Friday, January 30, 2015
It will not shock readers to hear that quite often, legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name.
The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States. but was going nowhere. The 9-11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.
At the time, 62 Democrats voted against the legislation. On the Republican side there were only three “no” votes: former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Rep. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, and myself.
The abuses of the Constitution in the PATRIOT Act do not need to be fully recounted here, but Presidents Bush and Obama both claimed authority based on it to gut the Fourth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act ushered in the era of warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of our Internet behavior, watering down of probable cause, and much more. After the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know how the National Security Agency viewed constitutional restraints on surveillance of the American people during the PATRIOT Act period.
Obamacare program costs $50,000 in taxpayer money for every American who gets health insurance, says bombshell budget report
It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.
The number comes from figures buried in a 15-page section of the nonpartisan organization’s new ten-year budget outlook.
The best-case scenario described by the CBO would result in ‘between 24 million and 27 million’ fewer Americans being uninsured in 2025, compared to the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect.
Pulling that off will cost Uncle Sam about $1.35 trillion – or $50,000 per head.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Like Charles II, the sick man of Europe was 'an unconscionable time dying.' Time and time again from the seventeenth century observers predicted the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, yet it outlived all its rivals. As late as 1910 it straddled three continents. Unlike the Romanovs, Hohenzollerns or Habsburgs, the House of Osman was still recognised as an imperial dynasty during the peacemaking which followed the First World War. This book offers a fascinating overview of the Ottoman Empire's decline from the failure to take Vienna in 1683 to the abolition of the Sultanate in 1922 by Mustafa Kemal, after a revolutionary upsurge of Turkish national pride. It deals with constantly recurring problems: competing secular and religious authority; acceptance or rejection of Western ideas; greedy neighbours; population movements; and the strength or weakness of successive Sultans. The book also emphasises the challenges of the early twentieth century, when railways and oilfields gave new importance to Ottoman lands in the Middle East. Recent events have put the problems that faced the later Sultans back upon the world agenda. Names like Basra and Mosul again make the headlines. So, too, do the old empire's outposts in Albania and Macedonia in the west and the mountainous Caucasus in the east. Alan Palmer's narrative reminds us of the long, sad continuity of conflict in the Lebanon. We read of the Kurdish struggle for survival, of Armenian aspirations for independence, of the lingering interests of the Ottomans in their Libyan provinces, and of the Muslim character of Sarajevo in the troubled country that was once Yugoslavia. The Ottoman past has great relevance to the changing patterns of eastern Europe and western Asia in the twentieth century.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
From George R. R. Martin’s Introduction to Warriors:
“People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories. Since Homer first sang the wrath of Achilles and the ancient Sumerians set down their tales of Gilgamesh, warriors, soldiers, and fighters have fascinated us; they are a part of every culture, every literary tradition, every genre. All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity, and The Red Badge of Courage have become part of our literary canon, taught in classrooms all around the country and the world. Our contributors make up an all-star lineup of award-winning and bestselling writers, representing a dozen different publishers and as many genres. We asked each of them for the same thing—a story about a warrior. Some chose to write in the genre they’re best known for. Some decided to try something different. You will find warriors of every shape, size, and color in these pages, warriors from every epoch of human history, from yesterday and today and tomorrow, and from worlds that never were. Some of the stories will make you sad, some will make you laugh, and many will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
Included are a long novella from the world of Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, a new tale of Lord John by Diana Gabaldon, and an epic of humanity at bay by David Weber. Also present are original tales by David Ball, Peter S. Beagle, Lawrence Block, Gardner Dozois, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, Cecelia Holland, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell, Naomi Novik, James Rollins, Steven Saylor, Robert Silverberg, S.M. Stirling, Carrie Vaughn, Howard Waldrop, and Tad Williams.
Two high schoolers who say they were just trying to make some money are now in hot water.
As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, Matt Molinari and his friend, both seniors from Bridgewater, were going door-to-door advertising their snow shoveling services in advance of the storm.
“We weren’t looking to break the law. We just didn’t know the law,” Molinari said.
But when the two crossed into Bound Brook, they were stopped by cops.
“Kind of saw like a spotlight, like a police spotlight,” he said.
Police were alerted after someone called to report a suspicious person.
Molinari said they then got a lesson in local ordinances, putting their high school shoveling business on ice.
The Congressional Budget Office now says ObamaCare will push 10 million off employer-based coverage, a tenfold increase from its initial projection…
The latest CBO report is supposed to be a big win for the Obama administration because the projected costs are 20% below what the CBO first projected in 2010.
But the CBO report also shows that ObamaCare will be far more disruptive to the employer-based insurance market, while being far less effective at cutting the ranks of the uninsured, than promised.
Thanks to ObamaCare, the CBO now expects that 10 million workers will lose their employer-based coverage by 2021.
This finding stands in sharp contrast to earlier CBO projections, which at one point suggested ObamaCare would increase the number of people getting coverage through work, at least in its early years.
The budget office has, in fact, increased the number it says will lose workplace coverage every year since 2011.
Monday, January 26, 2015
Thursday, January 22, 2015
As highlighted by David Henderson and Peter Boettke, markets and competition are like weeds, not delicate flowers. Economies recover even from severe boom-bust episodes and despite growth-retarding regime uncertainty. Even burdensome regulation, per Pierre Lemieux, causes a “slow-motion collapse” or stagnation, not a crash. But one thing can be counted on, as innovation or recovery begin to deliver additional spending power to the productive class of the economy, the “unmet needs” crowd will just as quickly be out clamoring for a heightened government share of the ‘bounty’ for some imagined greater public good.
A recent example; an editorial, “Capitalize on low fuel prices by raising Colorado gas tax,” in the Denver Post emphasized that the currently low and expected-to-remain-low gasoline prices presents an excellent opportunity to painlessly raise the gasoline tax, if not at the Federal level — due to resistance of some to raise taxes — then at the state level. Like many who support big government, an extra dollar in a potential taxpayer’s pocket is much better spent by the enlightened elite.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, continues his effort to unify the diverse people of a discordant world against the Dark One in this fifth tome of the Wheel of Time series (begun with The Eye of the World ). While the Aes Sedai, women who channel the One Power, and the Forsaken, ancient disciples of the Dark One, strive to bend him to their purposes, Rand leads the clans of the Aiel in a war of unification. Rand must try to master his powers as a man who can channel, while eluding the concomitant madness, as two groups of women attempt to come to his aid. His love, Elayne, Daughter-Heir of Andor, and Nynaeve, both Aes Sedai in training, join a circus to evade an angry sisterhood, and Siuan Sanche, former leader of the Aes Sedai now stripped of her powers, and two companions seek other rebels in an attempt to avert the final doom. Jordan deftly weaves details from previous books into this narrative and includes a glossary so that new readers can pick up the saga at this point.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
An automated bot called the Random Darknet Shopper was programmed to buy goods from a Deep Web marketplace as part of an art exhibit in Switzerland.
Swiss police seized the art exhibit on Jan. 12 at the conclusion of its three-month run. The exhibit was programmed by two London-based Swiss artists, Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo, who claimed to be exploring the societal implications of robots breaking the law and the ethical implications of Deep Web marketplaces.
Friday, January 16, 2015
One of Time magazine's 100 all-time best English-language novels.
Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.
In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse. Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous…you’ll recognize it immediately.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday announced the hiring of a campaign manager for his likely 2016 presidential bid, part of an aggressive effort to build a national political team as the race for the White House heats up.
The hiring of strategist Chip Englander, who recently guided a gubernatorial candidate to victory in Illinois, marks a clear step forward for the Kentucky Republican as he prepares to transform his cadre of loyalists into a full-scale campaign.
Doug Stafford, Paul’s longtime confidant, will remain as his chief political adviser. In an interview Tuesday, Stafford said he will rely on Englander “for the day-to-day execution” of Paul’s operation.
The move underscores Paul’s unorthodox approach to presidential politics and his expected candidacy, with plans to put an emphasis on outreach to the poor and younger voters while also courting conservative activists in early-primary states.
In an interview Tuesday, Englander argued that Paul’s unconventional positions would lay the foundation for a potent Republican coalition. Paul has articulated mostly non-interventionist views on foreign policy, while taking hardline stances against tax hikes and President Obama’s health-care law domestically.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday dismissed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as “yesterday’s news.”
The likely 2016 rival previously endorsed Romney for president in 2012. But another run for the White House, which Romney described to former aides and supporters as likely, was one too many for the Kentucky Republican.
“If (Romney) runs to the right of Jeb Bush, he’ll still be to the left of the rest of the party, so it may be a difficult spot to occupy,” Paul told Fox News Radio. “Look, I like Governor Romney, I like him personally, I think he is a good person, I think he was a great businessman. But you know that’s yesterday’s news.”
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
When David Copperfield escapes from the cruelty of his childhood home, he embarks on a journey to adulthood which will lead him through comedy and tragedy, love and heartbreak and friendship and betrayal. Over the course of his adventure, David meets an array of eccentric characters and learns hard lessons about the world before he finally discovers true happiness.
Charles Dickens’s most celebrated novel and the author’s own favorite, David Copperfield is the classic account of a boy growing up in a world that is by turns magical, fearful, and grimly realistic.
In a book that is part fairy tale and part thinly veiled autobiography, Dickens transmutes his life experience into a brilliant series of comic and sentimental adventures in the spirit of the great eighteenth-century novelists he so much admired.
Few readers can fail to be touched by David’s fate, and fewer still to be delighted by his story. The cruel Murdstone, the feckless Micawber, the unctuous and sinister Uriah Heep, and David Copperfield himself, into whose portrait Dickens puts so much of his own early life, form a central part of our literary legacy.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Friday, January 9, 2015
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, has delivered a knock out punch against Sen. Marco Rubio to normalization of relations with Cuba to benefit the United States. The punch was as decisive as Muhammad Ali’s knock out of George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle 40 years ago. Mr. Rubio’s presidential ambitions are over.
The Florida senator’s implacable hatred of Fidel Castro and Cuba’s Communist regime has driven him to anti-democratic tirades and to a policy of Cuban ostracism that sneers at Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson
New mental illnesses identified by the DSM-IV include arrogance, narcissism, above-average creativity, cynicism, and antisocial behavior. In the past, these were called “personality traits,” but now they’re diseases. And there are treatments available.
All of this is a symptom of our over-diagnosing and overmedicating culture. In the last 50 years, the DSM-IV has gone from 130 to 357 mental illnesses. A majority of these illnesses afflict children. Although the manual is an important diagnostic tool for the psychiatric industry, it has also been responsible for social changes. The rise in ADD, bipolar disorder, and depression in children has been largely because of the manual’s identifying certain behaviors as symptoms. A Washington Post article observed that, if Mozart were born today, he would be diagnosed with ADD and “medicated into barren normality.”
Late Last Night and the Night Before…
…Tommyknockers, tommyknockers, knocking at the door.
Something was happening in Bobbi Anderson’s idyllic small town of Haven, Maine. Something that gave every man, woman, and child in town powers far beyond ordinary mortals. Something that turned the town into a death trap for all outsiders. Something that came from a metal object, buried for millennia, that Bobbi stumbled across.
It wasn’t that Bobbi and the other good folks of Haven had sold their souls to reap the rewards of the most deadly evil this side of hell. It was more like a diabolical takeover…and invasion of body and soul—and mind.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking the position that court warrants are not required when deploying cell-site simulators in public places. Nicknamed “stingrays,” the devices are decoy cell towers that capture locations and identities of mobile phone users and can intercept calls and texts.
The FBI made its position known during private briefings with staff members of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In response, the two lawmakers wrote Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson, maintaining they were “concerned about whether the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have adequately considered the privacy interests” of Americans.
As prices at the pump sink to their lowest levels in years, some lawmakers hope Congress is primed to increase the politically sensitive U.S. gas tax for the first time in more than two decades.
The U.S. benchmark oil price slipped below $50 per barrel on Monday, its lowest mark in nearly four years, and drivers across the nation will pay less than $2.20 per gallon on average when they fuel up this week.
The plummeting prices have led transportation experts, business lobbyists and lawmakers to insist that the coming months — as they negotiate an extension of the federal infrastructure funding bill — are their best chance in years to increase the 18.4-cent per gallon gas tax that’s used to pay for highways and mass transit.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The gripping story of the man who was the American Revolution’s moral compass—Ira Stoll tells readers who Samuel Adams was, why he has been forgotten, and why he must be remembered.
Thomas Jefferson called Samuel Adams “truly the man of the Revolution.” Adams, filled with religious fervor, inspired others to fight on and overcome the challenges of the Revolutionary War. He was the editor of the influential Boston Gazette, planner of the Boston Tea Party, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and yet, he is largely ignored and unknown today. Understanding the leading part Adams played in building and sustaining support for the revolutionary cause gives readers new insight into the way religion motivated the founding of America.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Amy Allen (Aayla Secura) and Daniel Logan (Boba Fett) at Star Wars Weekends in 2004 at Disney MGM (Now Hollywood Studios) in Orlando, Florida.
Monday, January 5, 2015
President Obama’s health care adviser Jonathan Gruber said that the Affordable Care Act would definitely not be affordable while he was writing the bill with the White House.
As Gruber continues to withhold documents while he awaits a call-back for more testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the new year, more shocking information is coming to light detailing the deceptions that went into the writing of the health-care law.
Gruber said that Obamacare had no cost controls in it and would not be affordable in an October 2009 policy brief
With the relatively recent passing of America’s new healthcare law; the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the topics of healthcare, health insurance, prices and reform have been particularly hot lately. This of course does not mean that the controversies surrounding the American healthcare system are anything new. Healthcare prices are getting higher with many hospital visits for certain conditions totaling bills of millions of dollars. Also, the laws regulating the industry are getting heavier by the day. People have known for a while that a solid reform of the system has been in order, though it is unfortunate that most of these people calling for reform have a tendency to find their influence for such reform across the ocean.
What is “Fairness” in Health Care?
Many Americans are so fed up with the American healthcare system, that what seems too many to be the most sensible thing to do is to follow the European model and nationalize the entire industry. With a quick glance at some snapshot statistics, it doesn’t seem to be a crazy idea. After all, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), the United States ranks only no. 37 in quality of healthcare worldwide. Look a little closer though, and one will find that this data does not tell the whole, unbiased story. It turns out that the WHO uses “fairness” as one of its criteria for evaluating nation’s healthcare systems. In fact, a number of the criteria used by the WHO are not that relevant to healthcare itself, such as how much patients pay out of pocket for healthcare. Factoring all criteria together, the US ranks no. 37, however even the WHO ranked the US as no. 1 worldwide in “responsiveness to patients’ needs in choice of provider, dignity, autonomy, timely care, and confidentiality.”
The crashing price of oil, which dominated the world of energy in the last six months, and promises to stay with us for much of 2015, has brought cheers to American consumers and tears to the oil tsars of Russia, Iran and Venezuela in particular. If the price of oil remains in the neighborhood of $60 per barrel (bbl) for much of this year, the economic impact on Russia, Iran, Venezuela and maybe Iraq, Algeria, Nigeria and Libya could be ruinous. The sharp decline in oil revenues could force both Russia and Iran to review and maybe reduce their financial and material support for the Assad regime in Syria. Some optimists speculated that the crude reality brought about by the changing energy landscape may force Iran to show more flexibility in its nuclear negotiations with the P 5 + 1 in return for a quicker process of sanction relief. The precipitous fall in the price of oil has forced governments all over the world as well as the international financial institutions to review their investments and risk assessments for 2015 and beyond.
The foreign currency reserves that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have accumulated will help them navigate the turbulent markets in the immediate future, but even these economies will be forced to adjust their balance payments and maybe cut back on subsidies and social programs, in the absence of a market “correction” that would restore the price range that prevailed in the last 5 years. A sustained low price of oil could lead a country like Venezuela to default on its debts, a severe contraction in the Russian economy, and dramatic and unprecedented consequences on the Iranian economy, which is – like Russia’s economy- already teetering because of painful international sanctions. In Iraq, Libya and Yemen, very low oil prices could plunge these countries deeper into violence. So far, the three largest economies in the world; the United States, China and Japan (two major importers of oil) have benefitted from the decline of oil prices. However, if the current low price prevails for some time, this could impact those American companies that have invested large resources in the production of shale oil in States like Texas and North Dakota, who incur higher production costs.