Right

Blogging for The Washington Post, Ed Rogers comments sensibly on Giuliani's Obama-doesn't-love-America trope. Rogers catalogs a number of Obama shortcomings, both stylistic and substantive, and concludes:
There are plenty of reasons that suggest Obama might not love America as it is or in the traditional sense.
It is no mystery. I remember Mrs. O famously saying how unproud of America she was during the 2008 campaign.

If he were candid, Barry O. would probably tell you he loves what America could become, not what it is. You and I will love America less if he gets his way, that's one of his goals for this zero-sum game.

Greece Blinks

COTTonLINE has been following the conflict between Greece and the euro zone. When we last looked at the situation an agreement had been reached but it was unclear who gave in to whom.

Now we know the answer - the euro zone yielded little, Greece caved in to their demands. See a New York Times story for details.

One wonders how the Greek electorate will view the ruling Syriza Party's betrayal of its very recent campaign promise to dump austerity, regardless. Since only weeks have elapsed, Syriza can hardly claim the circumstances have changed dramatically. My guess: Greek voters will be furious.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Two Great Cartoons

The guys at Power Line collect and anthologize cartoons and funny pix for the week. Here are URLs for two I particularly liked. The first they subtitled "Separated at birth?" The second is captioned by the cartoonist. Enjoy my two or select your own favorites.

The Peter Principle Lives

The President has appointed the entirely ineffectual State Department spox Jen Psaki to the job of White House Communications Director. This is the well-known Peter Principle on steroids.

You'll remember the Peter Principle argued people are promoted until they reach a job the difficulty of which is too much for them. Since they do a poor job at that level they are stuck there and go no higher. To those of us with extensive bureaucratic experience the "principle" always made a perverse sense.

How then to explain the promotion to a more important job of a woman who did a laughably poor job in her prior role at State? Perhaps she was promoted for having demonstrated at State an ability to deliver outlandishly improbable twaddle with an earnest straight face. See a Power Line article for more.