20 Apr 2014

Obama’s Easter Morning

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Hat tip to Theo.

19 Apr 2014

I Could Vote For This Guy

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19 Apr 2014

Officers of S.S.Titanic

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19 Apr 2014

” ‘Shut Up,’ He Explained.”

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hate-speech-is-not-free-spe

Mark Steyn identifies recent landmarks in the International Left’s gradual elimination of free speech.

These days, pretty much every story is really the same story:

    In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘Fucking Zionist, fucking pricks… Get the fuck off our campus.’

    In California, Mozilla’s chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage.

    At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declares that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as fringe wacko extremists like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.

    In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia.

    In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries.

    And in Canberra the government is planning to repeal Section 18C — whoa, don’t worry, not all of it, just three or four adjectives; or maybe only two, or whatever it’s down to by now, after what Gay Alcorn in the Age described as the ongoing debate about ‘where to strike the balance between free speech in a democracy and protection against racial abuse in a multicultural society’.

I heard a lot of that kind of talk during my battles with the Canadian ‘human rights’ commissions a few years ago: of course, we all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’… which all sounds terribly reasonable and Canadian, and apparently Australian, too. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all. So screw that.

But I don’t really think that many people these days are genuinely interested in ‘striking the balance’; they’ve drawn the line and they’re increasingly unashamed about which side of it they stand. What all the above stories have in common, whether nominally about Israel, gay marriage, climate change, Islam, or even freedom of the press, is that one side has cheerfully swapped that apocryphal Voltaire quote about disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it for the pithier Ring Lardner line: ‘“Shut up,” he explained.’

Read the whole thing.

19 Apr 2014

Loch Ness Monster Visible Late Last Year on Apple Maps

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LochNessMonster1

LochNessMonster2

The Daily Mail reports that, late last year, an ordinary Briton playing with Apples maps decided to check out the satellite images of Loch Ness and found the above catfish-like image.

Andrew Dixon, 26, a charity worker for the Great North Air Ambulance, from Darlington, County Durham, said: ‘It was a total fluke that I found it. I was looking at satellite images of my town and then just thought I’d have a look at Loch Ness.

‘The first thing that came into my head when I saw it was, “That’s the Loch Ness Monster”. It was the shape of it, I thought it had to be something more than a shadow.

Read the whole thing.

More at Computer Magazine.

————————————————–

I think commenters at Gizmodo have successfully debunked this one.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

18 Apr 2014

SATs to Eliminate “Obscure” Words

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SATVocabularyCartoon

The New York Times reports that the College Board will be dumbing down the SAT exam one more time.

The College Board [this week] release[d] many details of its revised SAT, including sample questions and explanations of the research, goals and specifications behind them.

“We are committed to a clear and open SAT, and today is the first step in that commitment,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, the College Board’s chief of assessment, in a conference call on Monday, previewing the changes to be introduced in the spring of 2016.

She said the 211-page test specifications and supporting materials being shared publicly include “everything a student needs to know to walk into that test and not be surprised.”

One big change is in the vocabulary questions, which will no longer include obscure words. Instead, the focus will be on what the College Board calls “high utility” words that appear in many contexts, in many disciplines — often with shifting meanings — and they will be tested in context. For example, a question based on a passage about an artist who “vacated” from a tradition of landscape painting, asks whether it would be better to substitute the word “evacuated,” “departed” or “retired,” or to leave the sentence unchanged. (The right answer is “departed.”)

18 Apr 2014

Will Elizabeth Warren Undergo DNA Testing?

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elizabethwarrenIndian

Politico has seen an advance copy of Elizabeth Warren’s new autobiography (to be released May 13). Warren deals with the accusations, which surfaced during her 2012 Senatorial campaign, that she had falsely claimed American Indian descent in order to benefit from minority status, apparently not by producing evidence of such descent, but rather by describing how badly her feelings were hurt.

Elizabeth Warren was “hurt” and “angry” about attacks on her family and ancestry in the 2012 Senate race, she writes in a new book, defending at length her characterization of her background as rooted in Native American ancestry. …

[T]he campaign trail turned out to be more brutal than she could ever have expected. Republicans questioned her integrity, her family members were dragged through the mud and her opponent mocked her appearance in a radio interview.

“What really threw me, though, were the constant attacks from the other side,” she writes about the 2012 Senate campaign. “I would almost persuade myself that I was starting to get the hang of full-throttle campaigning and then — bam! Out of left field, the state Republican Party, or the Brown campaign, or some blogger, would launch a rocket at me.”

Perhaps the most hurtful and high-profile attack thrown against Warren by Brown had to do with her heritage.

At the height of the 2012 campaign, it was reported that Warren had listed herself as having Native American roots at Harvard University. Soon, there was a “full-blown campaign frenzy,” Warren recalls, with Republicans demanding that she prove her Native-American roots and accusing her of getting her job at the elite university by making false claims about her personal background.

Caught off-guard, Warren admits that she “fumbled” when reporters first asked her about the controversy.

Things only got worse when the Brown campaign asked whether her parents had lied to their children about her family. “He attacked my dead parents,” Warren writes. “I was hurt, and I was angry.”

Brown’s allegation that Warren had used her background to get ahead “simply wasn’t true,” she writes. “I was stunned by the attacks.”

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Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr
is demanding that the senator put her DNA where her mouth is.

There is only one way to settle once and for all the question of whether the fake Indian is or is not a real Indian.

She needs to take a DNA test.

I dare you, Sen. Warren. It only costs about $200. If you insist, I’ll pay for it. In fact, I’ll take one myself. It’s easy. Just swab the inside of your mouth. Check my photo on the left, I’ll show you how to do it.

No more of this fact-free nonsense about your “high cheekbones,” or these ridiculous fables about your parents “eloping” to escape the racism of the Indian Territory when they actually returned to their hick hometown that same evening for a traditional wedding party.

The only explanation you haven’t trotted out yet is that you instantly knew you were an Indian when you first heard Cher on the AM radio belting out “Half Breed.”

It would be great publicity for your new 2016 presidential campaign book if you finally come clean. Plus, what’s the downside, if you’re so positive that you really are an Indian princess?

Read the whole thing.

I bet she’ll decline testing.

17 Apr 2014

Benton Performance’s Porsches

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Benton Performance restores classic 356s and 911s to a level just a little better than they were originally built.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

16 Apr 2014

Jay Carney’s Kitchen Posters

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jaycarney_sovietposter
The kitchen poster on the left.

Michael Walsh pooh-pooh’s various people on the Right’s efforts to draw conclusions about Jay Carney & Claire Shipman’s political opinions from their tastes in interior decoration.

There’s been a lot of nonsense written on the Right about the Soviet posters in White House press secretary Jay Carney’s kitchen. Here’s some now, first from Reason – “Jay Carney, Communist Propaganda Connoisseur:”

    White House press secretary and occasional beard grower Jay Carney likes political art. Particularly, he likes Soviet military propaganda.

    This fact was accidentally revealed in, of all places, the latest issue of Washingtonian MOM magazine. The journal did a profile on Carney’s wife, Claire Shipman. There’s a lot of fun facts about Carney’s preferred brand of $275 sneakers (Hugo Boss) and how the family’s Portuguese water dog is related to Obama’s (cousins!)… Can you spot the strangest thing about this totally candid picture? Hint: It’s not that each member of the Carney clan eats a pyramid’s worth of food for breakfast.

    Rather, it’s the World War II-era Soviet poster pointing over Shipman’s shoulder, which asks if you’ve enlisted in the Red Army yet (because you’re going to get drafted anyway), and the other one beyond the sink, which asks if you’ve gotten a factory job to fill in for your husband (who has probably been shot on the front lines).

And this, from the American Thinker:

    The sad fact is that progressives in much of the developed world have a soft spot in their hearts for communism. Yeah, it murdered a hundred million people or more, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. And those who were murdered were not very fashionable, for the most part.

    The Washingtonian photo is a tell. There is a sickness, a willful blindness toward the crimes of communism because it is so close to the progressive ideology that animates the American Ruling Class. Shipman and Carney are the perfect exemplars of that class. Smart, fit, busy, anxious to make their own lives perfect, and convinced that the price other people pay for their progressive dreams is not worth mentioning or even noticing.

Oh, please. By this standard, I’m a Commie symp myself, since I also have Soviet-era posters adorning the walls of my home; I picked them up in Moscow and Leningrad during my various working trips to the late Soviet Union. Which is where I met my old Time colleague, Jay Carney. …

———————————–

Oleg Atbashian wittily responded:

As soon as the photograph of Soviet propaganda posters in Jay Carney’s kitchen hit the Internet, right-wing pundits began to draw conclusions about White House Press Secretary’s ideology, morals, and political leanings. It was as if things that a man merely places on his walls and looks at day after day can be any indication of his life choices. …

It is beyond imagination that anyone could misconstrue the Soviet agitprop in Jay Carney’s kitchen as an indication that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and his wife somehow share the same ideas as the perpetrators of a brutal regime that starved its own citizens while the political elites lived in luxury, abused power, prosecuted the opposition, and ruled the country by means of executive orders.

Next, they would claim that that a neat stack of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Books in Valery Jarrett’s bathroom is not there merely to serve as an elegant accent to complement the shower curtains; or that the Black Panther Party insignia on Michelle Obama’s pajamas isn’t merely a bold decorative pattern; or that the black flag of holy Jihad in Huma Abedin’s bedroom is somehow indicative of her sympathies towards the Muslim Brotherhood.

Following such flawed right-wing logic, one might even speculate that Saul Alinsky’s books on Hillary Clinton’s living room mean anything other than an effort to disguise an obscure dried spot that had mysteriously appeared on the coffee table in the last year of her husband’s presidency.

red-armyposter
The kitchen poster on the right.

16 Apr 2014

13-Year-Old Girl Hunts With an Eagle

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GirlwithEagle
13 Year-Old Ashol-Pan with friend

The BBC did a recent feature of a 13-Year-Old Kazakh girl who is carrying on an unusual form of traditional hunting.

Most children, Asher Svidensky says, are a little intimidated by golden eagles. Kazakh boys in western Mongolia start learning how to use the huge birds to hunt for foxes and hares at the age of 13, when the eagles sit heavily on their undeveloped arms. Svidensky, a photographer and travel writer, shot five boys learning the skill – and he also photographed Ashol-Pan.

“To see her with the eagle was amazing,” he recalls. She was a lot more comfortable with it, a lot more powerful with it and a lot more at ease with it.”

The Kazakhs of the Altai mountain range in western Mongolia are the only people that hunt with golden eagles, and today there are around 400 practising falconers. Ashol-Pan, the daughter of a particularly celebrated hunter, may well be the country’s only apprentice huntress.

They hunt in winter, when the temperatures can drop to -40C (-40F). A hunt begins with days of trekking on horseback through snow to a mountain or ridge giving an excellent view of prey for miles around. Hunters generally work in teams. After a fox is spotted, riders charge towards it to flush it into the open, and an eagle is released. If the eagle fails to make a kill, another is released.

The skill of hunting with eagles, Svidensky says, lies in harnessing an unpredictable force of nature. “You don’t really control the eagle. You can try and make her hunt an animal – and then it’s a matter of nature. What will the eagle do? Will she make it? How will you get her back afterwards?”

16 Apr 2014

English: A Scandinavian Language?

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EnglandMapAD900
Map of England, 900 A.D.

Two linguistics professors recently contended that English ought to be classified as a Scandinavian language. (Norwegian) News in English:

Jan Terje Faarlund, a professor of linguistics at the University of Oslo (UiO), told research magazine Apollon that new studies show English “as we know it today” to be a “direct descendant of the language Scandinavians used” after settling on the British Isles during and after the Viking Age. …

Faarlund and his colleague Joseph Emonds, a guest professor at UiO from Palacky University in the Czech Republic, believe they can now prove that English is a Scandinavian language belonging to the group of northern Germanic languages that also include Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese, spoken on the Faroe Islands.

Their research and conclusions are brand new and break with those of earlier linguistic professors who believe English is rooted in “Old English,” also known as the Anglo-Saxon language believed brought to the British Isles by settlers from northwestern and central Europe. Faarlund claims Scandinavians settled in the area long before French-speaking Normans conquered the British Isles in 1066.

Faarlund and Edmonds also contend that Old English and modern English are two very different languages. “We think Old English simply died out,” Faarlund told Apollon. “Instead, the Nordic language survived, strongly influenced by Old English.”

While many native English-speakers struggle to learn Norwegian, Faarlund believes it’s no coincidence that Scandinavians, especially Norwegians, learn English relatively easily. “It’s true that many of the English words resemble our own (in Norwegian, for example),” Faarlund said. “But there’s more behind it: Even the fundamental structure of the language is amazingly similar to Norwegian. We often avoid mistakes that others (speaking other languages) make in English, because the grammar is much the same.”

Scandinavian settlers, Faarlund notes, gained control towards the end of the 9th century of an area known as Danelagen, which forms parts of Scotland and England today. Faarlund stressed that “an extremely important geographic point in our research” is that the East Midlands in England, where he says the modern English language developed, was part of the relatively densely populated southern portion of Danelagen.

Edmonds and Faarlund also contend that sentence structure in what developed into modern English is Scandinavian, not western Germanic as previously believed. Both today’s Scandinavian languages place the object after the verb, for example, unlike German and Dutch which place the verb at the end of a sentence. Possessive forms can also be the same in both the Scandinavian languages and English, which also can end sentences with a preposition and split infinitives. While that’s sometimes frowned upon in other variations of modern English such as American English, Faarlund argues it’s not possible in German, Dutch or Old English.

All this, he claims, boosts the similarities between Norwegian and English, for example, and the differences between other Germanic languages and English. “The only reasonable explanation is that English is a Nordic language, and that this language is a continuation from the Norwegian-Danish language used in England from the Middle Ages,” Faarlund told Apollon. “Why the residents of the British Isles chose the Nordic grammar, though, is a matter of speculation.”

15 Apr 2014

Blog Outage

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This unusual outage resulted from a disagreement between my personal version of WordPress and my web hosting server’s most recent security updates, intended to defeat the Heartbleed bug.

15 Apr 2014

Rancher Bundy’s Standoff With the Feds

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BundyRanch

John Hinderaker took the time (which most commentators have not) to look deeper into the equities of the recent confrontation between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Federal Bureau of Land Management.

First, it must be admitted that legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The Bureau of Land Management has been charging him grazing fees since the early 1990s, which he has refused to pay. Further, BLM has issued orders limiting the area on which Bundy’s cows can graze and the number that can graze, and Bundy has ignored those directives. As a result, BLM has sued Bundy twice in federal court, and won both cases. In the second, more recent action, Bundy’s defense is that the federal government doesn’t own the land in question and therefore has no authority to regulate grazing. That simply isn’t right; the land, like most of Nevada, is federally owned. [86% -- JDZ] Bundy is representing himself, of necessity: no lawyer could make that argument.

That being the case, why does Bundy deserve our sympathy? To begin with, his family has been ranching on the acres at issue since the late 19th century. They and other settlers were induced to come to Nevada in part by the federal government’s promise that they would be able to graze their cattle on adjacent government-owned land. For many years they did so, with no limitations or fees. The Bundy family was ranching in southern Nevada long before the BLM came into existence.

Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one. When Bundy refused to pay grazing fees beginning in around 1993, he said something to the effect of, they are supposed to be charging me a fee for managing the land and all they are doing is trying to manage me out of business. Why should I pay them for that?

Read the whole thing.

A lot of commentators on the Right discovered that Mr. Bundy lost in federal court and was clearly defying the law, but those editorialists failed to notice that, in a manner not unprecedented in the history of the American West, in Mr. Bundy’s case, the law is in the hands of special interests and is being used to take away what other people own.

Nevada became a state in 1864. Why exactly is it, that 150 years later, the United States government is still sitting on 86% of all the land in Nevada? Why wasn’t the grazing land used by Mr. Bundy been sold to the Bundy family generations ago?

If the Bundy confrontation proves anything, it demonstrates just how past time it is for most federal lands to be privatized.

12 Apr 2014

“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”

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the cast

I’m so old that I can remember when Jane Austen was looked upon as a dusty classic author, whose best-known novel, Pride and Prejudice, was deemed appropriately penitential reading for 12th grade English.

Jane Austen’s virtuous, but critically intelligent young ladies have subsequently proven to represent flattering enough portraits of female-kind to appeal intensely to the modern liberated woman, and Austen’s novels in recent decades made a somewhat startling leap from the worthy-but-neglected category of high brow literature to a comfortable position in popular culture.

The latest incarnation of Pride and Prejudice, amusingly enough, I think, is as a 9-and-a-half hour. on-line, modernized adaptation.

Lizzie Bennet Diaries homepage

Episode 1:

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