Interesting Bits

08/13/2017 6:45

A Lesson for our Times

The collapse of Venezuela's economy is both horrifying and predictable, and the world needs to understand why.

Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves, and it was once Latin America's richest country. Today, most grocery store shelves are empty, and Venezuelans are so hungry that they're killing zoo animals for sustenance. Toilet paper, diapers, and toothpaste are luxury goods. Venezuelan hospitals have disintegrated, children are dying because they can't get antibiotics, and the infant mortality rate is higher than Syria. The capital city of Caracas is the murder capital of the world, and just 12 percent of citizens feel safe walking alone at night, which is the lowest figure reported in the world.

The government blames slumping oil prices for the desperate situation. The real cause is the socialist economy. The government sets the price of staples such as rice, pasta, and flour, resulting in chronic shortages. Former President Hugo Chavez nationalized industries, confiscated property, and kicked out foreign companies. The government is trying to print its way out of the crisis, resulting in a 700 percent annual inflation rate. After a sham election, President Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of Hugo Chavez, is rounding up his opponents and putting them in jail.

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08/12/2017 8:10

MakeA False Accusation, You Should Pay Up

Col. David “Wil” Riggins, after a highly decorated Army career that included multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was on the verge of promotion to brigadier general in July 2013 when he got a phone call at the Pentagon from the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division to come in for a meeting. Once there, he learned that a blogger in Washington state had just accused him of raping her, when both were cadets at West Point in 1986. An investigation was underway.

Riggins waived his right to an attorney and immediately gave a statement denying any sexual assault of the woman, Susan Shannon of Everett, Wash. Shannon also cooperated with the CID investigation, which could not “prove or disprove Ms. Shannon’s allegation she was raped,” the CID report concluded. But in the spring of 2014, with the armed forces facing heavy criticism for their handling of sexual assault cases, Secretary of the Army John McHugh recommended removing Riggins from the list for promotion to general. Riggins promptly retired.

Then, Riggins sued Shannon for defamation, claiming that every aspect of her rape claim on the West Point campus was “provably false,” and that she wrote two blog posts and a Facebook post “to intentionally derail [his] promotion” to brigadier general. During a six-day trial that ended Aug. 1, a jury in Fairfax County, Va., heard from both Riggins and Shannon at length. And after 2½ hours of deliberation, they sided emphatically with Riggins, awarding him $8.4 million in damages, an extraordinary amount for a defamation case between two private citizens. The jury ordered Shannon to pay $3.4 million in compensatory damages for injury to his reputation and lost wages, and $5 million in punitive damages, “to make sure nothing like this will ever happen again,” according to one of the jurors.

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08/11/2017 4:11

Good Thing They Didn't Need Safe Spaces

A second unit of Yazidi women fighting under the Syrian Democratic Forces has been deployed into Raqqa, fighting not only to defeat the Islamic State in their declared capital but to avenge the genocide and abuse perpetrated on their people.

It's been three years since ISIS launched their campaign of terror against Yazidis in northern Iraq, branding the followers of the ancient gnostic faith as devil worshippers. Yazidis have been murdered, from executions to being buried alive or starving to death, and abducted, with some 7,000 women and girls sold into sexual slavery.

SDF General Commander Rojda Felat, the Kurdish woman leading the Wrath of Euphrates operation that's taken 55 percent of Raqqa thus far, has long vowed that rescuing Yazidis kidnapped by ISIS is a top priority. In a June interview with a Kurdish newspaper, she vowed that "wherever there is an attack against humanity we, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, will be there; wherever there is a suppressed woman, that is a battleground for us."

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08/11/2017 7:12

the Public Isn't Surprised

Journalists rushed to the defense of two reporters after President Trump accused them of being "reluctant to cover" the scandalous tarmac meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton. But a review of the entire cache of email exchanges inside the Justice Department at the time shows that Trump has it right.

Trump was referring to email exchanges between Justice public affairs officials and reporters from The New York Times and the Washington Post. The emails were among the 400-plus pages of internal emails that flew around at Justice soon after a local Phoenix reporter happened to get wind of the off-the-books Lynch-Clinton meeting on June 27, 2016 — just days before the FBI decided to drop its investigation of Hillary Clinton.

In one email, Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky writes that "my editors are still pretty interested in it, and I'm hoping I can put it to rest." In another, New York Times reporter Mark Landler appears to complain that he's been "pressed into service" to cover the story.

Reporters have been quick to say that those emails don't mean anything, because both newspapers carried stories about the meeting on their front pages.

t's true what those journalists meant in those two emails is open to interpretation. But a number of other Justice Department emails released in this same batch make it abundantly clear that reporters were profoundly uninterested in this scandal.

For example, the emails show that once news of this meeting got out, Justice officials hurriedly prepared talking points and an official statement about it. But Justice never issued the statement. Why

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08/10/2017 9:19

Best Defense: I don't Read the NYT

Be that as it may, the Times editorialists have no choice but to testify that they wrote their editorial blaming Sarah Palin for an insane person’s murders without even bothering to check their own paper to see what news about the shootings had been reported. The context is macabre, but it will be highly entertaining to read the Times editorialists’ depositions when they are made public.

One last observation: it may be shocking that members of the Times editorial board don’t read their own newspaper, but I can guarantee that very few Times reporters read the paper’s editorials–the most boring, predictable, ill-informed left-wing screeds in print. If their current ploy fails, the Times may try a second line of defense: Ms. Palin shouldn’t be awarded much in damages, since hardly anyone reads their lame editorials.

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08/10/2017 9:01

Mutant Ants Are Created In a World First

In a world-first, scientists have genetically engineered ants to lack their sense of smell, affecting the animals’ ability to communicate. Scientists used the controversial CRISPR technology to disrupt the ants’ ability to communicate, forage or compete to be a queen, as their antennae and brain circuits failed to fully develop. While the system has not yet been tested in humans, the researchers believe that it could one day be used to treat conditions that affect socialcommunication, including schizophrenia and depression. 

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08/10/2017 10:15

This is Good News

Trump takes action: 9,000 federal employees slashed in first six months. (Three cheers for the president)

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08/10/2017 7:39

Disney pays at least $177 million to settle ABC's 'pink slime' case:

Walt Disney Co paid $177 million, in addition to insurance recoveries, to settle the closely watched "pink slime" defamation case against its ABC network by Beef Products Inc., a quarterly financial report shows.

Privately-held BPI sued American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in 2012 for $5.7 billion, saying it and reporter Jim Avila had defamed the company by using the "pink slime" tag, and making errors and omissions in a series of reports that year.

Disney and BPI, which calls the product "lean finely textured beef," came to an undisclosed settlement in June, 3-1/2 weeks after a trial began in South Dakota, where BPI is based.

Disney reported the settlement of the litigation in a footnote to its financial report, saying it was seeking additional insurance proceeds to recover its cash payment.

The financial tables show a charge of $177 million described as being "in connection with settlement of litigation." The figure is not directly linked to the "pink slime" case, but the BPI litigation is the only one Disney specifies in the report.

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08/10/2017 7:28

Google's 'tolerance' requires repression

Would a fair society have exactly the same percentage of men and women, of whites and blacks and Hispanics and Asians, in every line of work and occupational category? If your answer is yes, and you think that any divergence from these percentages must necessarily result from oppression, then you qualify for a job at Google.

If not, forget about it.

In your own life, you may have observed that few occupational categories — certainly not that of Google engineers — have such gender and ethnic percentages. You probably guessed that this results in part from people with different characteristics tending to have different interests, talents, and goals.

But you're not allowed to say that out loud, as Google engineer James Damoredid last month in an internally circulated ten-page memorandum entitled Google's Ideological Echo Chamber. He cited the conclusions of neuroscientists and psychologists that measurable differences between male and female brain structure result in different behavior and preferences.

"The memo was fair and factually accurate," writes Canadian neuroscientist Deborah Soh in the Toronto Globe & Mail. "Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in our interests and behavior." If you believe in evolution, it's easy to see how it could make women more nurturing and interested in working with people and men more aggressive and interested in working with things. Which they tend to be.

Paradoxically, non-discriminatory societies may see wider differences. "Research has shown that cultures with greater gender equity have larger sex differences when it comes to job preferences," Soh writes, "because in these societies, people are free to choose their occupations based on what they enjoy."

That's apparent in today's medical profession. Fifty percent of medical students are women: equity. But as psychiatrist/blogger Scott Alexander points out, male and female M.D.s tend to choose different specialties: 75 percent of pediatric residents are women, 72 percent of radiology residents are men. Pediatricians work with people, radiologists work with things.

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08/10/2017 7:21

Sounds Like a Conflict of Interest

An attorney in the Justice Department who helped edit press statements about the tarmac meeting between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch is now a top attorney for Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is currently investigating Lynch over concerns she may have tried to influence the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton.

Paige Herwig was a counselor to the then-Attorney General Lynch in 2016 when the airplane meeting between Clinton and Lynch took place. According to her LinkedIn profile and other sources, she now serves as the deputy general counsel for the minority in the Senate Judiciary.

Because both the majority and minority parties each have their own staff, Herwig is one of several lawyers who will have access to and knowledge of how the Senate Judiciary's investigation of Lynch is proceeding, with many of those other attorneys being Republicans who serve Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and the other GOP members on the committee.

Requests for comment from the committee were not returned.

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08/09/2017 10:21

The Left has no sense and no sense of humor

Protests Break Out Over Proposed Blazing Saddles Showing

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08/09/2017 10:04

There's Been A Lot of Screw-ups at the Times

New York Times guilty of large screw-up on climate-change story (We're talking massive screw-up here. The Times has been doing this a lot lately.)

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08/09/2017 1:21

Great Quote by Vox Day

Remember: the man who is a failure always manages to find disagreement with others, but the man who is successful will always find a way to find common ground with his friends and allies.

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08/09/2017 7:19

How Did the Dems’ IT Scandal Suspects Get Here?

Who sponsored these young foreign techies and chose them to do work in our nation’s capital doing a job that countless young Americans are qualified to do? If not H-1B, did they arrive first as students on foreign visas (who are supposed to return home after their course of study), then game the system to work through the cheap-labor loopholes, such as the Optional Practical Training program? Or did they switch visa categories? Did they pull strings through their well-connected Democratic employers? The communications official in Representative Castro’s office, which employed Imran’s brother, Jamal, responded that she would “touch base with some colleagues” and keep me posted. No word since. The others didn’t bother to answer at all, nor did they respond when I followed up last week.

As for defiant Democratic representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who only fired Awan after his arrest two weeks ago, it’s apparently un-American to question how foreign criminal suspects got to America and stayed here. Schultz last week cited “racial and ethnic profiling concerns that I had” to deflect from her eyebrow-raising handling of the matter, which now involves smashed hard drives seized from Awan’s home by the FBI. The good news is that Senator Charles Grassley on Tuesday asked DHS for all immigration summaries and detainers for Imran Awan, wife Hina Alvi, brothers Jamal and Abid Awan, and friends/associates Natalia Sova and Rao Abbas. But it shouldn’t take a Senate demand letter to penetrate the Dems’ partisan protectionism. We paid the salaries of their suspect foreign IT minions. They answer to us.

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08/09/2017 7:15

Three Cheers for ICE

32 convicted sex offenders nabbed on Long Island, held by ICE. (This administration cares about protecting the innocent. The last administration did not.)

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08/09/2017 6:48

Googler fired for diversity memo had legit points on gender

The most incendiary part of the 10-page document was the assertion that gender disparities at technology companies including Google (where women currently hold about 20% of tech jobs and 25% of leadership positions) are due at least in part to biological differences. Damore has been assailed for supposedly saying that “women are unsuited to tech jobs,” dismissing his female co-workers as “unqualified tokens,” or “demanding (an) end to inclusion of women” and minorities. But the memo says nothing of the kind. At most, Damore argues that because of innate cognitive and personality differences, a 50/50 gender balance in the tech sector may be unrealistic.

The memo also argues that expanding diversity is good but Google is going about it all wrong — for instance, by offering gender- and race-exclusionary support programs, favoring “diversity” hires, and promoting hypersensitivity to “unconscious bias” and unintentional offenses. And it suggests alternative strategies, such as drawing more women to software engineering by making some of those jobs more people-oriented, more collaborative and less stressful (though Damore notes there are limits to such change).

Is Damore right about sex differences? It’s complicated. Of the four scientists who commented at Quillette, a libertarian-leaning online magazine critical of “political correctness,” three, including neuroscientist and science writer Deborah Soh, thought the memo was almost entirely correct. University of Michigan psychologist David Schmitt, whose research was cited in the document, thought it overstated some fairly modest sex differences (in ambition and vulnerability to stress, for example) and was too negative about efforts to remedy societal disadvantage. Yet Schmitt also emphasized that biological difference as a contributor to occupational gender gaps should not be off-limits to discussion.

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08/08/2017 6:45

Why Does the Left Suddenly Hate Russia?

After 70 years of accommodating and appeasing Russia, Democrats suddenly foment a red scare.

No one doubts that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is no ally of the U.S. But rivalry is quite a different notion than returning to the Cold War, when enemies faced each other down with arsenals of nuclear missiles. Quite strangely, the supposedly pacifist Left now seems to welcome that dangerous polarity.

In theory, the United States, in realpolitik fashion, could be playing Russia off against other rivals and enemies to our advantage — now seeking temporary shared agendas, now in keen rivalry over irreconcilable differences. The fact that Russia is the sole country in the world that always could destroy the United States has, since 1949, proved an incentive to U.S. administrations, particularly Democratic ones, to find some sort of wary realist accommodation with the Russians. Russia’s semi-Western heritage, its Christian Orthodoxy, and its fears over unassimilated Muslim populations in theory might have offered shared incentives to check radical Islam. Its worries that its border regions were being populated with nuclear powers — China, India, North Korea, Pakistan — might have made it interested in triangulating against nearby Iran, a would-be nuclear nation. Russia distrusts China as much as we do—as China and the U.S. in turn distrust Russia, as Russia and China distrust us.

The idea that a nuclear North Korea could prompt nearby Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to become nuclear should be worrisome to the Russians. Russia’s weakening economy, its slipping natural-gas grip on Western and Eastern Europe, its oil income halved — all that might have made a vulnerable Putin somewhat receptive to being of some help, now and again, with a few common concerns.

(Read the whole thing.)

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08/08/2017 3:29

Dems Are In More Trouble Than They Realize

The Democrats, from FDR to Bill Clinton, were the party of the working man. They are that no longer, despite what their new "Better Deal" plan may say. They're undergoing an intergenerational change as the aggrieved and the aggravated take over. The power within the party now rests with the Wall Street crowd who cheerfully export jobs overseas, the millennials who whine about an inability to pay back student loans no one forced them to borrow, women who look at child-bearing principally as a bad career move, and people who are being asked to surrender their freedom of choice and their vote in exchange for a promise to be taken care of from the cradle to the grave.

 That may sound appealing to some. To many of us, enough that it matters, that's not America so much as it is a dystopian nightmare.

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08/08/2017 2:03

How Cats Conquered the World

When your cat leaves a mangled mouse on your pillow, he wants you to know that he’s a conqueror. In fact, he is part of a race of conquerors, the successful descendants of a winding journey in which cats made use of humans to conquer the world. Now researchers have used genetics to create the most extensive map ever made of cats’ path to worldwide domination, published this week in the journal Nature.

 Modern domestic cats all descend from a single type of wild cat: Felis silvestris lybica. From archaeological studies, researchers believe that F. s. lybica’s reign begins in the Near East, in a region stretching from modern-day Turkey down to Lebanon. Around 10,000 years ago, farmers began storing grain, which attracted pesky mice. Cats, it turned out, could help out with that.
 But F. s. lybica also ruled in Ancient Egypt, where they left their traces in cultural artifacts from cat mummies to statues and paintings. Researchers wanted to know: How did these two separate cat-doms lead to today's global feline success? 

That wasn’t a question that could be answered with modern cat genetics alone. Around the world, the gene pools of modern cats are surprisingly similar, thanks to millennia of tagging along with human travelers and interbreeding wherever they went. “The modern domestic cats in Australia are the same as in Europe and as in America,” says Eva-Maria Geigl, paleogeneticist at the Institut Jacques Monod, CNRS and University Paris Diderot, and an author on the study.

So for this latest study, the team turned to the genetics of ancient cats around the globe to untangle their collective rise to power. By sifting through 9,000 years of genetic data, the researchers found that there were two separate waves of human-cat coexistence, with cats befriending both farmers and Vikings in their quest to spread around the globe. It also seems that over the course of this relationship, domestication happened fairly late in the game—if at all.

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08/08/2017 9:47

Ethics Hipsters are the new Puritans

But Puritans, beleive it or not,  also valued humor and, for that matter, integrity, two traits the radical left doesn't have.

  • An Austin Texas psyche rock band, Dream Machine, is deported from its label because its lead singer, a refugee from Bosnia, makes supportive remarks about legal immigration.  (Here is a link to an interview I did with the band:
  • Feminist critics attack the movie "Dunkirk," an historical reenactment of the World War 2 evacuation, because well—It was the first time there were no women on a French beach.
  • Outcry erupts when a Broadway play tries to substitute theater legend Mandy Patinkin for a black actor in a play, to help save the play from closing due to declining ticket sales. Unable to hide the fact that he is white, Patinkin and the producers back down like good fearful liberals; the play  - which features a diversity of talent - is now in jeopardy as ticket sales continue to drop.

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