Archive for September, 2015
30 Sep 2015

Sophistry as the New Constitutionalism

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ObergefelCartoon

Bruce P. Frohnen, at the University Bookman, points out how the recent SCOTUS Obergefel decision typifies the operation of modern American government outside the realm of law.

Can’t get the votes you need? Simply change the rules of the Senate. Lack sufficient support to ratify a treaty? Re-define it as an Executive Agreement. Can’t get Gay Marriage through the legislatures? Interpret some new “rights” out of the Constitution.

Limited government with defined powers is magically transformed into totally unlimited government, free to do anything the community of fashion strongly desires to do.

What made Justice Kennedy´s decision in Obergefell so damaging was not its seemingly endless, vapid paeans to individual autonomy and other pseudo-intellectual claptrap. The inferior quality of Kennedy´s musings is beside the point. The problem is that his musings have no basis in our Constitution or in the moral and intellectual traditions that shaped it and our culture. Kennedy´s legal reasoning, such as it is, flagrantly violates the rule of law in order to impose the “correct” policy on the nation.

The judiciary’s willful conduct has inured it, and us, to the tactics of ideological force.

I am hardly the first to point out that Obergefell substitutes the will of judges for the rule of law. It demands of the people that they forego their obligation to follow and uphold the law of the land and instead bow to the will of the rulers. Such commands are inimical to any semblance of ordered liberty. Unfortunately, these commands, issuing ever-more frequently from the courts and the administrative state, have become deeply embedded in our legal culture and have rendered our legal nomenklatura immune to arguments rooted in reason and to principles of fair play and civil discourse. At the same time, the judiciary’s willful conduct has inured it, and us, to the tactics of ideological force.

Read the whole thing.

30 Sep 2015

Not Just a River in Egypt

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City Council member Mark Levine, City Council member Daniel Dromm, Robert Meeropol, Michael Meeropol and Gail Brewer on the steps of City Hall.

Atomic spy Ethel Rosenberg, executed for treason in 1953, was honored last Monday on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Not as you might expect at FSB (Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации [pФСБ] headquarters in Moscow, but in Manhattan!

NY Post:

Three council members joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in issuing two proclamations lauding Rosenberg, a Lower East Side resident, for “demonstrating great bravery” in leading a 1935 strike against the National New York Packing and Supply Co., where she worked as a clerk.

The proclamations also said she was “wrongfully” executed for helping her husband, Julius, pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

“A lot of hysteria was created around anti-communism and how we had to defend our country, and these two people were traitors and we rushed to judgment and they were executed,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens).

30 Sep 2015

14 Most Inebriated Pennsylvania Counties

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Kittaning, county seat of Armstrong County

Only in Our State

Clinton County (County Seat, Lock Haven) comes in first. (Applause!)

Lackawanna (Scranton), Luzerne (Hazleton), Monroe (Stroudsburg), and Huntingdon (Huntingdon) all get in there. Sadly, my native county, Schuylkill, does not even make this list. It would have in the old days. My hometown in its prime had more barrooms than Philadelphia, typically six per block: each corner building and one in the middle of the block on either side of the street.

29 Sep 2015

Trump’s Tax Plan

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TrumpTaxPlan

Donald Trump was sinking slowly in the polls and a number of pundits were predicting his candidacy was in terminal decline, but The Donald yesterday stopped whining about Fox News and actually produced a substantive policy proposal: a dramatic revision of the tax code.

Tax Prof Blog

Trump’s plan is simple, but it would certainly be a revolutionary change, eliminating scads of special interest deductions, freeing less well-off Americans entirely from federal taxation (except for Social Security), and giving US businesses a major shot-in-the-arm by making our business tax much more competitive. Trump’s plan is simple, but it is intelligent and possesses enormous potential voter appeal. In one fell swoop, Donald Trump has revived his candidacy and made himself again the man to beat.

29 Sep 2015

People: The Two Women Graduated Ranger School (With Plenty of Help)

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1st Lts. Shaye Haver and Kristen Griest

People Magazine (not exactly a rabid conservative source) reports that the two female candidates successfully passing US Army Ranger School for the first time last April had more than a little special help.

[T]he women got special treatment and played by different rules,” sources say.

Ranger School consists of three phases: Benning, which lasts 21 days and includes water survival, land navigation, a 12-mile march, patrols, and an obstacle course; Mountain Phase, which lasts 20 days, and includes assaults, ambushes, mountaineering and patrols; and Swamp Phase, which lasts 17 days and covers waterborne operations.

But whereas men consistently were held to the strict standards outlined in the Ranger School’s Standing Operating Procedures handbook sources say, the women were allowed lighter duties and exceptions to policy.

Multiple sources told PEOPLE:

• Women were first sent to a special two-week training in January to get them ready for the school, which didn’t start until April 20. Once there they were allowed to repeat the program until they passed – while men were held to a strict pass/fail standard.

• Afterward they spent months in a special platoon at Fort Benning getting, among other things, nutritional counseling and full-time training with a Ranger.

• While in the special platoon they were taken out to the land navigation course – a very tough part of the course that is timed – on a regular basis. The men had to see it for the first time when they went to the school.

• Once in the school they were allowed to repeat key parts – like patrols – while special consideration was not given to the men.

• A two-star general made personal appearances to cheer them along during one of the most challenging parts of the school, multiple sources tell PEOPLE.

The end result? Two women – First Lts. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver – graduated August 21 (along with 381 men) and are wearing the prestigious Ranger Tab. Griest was surprised they made it.

“I thought we were going to be dropped after we failed Darby [part of Benning] the second time,” Griest said at a press conference before graduation. “We were offered a Day One Recycle.”

At their graduation, Maj Gen. Scott Miller, who oversees Ranger School, denied the Army eased its standards or was pressured to ensure at least one woman graduated.

“Standards remain the same,” Miller said, according to The Army Times. “The five-mile run is still five miles. The 12-mile march is still 12 miles.

“There was no pressure from anyone above me to change standards,” said Miller, who declined to speak to PEOPLE.

Instructors say otherwise.

“We were under huge pressure to comply,” one Ranger instructor says. “It was very much politicized.”

The women didn’t want or ask for special treatment, says one who attempted the program.

“All of us wanted the same standards for males and females,” Billi Blaschke, who badly injured her ankle only six days into a required pre-assessment program, tells PEOPLE. “We wanted to do it on our own.”

On September 2, the Army announced that Ranger School is now open both to men and women.

Read the whole thing.

29 Sep 2015

Exactly What Australia Needed

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Kimberly Death Adder (Acanthophis cryptamydros)

IFLScience reports that a new species of snake –though to be among the ten deadliest in the world— has been discovered in Western Australia.

A new species of viper-like snake discovered in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia is highly venomous and expertly camouflaged. … [T]he Kimberley death adder is a sit-and-wait predator – ambushing frogs, lizards, and small mammals passing by.

A team led by Simon Maddock from London’s Natural History Museum discovered the new species after analyzing mitochondrial and nuclear DNA of Australian death adders in the genus Acanthophis. Previously, populations from the Kimberley region of Western Australia were thought to be the same species as those occupying the Northern Territory.

The new species name comes from the Greek words “kryptos” for cryptic or hidden and “amydros” for indistinct or dim. The findings were published in Zootaxa [pdf] last month.

The back of this 65-centimeter (26-inch) long snake is a pale orange-brown with 33 dark bands. Like others in its genus, the new snake has a diamond-shaped head and a stout body. But in addition to its unique mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences, the new death adder can also be distinguished by the slightly higher number of cream-colored scales on its underbelly. These scales are unpigmented except for one to three rows of spots.

Its range within Western Australia extends from the grassy, shrubby woodlands of Wotjulum in the west and Kununurra in the east, and it also occurs on some offshore islands including Koolan, Bigge, Boongaree, Wulalam, and an unnamed island in Talbot Bay. “Surprisingly, the snakes it most closely resembles aren’t its closest genetic relatives,” Maddock said in a statement. The team’s mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that it’s closely related to the desert death adder, A. pyrrhus, and not the Northern Territory death adders, A. rugosus. Similarities between the Kimberley death adder and others in the area may have come about through evolutionary convergence: They ended up with the same traits because of their similar environments.

It’s unclear how many Kimberley death adders there are in the wild, but according to Maddock, they’re probably quite rare.

29 Sep 2015

Equal Opportunity

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28 Sep 2015

The $1500 Six-Month Sandwich

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Chelsea German, at Cato, points to a demonstration of the argument for division of labor through marketplace exchange first advanced by Adam Smith:

What would life be like without exchange or trade? Recently, a man decided to make a sandwich from scratch. He grew the vegetables, gathered salt from seawater, milked a cow, turned the milk into cheese, pickled a cucumber in a jar, ground his own flour from wheat to make the bread, collected his own honey, and personally killed a chicken for its meat. This month, he published the results of his endeavor in an enlightening video: making a sandwich entirely by himself cost him 6 months of his life and set him back $1,500.

(It should be noted that he used air transportation to get to the ocean to gather salt. If he had taken it upon himself to learn to build and fly a plane, then his endeavor would have proved impossible).

The inefficiency of making even something as humble as a sandwich by oneself, without the benefits of market exchange, is simply mind-boggling. There was a time when everyone grew their own food and made their own clothes. It was a time of unimaginable poverty and labor without rest.

Via the Wall Street Journal.

28 Sep 2015

I’m Missing My Koch Brothers Check This Month

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DebateIsOver

David Harsanyi notes that today’s liberals think that their own position enjoys monopoly control of Reason, Science, intellectual curiosity, and ordinary human benevolence. If you disagree with them about Global Warming, Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, or the desirability of electing democrats, it cannot possibly be on the basis of legitimate disagreement, you have to have been paid off by the Koch Brothers.

Conservatives may be ethically compromised, uninformed or—if liberals are in a generous mood—mentally unstable, but they can’t be for real. At least, that’s the sense I increasingly get from the left these days. Blame it on social media.
When a group confuses its politics with moral doctrine, it may have trouble comprehending how a decent human could disagree with its positions. This is probably why people confuse lecturing with debating and why so many liberals can bore into the deepest nooks of my soul to ferret out all those motivations but can’t waste any time arguing about the issue itself.

Are you also corrupt? Probably. Bought off by big oil, big food or big something or other? Washington is teeming with Manchurian candidates, because no one could possibly be this malicious on his own. Why should liberals debate a point when they can debate your imaginary sugar daddy? Why else would conservatives “hate workers”? Why would they “bet against America”? Why do they want to destroy democracy? Why would conservatives vote against their own interests? Someone pays them to lie.

28 Sep 2015

Special Forces To Change ‘Free The Oppressed’ Motto After Complaints From Afghans Holding Sex Slaves

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BachaBazi

Duffleblog (the military satire site) hits the nail on the head with this one.

op Army leaders have ordered its elite Special Forces unit to change its motto from the Latin “De Opresso Liber” (To liberate the oppressed) to something that would be more culturally sensitive, after a large number of Afghans holding child sex slaves have complained.

“We want to make sure we are not offending our coalition partners and not judging them based on our own biases,” said Col. Dwight S. Barry, a Pentagon spokesperson. “At the end of the day, we just have to respect that raping young boys and mutilating female genitals is just a part of their culture.”

Started in 1952, Army Special Forces chose its Latin motto of “De Opresso Liber” at a time when the U.S. was heavily focused on freeing people around the world from the chains of Soviet Communism. Now decades later, Army leaders want operators to be more aware of cultural differences they may not understand in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Berkeley, California.

The move comes in the wake of numerous complaints from Afghan men, who have chided U.S. military officials over previous run-ins with Special Forces soldiers unaware of the ancient Afghan custom of “bacha bazi.” The practice, which literally translates to “boy play,” consists of chaining children to beds, taking off their clothes, and then sexually assaulting them until they scream “bingo.”…

Officials are currently weighing a number of potential mottos as replacements, which include “Tolerate Iniustitia (Tolerate Injustice)” and “Ad Dissimulare (To Turn a Blind Eye).”

In addition to the change in motto, the Army band has also been directed to record a new version of the “Ballad of the Green Berets,” which was recorded during the Vietnam War. An initial draft of the lyrics include: “Silver wings upon their chest / These are men, America’s best / One hundred slaves get raped today / But all ignored by the Green Beret.”

27 Sep 2015

FOIA Suits Exposing Hillary’s Scandals

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The Wall Street Journal summarizes what information it is possible to gleen as the result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, and what we already know shows just how much trouble Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is facing.

Congressional investigators can subpoena documents, but even if after long delays they get them, the investigators must trust that the agency handed over everything. The agency usually doesn’t. Under FOIA, by contrast, the agency is required by law to provide plaintiffs with a complete inventory and broad description of every document it has that pertains to the request—but is withholding. This is known as a Vaughn index. The State Department on Monday handed over its Vaughn index to Citizens United and, boy, are these email descriptions revealing.

We find that the State Department has—but is not releasing—an email chain between then-Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and a Clinton Foundation board member about the secretary of state’s planned trip to Africa. We find that the State Department has—but is not releasing—emails between Ms. Mills and foundation staff discussing “invitations to foreign business executives to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.” We find many undisclosed email chains in which State Department officials talk with Clinton Foundation officials about Bill Clinton speeches and Bill Clinton travel, including to events in North Korea and Congo.

Huma Abedin, a longtime confidante of Mrs. Clinton’s, was somehow allowed to work, simultaneously, at the State Department, the Clinton Foundation and as a consultant to Teneo—a consulting firm run by Clinton loyalist Doug Band. All three of Ms. Abedin’s hats come into play in an undisclosed email exchange regarding a 2012 dinner in Ireland. As the Washington Examiner reported in May, Mrs. Clinton received an award at the dinner from a Clinton Foundation donor. The ceremony was promoted by Teneo. Mrs. Clinton attended in her official capacity as secretary of state. Sort through that.

We already know that the Clinton Foundation continued to take foreign money even while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state. We now know this was only the start of the entwining. These email summaries show that the Clinton Foundation was the State Department and the State Department was the Clinton Foundation. All one, big, seamless, Clinton-promoting entity. We would know far more if State released the full emails. It is citing personal privacy as one reason not to make some public. In others, it claims the emails “shed no light on the conduct of U.S. Government business.”

Separately, we learn that the State Department is withholding from Citizens United and congressional investigators 14 separate exchanges between department employees regarding Benghazi. Most of these involve discussions of the State Department’s statement about the attack, or its responses to congressional inquiries about the attack. In short, those documents go directly to the focus of Congress’s probe: whether the administration covered up what it knew about the attack or the risks to the four American diplomats who were killed. The State Department is claiming attorney-client privilege for its withholding, since most of the exchanges involve Ms. Mills—who we now find also served as an attorney at the department. The Clintons think of everything.

All told, there are at least 35 FOIA lawsuits pending for Clinton-related email. Nearly everything important we’ve learned has come from those suits. They are why the State Department is releasing emails; why we know they contained classified information; why we know Mrs. Clinton’s aides also used unsanctioned email accounts; why we know that the State Department is covering for Mrs. Clinton.

27 Sep 2015

Stopping Crime in NYC Requires Americans in 50 States to Surrender Their Guns

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West Indian American Day Parade

Steve Sailer admires Governor Cuomo’s reasoning.

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, during a fiery eulogy on Saturday for a lawyer in his administration who died after being shot in the head, implored New Yorkers to carry on the slain man’s mission by reforming schools, fixing public housing and, above all, demanding stronger federal gun laws.

    Mr. Cuomo’s remarks came in a 17-minute address delivered at the funeral of the lawyer, Carey W. Gabay, 43, who was apparently caught in a shootout between rival gangs during a pre-dawn celebration that was a precursor to the annual West Indian American Day parade in Brooklyn.

But, of course, no public official should ever even think of cracking down on West Indian American Day, an annual frenzy of Hobbesian gun violence in New York City. White rednecks in Flyover States must give up their guns so New York politicians can feel like they are doing something about black immigrants shooting each other in New York City on West Indian American Day.

26 Sep 2015

Keith Richards: “The Rock’n’Roll is Important. The Sex and Drugs is just Something that Happened to me Along the Way”

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KeithRichardsCigarette

The Vancouver Sun responds to the arrival of Keith Richards: Under the Influence, a Netflix documentary by asking: How did Keith Richards become everybody’s favorite Rolling Stone?

Watching the old buccaneer in action, you have to wonder how he became so universally loved. He has been hailed as the Human Riff and anointed the world’s most elegantly wasted human being, the bad-boy pin-up for junkie chic with the heavily wrinkled face. Surely Richards should be nobody’s idea of a role model: self-indulgent, irresponsible, a star squandering his gifts on drugs and alcohol? Mick Jagger’s former partner, Jerry Hall, warned their children of the dangers of drugs by asking them if they wanted to grow up to look like Uncle Keith.

So how did such a reprobate survive five decades on the edge to become everybody’s favourite Rolling Stone?

Back when it all began, it was Jagger who was the epitome of sexy, rebellious cool. Richards was his scruffy sideman with a swaggering line in guitar riffs. Aficionados loved him but the dreamy Brian Jones was hailed as the band’s genius (not least by Jones himself). As the 60s ended, though, there was a shift in the Stones hierarchy. Richards was getting his look together: cigarette permanently attached to lower lip, jagged hair cascading around his head like an electrified mop, ragged gypsy clothing accessorized by skulls, rings and bandanas.

Dark-eyed and lean, Richards, even with his piratical flamboyance, took on a very masculine presence next to Jagger’s camp theatricality. It corresponded with his growing maturity as a musician. Richards took the reins for the Stones’ greatest run of work, from Beggars Banquet in 1968 to Goats Head Soup in 1973, reshaping blues for the modern age. But at the same time, he was developing habits that have made him the personification of all the most extravagant myths of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Read the whole thing.

26 Sep 2015

Faulkner on California

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California
“I don’t like the climate, the people, their way of life. Nothing ever happens and then one morning you wake up and find that you are 65.” – William Faulkner on Hollywood

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