The Big Think

April 17, 2014

Okay, Maybe Again (but just this once… promise)

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:53 am

Donetsk leaflet: Jews must register or face deportation – Israel News, Ynetnews:

“Fear replaced communal atmosphere in Donetsk’s Jewish community as armed men handed out a leaflet Passover eve calling on Jews register their religion and property with the interim pro-Russian government or face deportation and loss of citizenship.

“Dear Ukraine citizens of Jewish nationality,” the flyer began, “due to the fact that the leaders of the Jewish community of Ukraine supported Bendery Junta,” a reference to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement which fought for Ukrainian independence at the end of World War II, “and oppose the pro-Slavic People’s Republic of Donetsk, (the interim government) has decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic’s territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.”

The leaflet detailed what type of documents the Jewish citizens would need to supply: “ID and passport are required to register your Jewish religion, religious documents of family members, as well as documents establishing the rights to all real estate property that belongs to you, including vehicles.”

If the message was not made clear enough, the leaflet further stipulated the consequences that would come to those who failed to abide by the new demands: “Evasion of registration will result in citizenship revoke and you will be forced outside the country with a confiscation of property.”

To add insult to injury, the leaflet demanded the Jews pay a registration fee of $50.”

Toward the end of the article there’s a quote saying

“the Jews in Donetsk are uncertain of anything; it is unclear who is responsible for the leaflet and who controls the city at the moment.”

So the possibility of it being a hoax is still out there. One certainly prays that that’s the case. However there’s also this:

“In a response to a request by a Ukrainian Jewish website, Pushilin, the interim government’s regional chairman, confirmed that the flyers were distributed by his organization, but denied any connection to the leaflet’s content.”

Confusion reigns right now.

April 16, 2014

Taxes

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 2:39 pm

How Much Are You Willing to Pay in Taxes?: “”

Well said.

April 15, 2014

Happy Tax Day

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Music,Politics — jasony @ 10:31 am

April 14, 2014

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:55 am

569-first-amendment-zone-610.jpg

April 12, 2014

Oh, Good Grief

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:19 am

Report: NSA secretly exploited devastating Heartbleed bug for years (Update: NSA denies) | PCWorld: “This week, it came to light that a small error in the open-source OpenSSL implementation of the SSL encryption protocol opened a gaping hole in the security of hundreds of thousands websites and networking equipment across the Net—and that hole had been wide open and exploitable for years. Passwords could be easily grabbed. User names matching those passwords could be easily grabbed. Heck, userdata could be easily grabbed. The ‘Heartbleed’ moniker attached to the devastating bug seemed all too apt.

And Friday afternoon, Bloomberg reported that the National Security Agency has been aware of and actively exploiting the Heartbleed bug for at least two full years,”

If untrue (and it’s still not proven) then they were as caught off guard as the rest of us. But if this is true, I don’t see how any defenders of the organization can continue to say that they’re only doing good, and legally allowable, operations. Also, if this is true (and I really hope it isn’t) then it represents a fairly alarming watermark for security overreach that breaks about fifty laws.

I wonder which it is?

April 7, 2014

Silicon Valley scares Americans

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:15 pm

Silicon Valley scares Americans: Column:

“‘A level of suspicion and confusion we haven’t had before.’ That’s right. And it’s made worse by the increasing politicization of Silicon Valley, and the transformation of its leaders from rebels into what Joel Kotkin calls ‘the new oligarchs,’ people who once talked about technology as liberation, but who now seem more interested in using technology as an instrument of control. It’s not just NSA spying; it’s that the companies gather data on everyone, with comparatively little legal oversight.

You might have been OK with that a decade or two ago, when Silicon Valley seemed full of people who would stand up to the Man. Now, they are The Man (or The Woman) in many ways, or in cahoots with them. Might the information you gave to OKCupid be used against you someday? Your only protection, really, is their good nature. And how good is that?

After all, OKCupid dug out political donation data to get a CEO fired. If they’re willing to do that sort of thing, how elevated can their standards be, really?”

April 6, 2014

The New Heresy

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 2:30 pm

For the entirety of human history, gay marriage was a veritable non-issue — a thought that had occurred seriously to nobody and for which there was neither a meaningful constituency nor measurable pressure. In the space of a decade it has moved from a fringe and novel proposition to a moral imperative — and, now, to fodder for the new inquisitors. That the issue has now achieved the approval of a narrow majority is to my mind no bad thing. That the movement’s more vocal champions have started bludgeoning their enemies one and a half minutes into their still-fragile victory speaks tremendously ill of them, and does not portend well for the republic…

…Wrapping her intolerance and hysteria in the vapid, saccharine, and malleable language of the graduate-school prospectus, an employee named Sydney Moyer explained on Twitter that because the company offered a “big, open, and messy” “culture of openness and inclusion,” her new CEO should be forced to go away. Once upon a time, individuals who could not square their consciences with their circumstances saw fit to remove themselves. But, safely ensconced under the new cultural carapace, Moyers evidently recognized that she had all the power. I “cannot reconcile having Brendan Eich as CEO with our company’s culture and mission,” Moyers wrote. “Brendan, please step down.” Thus, once again, was the English language — the language of Mill, Shakespeare, Milton, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Churchill — not impressed into the service of individual liberty and defense of conscience but inverted and twisted in the hope of silencing the different. It seems that one can get away with the most extraordinary non sequiturs if one wraps them in enough nonsense. Two spoons of sugar, one of vinegar; let’s hope that nobody notices the taste.

an excellent article concerning the recent burning-at-the-stake of Brendan Eich.

UPDATE:

Well Said/a>:

“whatever you think of gay marriage, the general practice of punishing people in business for bygone political donations is most likely to entrench powerful interests and weaken the ability of the powerless to challenge the status quo. There is very likely hypocrisy at work too. Does anyone doubt that had a business fired a CEO six years ago for making a political donation against Prop 8, liberals silent during this controversy (or supportive of the resignation) would’ve argued that contributions have nothing to do with a CEO’s ability to do his job? They’d have called that firing an illiberal outrage, but today they’re averse to vocally disagreeing with allies.”

Hypothetical situation that exactly reverses the polarities: A woman, who by every single account from coworkers, has shown a long history of great employment, concern for fellow employees, and care for children, is found to have had an abortion years ago (through records leaked by pro-life groups). That woman is then made the target of intense public obloquy and urged in the strongest possible terms to step down. Eventually she does.

What would be the reaction among the pro-abortion Left?

The Eich situation indicates a significant mile marker in our culture. It’s not good.

April 2, 2014

Yes, We Can Wait

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:05 am

Best of the Web Today: Yes, We Can Wait – WSJ.com: ” Press secretary Jay Carney opened his daily briefing yesterday with the following gasconade: ‘As you can see by the lines around the country this weekend, we are seeing a surge in enrollment.’

The first thing we thought of when we saw the pictures was the photos we’ve recently seen on Twitter of Venezuelans waiting in bread lines. Waiting in line to purchase necessities is a characteristic not of a prosperous free society but of command economies under repressive regimes. Closer to home, one doubts even the Transportation Security Administration would be so tone-deaf as to advertise long airport lines as an indication it’s doing a great job.”

(Via .)

March 29, 2014

Untruthful and Untrustworthy Government

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:21 am

Untruthful and Untrustworthy Government:

“Transparency and truth are the fuels that run sophisticated civilizations. Without them, the state grinds to a halt. Lack of trust — not barbarians on the frontier, global warming or cooling, or even epidemics — doomed civilizations of the past, from imperial Rome to the former Soviet Union.

The United States can withstand the untruth of a particular presidential administration if the permanent government itself is honest. Dwight Eisenhower lied about the downed U-2 spy plane inside the Soviet Union. Almost nothing Richard Nixon said about Watergate was true. Intelligence reports of vast stockpiles of WMD in Iraq proved as accurate as Bill Clinton’s assertion that he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

Presidents fib. The nation gets outraged. The independent media dig out the truth. And so the system of trust repairs itself.

What distinguishes democracies from tinhorn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities are our permanent meritocratic government bureaus that remain nonpartisan and honestly report the truth.

The Benghazi, Associated Press, and National Security Agency scandals are scary, but not as disturbing as growing doubts about the honesty of permanent government itself.”

A single dishonest individual (of any party) may come and go. But if the government as a whole develops a reputation for corruption and dishonesty, the system itself is in grave danger. Read the whole thing.

March 20, 2014

Guilty

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:59 am

Our criminal justice system has become a crime: Column:

“When juries decide not to convict because doing so would be unjust, it’s called ‘jury nullification,’ and although everyone admits that it’s a power juries have, many disapprove of it. But when prosecutors decide not to bring charges, it’s called ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ and it’s subject to far less criticism, if it’s even noticed. As for prosecutorial targeting of disfavored groups or individuals, the general attitude is ‘if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.’

The problem with that attitude is that, with today’s broad and vague criminal statutes at both the state and federal level, everyone is guilty of some sort of crime, a point that Harvey Silverglate underscores with the title of his recent book, Three Felonies A Day: How The Feds Target The Innocent, that being the number of felonies that the average American, usually unknowingly, commits.”

Read the whole thing

March 16, 2014

Time to Pay the Piper

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:01 am

The High Costs of Obamacare:

“‘Obamacare would cost me $4,855.20 a year more, or a $2.33 an hour pay cut.’ And Angela Portillo, a maid at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas: ‘The Obamacare website says (my husband and I) would have to pay $8,057.04 a year more to keep the great insurance we have now. That’s a $3.87 per hour pay cut.’

Americans who says they’ve been hurt by Obamacare outnumber those who say they’ve benefited from it by more than 2 to 1, according to recent polls by both Rasmussen and Gallup.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that, through February, only about 15 percent of the 17.2 million people eligible for Obamacare had enrolled.

‘They are not buying it because the premium — even net of the subsidies — is too much for plans that have deductibles that are too high,’ Mr. Laszewski said.

A Brooking Institution study indicated that families with incomes between $20,000 and $38,000 will suffer the largest proportionate income declines.

‘Only in Washington could asking the bottom of the middle class to finance health care for the poorest families be seen as reducing inequality,’ the Unite Here report said.”

It’s bad news all the way down. Too bad we weren’t warned that this very thing was going to happen… oh, wait.

But, as always, I refer to the comment I saw online: “Even if it bankrupts the country, we have the moral obligation to provide everyone with health insurance.” Wish: granted.

March 10, 2014

Edward Snowden at SXSW

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:23 pm

Edward Snowden at SXSW: The NSA is setting fire to the future of the Internet: “I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and I saw that Constitution being violated on a massive scale.”

But remember, this guy is somehow the enemy and should have gone through “proper channels” to air his grievances. Just ask this guy, who did just that, and got blackballed for his efforts to do things within the system.

Prager

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 7:46 am

“Taking care of others is a sign of moral character. So is taking care of oneself. Relying on others to take care of you when you are capable of taking care of yourself is just plain selfish and the very definition of irresponsible.”

Well said. Please note the all-important qualifier in the sentence: “when you are capable of taking care of yourself”. Often detractors or opponents of this idea will conveniently skip over this caveat in their rush to discredit. This, however, is the hinge upon which the rest hangs.

Anyway, good thoughts here.

February 23, 2014

Sultan Knish

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:32 am

Sultan Knish on the current political mess in Egypt:

When a political system becomes polarized between the forces of freedom and the forces of totalitarianism, then the forces of freedom have to win every single election. Meanwhile the totalitarians only have to win one election and then spend the rest of time reconstructing civic institutions, mobilizing thugs and making it structurally impossible for the other side to compete.

Even if the other side occasionally wins elections, the totalitarian process continues chugging along because the totalitarian side follows no rules while holding its opponents to above and beyond the letter of the law. The law constrains the ability of the law-abiding party to undo the work of the totalitarian party, but not the ability of the totalitarian party to pursue its agenda and undo the work of its opponents.

When one side is on a long march through the institutions while the other seeks consensus, the long marchers will win.

A democratic political system in which a leading political faction is totalitarian cannot endure.

Hope they’re able to pull through over there.

February 14, 2014

Quoth

Filed under: Politics,Quoth — jasony @ 2:55 pm

Anchoress:

“The biggest problem in our nation is not the Democrats, or the Republicans; it is not the Obama Administration, just as it wasn’t the Bush Administration, and it won’t be the Clinton or Warren Administrations. Our biggest problem is that the press has voluntarily surrendered its freedoms for the sake of idols and ideologies.”

February 12, 2014

Legitimate Responses

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:32 am

A law is enacted. It is done so by a slim but legal majority of the people’s representatives. This law is just as legitimate, and enacted under the same rules and considerations, as every other law of the land. You might not like it, but there it is.

You are a business owner with employees. The new law says you must do X if you have a certain number of employees. Because doing X would damage or maybe even destroy your business, you decide to avoid doing X by laying off people until you are under the threshold. (It’s obvious where I’m going here, but stay with me). Using this method to get below the threshold is totally with the law’s established legal framework. There is nothing preventing you from doing so. As economists would say, your reaction is a reasonable response to the incentives of the legal environment. The original law does not disallow your behavior–nor under most circumstances in our legal system would any law disallow your behavior. As long as you are not doing anything illegal like deciding on the basis of sex or marital status (or a few other established things), trimming employees in response to a changing business climate is one of the fundamental tools of business owners.

So far so good. The law was created and enacted with clear stipulations, voted into being by duly elected representatives, and responded to legally within established historical and legal frameworks.

Now the law is having trouble. This trouble is due, in part, by this exact response of the market to the “perverse incentives”. Don’t want to pay for X? Shrink your workforce to be below the threshold. However, the success of the law depends greatly on other businesses not following your lead and cutting employees. It depends on these businesses voluntarily keeping above the threshold, paying into the system, and helping the new law– a law that is strongly tied to a certain political philosophy– succeed. But the law is the law (as established in my first paragraph). To make matters worse, when companies lay off people (legally) to get below the threshold so that they don’t have to do X (legally), they tend to publicly express their dissatisfaction (also legally) and thus cause somewhat of a chain reaction as other companies look on and say you know, that’s not such a bad idea… Totally legal, but it makes the law, and the law’s supporters, look bad. It also puts at grave risk the ultimate success of the law, and by extension, that law’s proponents.

So now comes this:

“…officials made clear in a press briefing that firms would not be allowed to lay off workers to get into the preferred class of those businesses with 50 to 99 employees. How will the feds know what employers were thinking when hiring and firing? Simple. Firms will be required to certify to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that [the law] was not a motivating factor in their staffing decisions. To avoid [the law's] costs you must swear that you are not trying to avoid it. You can duck the law, but only if you promise not to say so.

Company officials will be trapped in a catch-22. They can lay off as many people as they want because of Obamacare. But because they’ll have to swear to the IRS that their decisions had nothing to do with Obamacare, they can’t speak publicly about what’s happening. What a great way to silence the people who are on the front lines of dealing with Obamacare’s horrific effects.”

Nowhere was the original law- the settled, codified, duly-voted-upon law– sent back to our representatives for reconsideration. And nowhere within that original law was the power to change the law to such an extent allowed or given to any entity. And if such a power can be read within the small print of the law, centuries of legal precedent would declare that power unenforceable and void. You can tweak “around the edges”, as they say, but the massive changes and counter responses to the legal reactions of the market that we have seen have stepped far outside of what can be considered reasonable. The courts are beginning to push back on this. If the law is not working the way it was written, the Executive branch cannot fundamentally change it without resubmitting it to Congress for a vote. In our system Congress makes the laws, the Executive enforces them.

This beautifully illustrates the problem that small government Conservatives and Libertarians have with our current system.

Related (and hilarious)

February 11, 2014

Gotta Love the Onion

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Politics — jasony @ 9:39 pm

Conservative Acquaintance Annoyingly Not Racist | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source:

“BROOKLYN, NY—Acknowledging that the man’s right-wing views are more nuanced than one might expect, 36-year-old liberal Diana Hardwick confided to reporters Tuesday that her conservative acquaintance Brady Daniels is, quite frustratingly, not racist. ‘We got to talking about immigration, and I really wanted him to undermine his argument for stricter border controls by saying something disparaging of Latinos, but apparently his opinions are based entirely on national security issues instead of race—which is super irritating,’ Hardwick said of Daniels, who reportedly describes himself as a ‘strong conservative’ on fiscal issues but, annoyingly, exhibits no racial biases. ‘It would be so much easier if I could just write him off as a bigot, but as far as I can tell he harbors no resentment or disdain toward people of color. For God’s sake, we argued every issue from states’ rights to income disparity but nope, he didn’t say anything even tacitly racist. Not once.’ Hardwick later concluded that her acquaintance’s opposition to most of President Obama’s policies meant he was probably ‘close enough’ to count as a racist.”

500 Billion Here, 500 Billion There

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 6:43 am

Congressional Investigation: Treasury, IRS, HHS Conspired To Create An Unauthorized, Half-Trillion Dollar Entitlement:

“Last week, two congressional committees issued a little-noticed report detailing how Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, and Health and Human Services officials conspired to create a massive new entitlement not authorized anywhere in federal law.

In the summer of 2012, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight & Government Reform and Committee on Ways & Means launched an investigation to determine ‘whether IRS and Treasury conducted an adequate review of the statute and legislative history prior to coming to [the] conclusion that [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's] premium subsidies would be allowed in federal exchanges.’ Over the next 18 months, the committees held numerous hearings with senior Treasury and IRS officials, while investigative staff conducted interviews with key agency attorneys responsible for developing the regulations in question. Investigators also reviewed what few documents Treasury and IRS officials allowed them to see…..

The proposed rule met instant condemnation in the media, from members of Congress, and from individual citizens during the rule’s public-comment period. Critics noted the IRS was planning to do the exact opposite of what the statute permits the agency to do.”

Read the whole sordid story at the link.

Ho Hum, nothing to see here.

Related:

“Earlier Monday, Obama’s team announced “that it would give midsized employers until 2016 to provide health insurance for their workers, delaying another key provision of the Affordable Care Act,” per Washington Examiner reporter Brian Hughes.

Holder struggled to identify the basis for President Obama’s authority to flout Obamacare’s implementation schedule when Lee pressed him on the subject during a recent Senate hearing.

“I’ve not had a chance to look at, you know, for some time, exactly what the analysis was there, so I’m not sure that I would be able to put it in what category,” Holder told Lee on Jan. 29 when asked to ground the original delay of the employer law in a standard three-part test for such unilateral actions by the executive branch.

Lee asked Holder to write him an explanation of the legal analysis that the Justice Department used to justify delaying the employer mandate, which was originally supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The attorney general has not yet done so.

The Utah Republican said Obama is acting on the weakest of constitutional grounds. “The law says x, and he is trying to do not x, but y,” Lee told the Examiner.

As of today there is no party line on this, simply a refusal by the Attorney General- The Attorney General of the United States- to justify or explain the legal basis for this move.

Taken as a single instance this should disturb everyone. Taken in context with other Executive actions, this should be more than disturbing. Hello? Voice in the wilderness here? What happened to the people who were upset about the abuse of power during Bush?

Look, I realize that I’ve gone all political of late (okay, “late” being a generous term), and I do keep in mind the admonition of friends to not go off the deep end, but these posts are there to illustrate, and build an ongoing body of evidence, that our system isn’t working. And it’s broken in a very dangerous and unprecedented way.

To everyone who says but the last guy did it! I’ll answer yes, and it was wrong then too… that doesn’t excuse the current administration and it’s a dangerous precedent that we need to stop. Our republic was not designed to operate under these conditions.

To my friends on the other side of the political aisle, a simple question: would you be supportive of a Republican president that did everything the current one has done? If not, why would you be in opposition to those actions?

Why aren’t you now?

February 10, 2014

Gold Medal in Spending

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:02 am

The Sochi Olympics are more costly than every other Winter Olympics in modern history combined. “…corruption isn’t a side effect of the Russian Olympics, the Olympics are a side effect of the corruption”.

Sochi Winter Olympics: $51,000,000,000
Salt Lake City Winter Olympics: $2,000,000,000

February 9, 2014

Fast Times at Eighth Avenue High

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:28 pm

Fast Times at Eighth Avenue High:

“High school is an apt metaphor for the shenanigans inside the Times’ $850 million skyscraper at the corner of Fortieth Street and Eighth Avenue. The Times portrayed in Kurson’s article is not the established, serious, and competent institution of the liberal imagination. It is the Beverly Hills High School in Clueless, a cliquey and catty war of all against all, where the self-importance of the occupants masks deep insecurities. The next time our reporters and producers and anchors and bloggers affect an air of moral or social superiority, the next time they pretend to know the answers to every political and economic and cultural question, remember this: They are basically teenagers.”

Most of us got away from needing the approval of the Cool Kids back in high school.

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