Tuesday, March 31, 2015
As some in Florida have long suspected, the rumored fix to help former Florida Governor Jeb Bush win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has already come to pass.
The Intercept was able to obtain emails between Jeb Bush and state Representative Matt Gaetz where the two men are coordinated ‘the fix’ by pushing back Florida’s presidential primary to favor the former governor.
State Representative Matt Gaetz wrote to Bush on January 2 that he is “concerned that Florida’s current primary date will lead to proportional allocation of delegates” and that a “winner take all” system would be preferable.
“Unless you ask me otherwise, I’ll file legislation to move our primary date back a week,” Gaetz told Bush, who responded to say that his political advisor Sally Bradshaw would give Gaetz a call. “10 4,” Gaetz shot back.
The email exchange had begun with Bush emailing Gaetz, the son of State Senator Don Gaetz, president of the Florida Senate in the previous session. Bush thanked the younger Gaetz for his “willingness to head to Iowa to go door to door,” adding, “Wow, what a generous offer! Happy New Year!”-The Intercept
Gaetz’s boss, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, has already endorsed Jeb Bush for his upcoming 2016 presidential run, and now the bill filed that would push back Florida’s primary to March 15 was rushed through the legislature and recently signed into law by current Florida Governor Rick Scott.
The former undercover federal agent who was arrested on Friday for allegedly stealing bitcoins from the online black market Silk Road also helped orchestrate a fake assassination scheme allegedly carried out by Silk Road’s founder Ross Ulbricht, according to the agent’s deleted LinkedIn page.
Carl Mark Force IV, a 46-year-old former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer, has been charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, and money laundering. He allegedly sold information about the government investigation and stole over $500,000 in bitcoins, the digital cryptocurrency, for himself during the federal investigation into Silk Road.
Shaun Bridges, a Secret Service agent who allegedly stole $800,000 in bitcoins from Silk Road, was also arrested.
“The fact that Ross’ attorneys were not permitted to use this important information at trial was devastating to Ross’ defense,” mother Lyn Ulbricht told the Daily Dot. “These revelations of corruption cast doubt on the integrity of the entire investigation and the government’s case, including accusations of murder-for-hire, which we have always been certain were false.”
Force, who was central to the investigation of Ulbricht and Silk Road, played the single biggest role in the most damning charges leveled against Ulbricht: allegedly paying for the assassination and torture of a once-trusted confidant.
Force, by his own admission, was the Baltimore-based undercover agent who established and cultivated a 17-month covert relationship with Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), the pseudonym Ulbricht is said to have used while operating Silk Road, that ended with Ulbricht being charged with murder for hire, an accusation he still has yet to face in court in Maryland. On Silk Road, one of Force’s psuedonyms was Nob.
Monday, March 30, 2015
The head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi says former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has erased all information from the personal email server she used while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.
“We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a statement Friday.
He said while it’s “not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.”
Last week, Gowdy sent a letter to Clinton’s attorney asking that the email server be turned over to a third party in the hopes that an investigation could recover about 30,000 emails that her team deleted before turning the rest over to the State Department.
Gowdy said “it is clear Congress will need to speak with the former Secretary about her email arrangement and the decision to permanently delete those emails.”
When Hillary Clinton learned that a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives had subpoenaed her emails as secretary of state and she promptly destroyed half of them—about 33,000—how did she know she could get away with it? Destruction of evidence, particularly government records, constitutes the crime of obstruction of justice.
When Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of both the CIA and the NSA in the George W. Bush administration and the architect of the government’s massive suspicionless spying program, was recently publicly challenged to deny that the feds have the ability to turn on your computer, cellphone, or mobile device in your home and elsewhere, and use your own devices to spy on you, why did he remain silent? The audience at the venue where he was challenged rationally concluded that his silence was his consent.
And when two judges were recently confronted with transcripts of conversations between known drug dealers—transcripts obtained without search warrants—and they asked the police who obtained them to explain their sources, how is it that the cops could refuse to answer? The government has the same obligation to tell the truth in a courtroom as any litigant, and in a criminal case, the government must establish that its acquisition of all of its evidence was lawful.
The common themes here are government spying and lawlessness. We now know that the Israelis spied on Secretary of State John Kerry, and so Netanyahu knew of what he spoke. We know that the Clintons believe there is a set of laws for them and another for the rest of us, and so Mrs. Clinton could credibly believe that her deception and destruction would go unpunished.
We know that the NSA can listen to all we say if we are near enough to a device it can turn on. (Quick: How close are you as you read this to an electronic device that the NSA can access and use as a listening device?) And we also know that the feds gave secret roadside listening devices to about 50 local police departments, which acquired them generally without the public consent of elected officials in return for oaths not to reveal the source of the hardware. It came from the secret budget of the CIA, which is prohibited by law from spying in the U.S.
A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Anathem is perhaps the most brilliant literary invention to date from the incomparable Neal Stephenson, who rocked the world with Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and The Baroque Cycle. Now he imagines an alternate universe where scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians live in seclusion behind ancient monastery walls until they are called back into the world to deal with a crisis of astronomical proportions.
Anathem won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the reviews for have been dazzling: “Brilliant” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), “Daring” (Boston Globe), “Immensely entertaining” (New York Times Book Review), “A tour de force” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), while Time magazine proclaims, “The great novel of ideas…has morphed into science fiction, and Neal Stephenson is its foremost practitioner.”
The New Minstrel Revue performs "Molly Would You Wait" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department on Thursday.
In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report states. Ten DEA agents later admitted attending the parties, and some of the agents received suspensions of two to 10 days.
The stunning allegations are part of an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into claims of sexual harassment and misconduct within DEA; FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service. The IG’s office found that DEA did not fully cooperate with its probe.
The congressional committee charged with federal oversight is already promising hearings and an investigation into the allegations.
A bond hearing was held on Wednesday for Robert Jeffrey Taylor Jr., 45, who worked for the York Police Department as a corporal.
Taylor was arrested for abusing his 3-month-old baby so badly that he is not expected to survive.
The infant’s mother, Audrey Schurig, 36, is also a police officer. She was arrested as well and charged with unlawful neglect of a child or helpless person for leaving the baby in his father’s care despite allegedly knowing about the abuse and failing to protect her child.
Jaxon Jennings Taylor, their 3-month-old son, was abused so brutally on February 15, that he is unable to move or eat without a feeding tube. Despite being in a vegetative state, he “is in some pain” and exhibits “periodic cries,” according to 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett.
“We don’t know if this child will survive much longer,” Brackett stated.
Upon arriving at the hospital, the infant was foaming at the mouth, had bruising around his neck consistent with being held by the throat, and was suffering from a lack of oxygen. He sustained brain damage as well as retinal hemorrhaging, or bleeding from his eyes, that is so severe it could only have been caused by violent shaking or a fall from a building of at least 20 feet, according to the prosecutor.
The Last Battle has started. The seals on the Dark One's prison are crumbling. The Pattern itself is unraveling, and the armies of the Shadow have begun to boil out of the Blight.
The sun has begun to set upon the Third Age.
Perrin Aybara is now hunted by specters from his past: Whitecloaks, a slayer of wolves, and the responsibilities of leadership. All the while, an unseen foe is slowly pulling a noose tight around his neck. To prevail, he must seek answers in Tel'aran'rhiod and find a way--at long last--to master the wolf within him or lose himself to it forever.
Meanwhile, Matrim Cauthon prepares for the most difficult challenge of his life. The creatures beyond the stone gateways--the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn--have confused him, taunted him, and left him hanged, his memory stuffed with bits and pieces of other men's lives. He had hoped that his last confrontation with them would be the end of it, but the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. The time is coming when he will again have to dance with the Snakes and the Foxes, playing a game that cannot be won. The Tower of Ghenjei awaits, and its secrets will reveal the fate of a friend long lost.
This penultimate novel of Robert Jordan's #1 New York Times bestselling series--the second of three based on materials he left behind when he died in 2007--brings dramatic and compelling developments to many threads in the Pattern. The end draws near.
Empty Hats performs "One Last Drink" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Starting April 1st, felons will no longer be the only ones in the state of Wisconsin to have their DNA forcibly taken. The state is expanding its DNA collection regime to include ALL criminal misdemeanor convictions.
The new law being implemented is expected to exponentially increase the number of samples being analyzed in Madison. The current number of DNA profiles created, from the felons’ samples, ranges from 10,000-12,000 per year.
Of those cases, 550 positive hits were made on unsolved cases, according to Fox 6.
The number of samples is expected to potentially increase to an estimated 60,000 samples being collected per year. Police make the case that perhaps thousands of unsolved crimes could be solved.
“We will save lives. We will save people from becoming sexual assault victims, shooting victims because of the evidence that is collected and out there,” said Brian O’Keefe, with the Department of Justice.
But the infringement upon individual liberties didn’t go unnoticed.
Currently, every time a new felon is convicted, a DNA sample is taken. The sample is tested at the State Crime Lab, creating a DNA profile. Police then input this data into a database and attempt to see if that DNA was found at the scene of any unsolved crimes.
Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend) made the very important point that for the first time in Wisconsin’s history, DNA would be taken from suspects who have not been convicted, but are accused of a violent crime.
“I think there is a strong contingent of us that say before they have their due process exhausted in the court system, they should maintain something as personal as DNA. We have a job to balance security, and safety versus individual liberty for those who have not had their day in court,” Rep. Craig said.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) have introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act that would end the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic spying. I can say without hesitation: this bill is the real deal.
“The Patriot Act contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to a dramatic expansion of our domestic surveillance state,” said Rep. Massie. “Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans. I am proud to co-sponsor Congressman Pocan’s bill and look forward to working with him on this issue.”
Congress has introduced a handful of NSA reform bills over the past few years. Due to public disapproval of NSA spying, there is significant political pressure to “do something” about it. Most of these reform bills, however, would do practically nothing to rein in warrantless spying. Civil liberties experts say that most of these bills contain loopholes that would allow the invasive practices to continue.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a bill like the Surveillance State Repeal Act. It’s bold and effective. Specifically, here is what the bill would do:
Repeals the Patriot Act (which contains the provision that allows for the bulk collection of metadata from U.S. citizens).
Repeals the FISA Amendments Act (which contains provisions allowing for the government to monitor emails).
It would extend judges’ terms on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and technical and legal experts to advise on technical issues raised during proceedings.
Mandate that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regularly monitor such domestic surveillance programs for compliance with the law and issue an annual report.
Ban the federal government from mandating that the manufacturer of an electronic device must install spy software.
Gives people a proper channel to report illegal activity in their department.
Says that no information related to a U.S. person may be acquired without a valid warrant based on probable cause—including under Executive Order 12333.
Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has crafted a biography that dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishments of a mythic figure whose early-seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion-the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics-indeed of modern science altogether." It is also a stunning portrait of Galileo's daughter, a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me."
Moving between Galileo's grand public life and Maria Celeste's sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis and the papal court in Rome during the pivotal era when humanity's perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. During that same time, while the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and the Thirty Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, Galileo sought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope. Filled with human drama and scientific adventure, Galileo's Daughter is an unforgettable story.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
I have just paid my biggest bill of the year. The invoice was for a cool 9% of my entire annual income – or my “Adjusted Gross Income” (AGI) as it appears on my tax returns, which have just been filed. And that invoice was from my accountant who just filed them for me.
I have a pretty modest income – so modest, in fact, that my AGI is of the order of a half of the median household income across the United States – the kind of income that triggers significant subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Even the “top line” of my income falls short of that median: so it’s not as if I’m earning loads and deducting huge amounts.
My financial life last year was pretty simple: my earnings derived from a modest real estate portfolio and some freelance/consulting work. My income is earned through my small business, which, for those who know about these things, is an S-corporation. I have no employees. I do no payroll.
Yet, I have just paid my accountant more than a month’s worth of income to complete my tax returns.
How many pages of tax returns do you think that I, a single individual, and my S-corporation (a small business) had to file, bearing in mind the small amount of income in question?
Frankly, there’s no good reason the answer is not one or two. But you already know the answer is more than that, don’t you?
Ten? Try again.
Twenty? Keep going.
Surely not 50?
You’re still not close.
Did I hear you say 100 – you’re going for three digits now? Wow.
Still not there.
The answer, my fellow American tax victims, is 149.
Just take a moment to absorb that. A sub median-earning American taxpayer, engaged in simple business activities, has a 149 page tax return. And if he doesn’t get it right, his error is punishable. Of that 149, about 100 go to the Feds.
Completing 149 pages of tax forms/schedules/supporting statements is a lot of work. And I know exactly how much it is, because of that big invoice from the accountant that I already mentioned.
It’s $2000 of work – my aforementioned largest bill of the year. And it’s $2000 of work I in no way could have done myself.
I’m no high school drop-out. I have a first class degree in physics from one of the best universities in the world. I like numbers. I like logic. I like intellectual rigor. I even have a nerdy love of spreadsheets (which tells me, for example, exactly how much I spent on groceries this month five years ago ($173.41, as it happens. I’m low-maintenance)).
But I could not reverse engineer those 149 pages of tax returns if my life depended on it. And I would defy anyone without a CPA qualification to be able to do so.
I have no complaint about my accountant, who provided very good service this year, but even he couldn’t get it right first time. As I type this article, I am awaiting “corrected” state returns (which are no shorter).
Moreover, as any small businessman knows, my accountant can only generate those 149 pages of returns after I have compiled all the necessary numbers and data in neat spreadsheets, nicely itemized and comprehensively annotated (two or three days’ work, right there, perhaps?). I know for sure that most tax payers are not as proficient with Excel as I am – so my accountants have an easy time of it with me. (He even told me so.)
Here’s the reality of the American tax system for modestly earning individuals who run small businesses:
My government has put me in a position where I must either pay 9% of my income to a professional just to enable me to avoid punishment, asset garnishment and even imprisonment. Supposedly, I can “do my own taxes”, but that is a joke. No one who has not gone to school for it could accurately complete those 149 pages with any honest degree of confidence – and I don’t care what software he’s using. Moreover, even if it were do-able, the time taken to learn how to do it and then do it properly would be measured in weeks, not hours. And we don’t get to invoice the IRS for our time.
Look in wonder, America, at the most regressive aspect of any taxation system in the world – its utter complexity to the point of Kafkaesque absurdity. And if you think it must be like that, literally a few days ago, the British chancellor announced the abolition of the annual tax return in the United Kingdom.
Can anyone, conservative or progressive, justify the need for self-employed individual to spend 9 percent of his income just to remain a free citizen in good standing or, should he not have the money to spare, to go to school to navigate his way through whichever of the 74,000 pages of the tax code apply to him?
Aldous Huxley is rightly considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important literary and philosophical voices of the 20th Century, and Brave New World is his masterpiece. From the author of The Doors of Perception, Island, and countless other works of fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, and poetry, comes this powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations. Brave New World remains absolutely relevant to this day as both a cautionary dystopian tale in the vein of the George Orwell classic 1984, and as thought-provoking, thoroughly satisfying entertainment.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Empty Hats performs "Black Velvet Band" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
The grand experiment of central banks to borrow their way to growth may be headed for implosion.
The record expansion in debt across the globe — a stunning $57 trillion since 2007, when the financial crisis erupted — is shattering market confidence and choking prosperity at home as the Fed threatens higher interest rates and Europe engages in its own round of quantitative easing, according to many Wall Street analysts.
“The debts grow larger and larger because of our ability to postpone the consequences — and we are rapidly approaching the crisis that will dwarf the crisis in 2007 and 2008,” said market pundit Peter Schiff, CEO at Euro Pacific Capital.
“The only way we are able to stay ahead is by reducing interest rates and by having the Federal Reserve monetize debt,” he added
And with talk of raising rates at the Fed, the losers are already piling up.
Big institutional investors were licking their wounds earlier this month. Government bond yields plunged to all-time lows in the eurozone — dampening returns — after the European Central Bank began buying government debt and other bonds. It did so in a US-style $60 billion monthly quantitative easing program aimed at inflating Europe’s struggling economies.
The US debt markets are not doing much better. US Treasury yields have trended lower as investors vainly chase them for better returns. Corporate debt markets are also being battered by a rash of bad economic indicators — such as retail sales falling the last three months — showing that the astronomical debt burden has produced little economic growth.
The S&P 500 index posted its largest loss in two months, losing 34.91 points, or 1.7 percent, during the second week of March only to rebound last week when the Fed seemed to push back the date on raising rates.
Federal drug agents may be racially profiling and unjustly seizing cash from travelers in the nation’s airports, bus stations and train stations. A new report released by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Justice examined the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s controversial use of “cold consent.”
In a cold consent encounter, a person is stopped if an agent thinks that person’s behavior fits a drug courier profile. Or an agent can stop a person cold “based on no particular behavior,” according to the Inspector General report. The agent then asks people they have stopped for consent to question them and sometimes to search their possessions as well. By gaining consent, law enforcement officers can bypass the need for a warrant.
But after reviewing the DEA’s policies, the Inspector General concluded, “cold consent encounters and searches can raise civil rights concerns.” In one incident, DEA agents cold-stopped an African-American woman at an airport and allegedly subjected her to “aggressive and humiliating questioning”; the woman was a Pentagon lawyer and travelling on government business.
Little wonder research by the U.S. Department of Justice found that cold consent encounters are “more often associated with racial profiling than contacts based on previously acquired information.” Cold consent has even been compared to stop-and-frisk.
Moreover, agents can seize cash they find during a cold consent encounter. According to data analysis conducted by the Institute for Justice, half of all DEA cash seizures from 2009 to 2013 were under $10,000. Thanks to civil forfeiture laws, law enforcement can take cash and other valuable property, based on an officer’s often subjective determination of probable cause, even from those who have not been charged with a crime.
England, 1714. London has long been home to a secret war between the brilliant, enigmatic Master of the Mint and closet alchemist, Isaac Newton, and his archnemesis, the insidious counterfeiter Jack the Coiner. Hostilities are suddenly moving to a new and more volatile level as Half-Cocked Jack hatches a daring plan, aiming for the total corruption of Britain's newborn monetary system.
Enter Daniel Waterhouse: Aging Puritan and Natural Philosopher, Daniel has been on a long and harrowing quest to help mend the rift between adversarial geniuses. As Daniel combs city and country for clues to the identity of the blackguard who is attempting to blow up Natural Philosophers, political factions jockey for position while awaiting the impending death of the ailing queen, and the "holy grail" of alchemy, the key to life eternal, tantalizes and continues to elude Isaac Newton.
As Newton, Waterhouse, and Shaftoe each circle closer to the object of Daniel's quest, everything that was will be changed forever ...
Friday, March 20, 2015
Empty Hats performs "The Coachman" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
Janet Yellen told the markets what they wanted to hear today and the indexes rocketed out of negative territory to finish up over 1 %. As usual, speculation abounds on precisely what was in the minds of investors.
Journalists tend to overstate the causal importance of breaking news when the market makes big moves. Often, those moves were predicted months in advance by serious traders and what happened that day had little to do with what the market did. Not true for the Fed’s announcements. They do move the markets immediately.
What most people don’t know, or at least don’t acknowledge, is that the Federal Reserve really runs the entire economy. When the Fed inflates the supply of money and credit, indexes go up, growth occurs and the economy “improves.” When it deflates the supply of money and credit, indexes go down, contraction occurs and the economy “slows.”
That’s really the whole story of the American economy. Think about that for a moment.
It doesn’t matter who is president, which party controls Congress or what any of those people do or don’t do. Yes, regulations and tax rates have some effect on the economy. Liberals might say more regulation is a good thing, conservatives might say it is bad.
But taxes and regulations haven’t really had much effect at all in the past 40 years. Before that, when taxes were at 90%, they mattered, but not when the top rate fluctuates between 35% and 39%. Do the math. It’s not that significant.
Regulations haven’t changed that much since the New Deal, either. Yes, there was some mild “deregulation” and subsequent “re-regulation.” They caused little bumps and bounces, but nothing compared to the wild swings caused by monetary policy.
In reality, what elected officials have done since 1971, when the U.S. dollar became a completely fiat currency, has had about as much effect on the economy as turning on a blow dryer in a hurricane. Point it with the wind and it makes the wind blow infinitesimally faster. Point it against the wind and it makes the wind blow infinitesimally slower. Either way, the difference is negligible.
Once you understand this, most political narratives about the economy become fairy tales. Liberals credit Bill Clinton with “managing the economy” well during the boom years of the 1990’s. Conservatives say it was that Republican Congress.
Neither Clinton and nor Congress had anything to do with it. They were the blow dryers. The 90’s economy was really just a tech bubble blown up by the Fed with inflation that burst in 2000 when the Fed tightened. Clinton and the Republican Congress were both in office for the whole time. Neither did anything significant to cause the boom or the bust. It was all the Fed.
No one really disputes the Fed’s role. American voters just don’t draw the obvious conclusions. They continue to talk about presidents or Congress as if they significantly affect the economy, when in reality they don’t. At least they don’t anymore.
This couldn’t have been truer than for George W. Bush, who did almost nothing that affected the economy, other than sign Sarbanes-Oxley. Yet, Bush gets credit from Republicans for a “Bush Boom” and blame from Democrats for the housing meltdown.
Those, too, were all the Fed. The Fed blew up the housing bubble with monetary inflation in an attempt to stimulate recovery after its tech bubble burst. It popped the housing bubble it created when it tightened. That’s what caused the Bush Boom and the Bush Bust. Bush himself was just along for the ride.
Now, we have market indexes at an all-time high and an economy that has supposedly “recovered.” As usual, the president takes credit for all of this. If the crash comes on his watch, he’ll take all of the blame. But, like Bush, Obama is just along for the ride. There really is no cause/effect relationship between anything he’s done and what we’re seeing in the Dow or S&P 500 indexes.
We’re we’re really seeing are the results of unprecedented monetary inflation by the Fed, holding interest rates at an unprecedented low (near zero) for an unprecedented period of time (over six years).
Tarmon Gai'don, the Last Battle, looms. And mankind is not ready.
The final volume of the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, was partially written by Robert Jordan before his untimely passing in 2007. Brandon Sanderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn books, was chosen by Jordan's editor---his wife, Harriet McDougal---to complete the final book. The scope and size of the volume was such that it could not be contained in a single book, and so Tor proudly presents The Gathering Storm as the first of three novels that will make up A Memory of Light. This short sequence will complete the struggle against the Shadow, bringing to a close a journey begun almost twenty years ago and marking the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, the preeminent fantasy epic of our era.
In this epic novel, Robert Jordan's international bestselling series begins its dramatic conclusion. Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggles to unite a fractured network of kingdoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle. As he attempts to halt the Seanchan encroachment northward---wishing he could form at least a temporary truce with the invaders---his allies watch in terror the shadow that seems to be growing within the heart of the Dragon Reborn himself.
Egwene al'Vere, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive of the White Tower and subject to the whims of their tyrannical leader. As days tick toward the Seanchan attack she knows is imminent, Egwene works to hold together the disparate factions of Aes Sedai while providing leadership in the face of increasing uncertainty and despair. Her fight will prove the mettle of the Aes Sedai, and her conflict will decide the future of the White Tower---and possibly the world itself.
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Empty Hats performs the "La La La Song" at the 2015 Hogetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
Why is President Obama even bothering to ask Congress for a legally tardy Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS? It’s a war he’s already fighting — and which he clearly intends to keep fighting, regardless of whether the authorization goes through.
If passed, the AUMF is at most “a thumbs-up from Congress for things that the military has already been doing in the Middle East,” as New York’s Jaime Fuller puts it. Far from limiting executive power, it gives Obama a blank check for war. But here’s the thing: To all appearances, he’s perfectly willing to write that check himself if he feels the need, yet doesn’t trust others to have that same power.
Consider this little-noted incident from the 2012 campaign season: Faced with the possibility of a Mitt Romney presidency, the Obama White House began to press for an explicit set of rules for drone warfare. “There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” an anonymous administration official explained to The New York Times, which noted tellingly that “[t]he effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, [would instead] be finished at a more leisurely pace.”
Obama trusts himself to wage war without clear legal boundaries. He feels a little squeamish about entrusting that same power to a Republican. And as a result, his decision-making process about whether a particular power should be granted to his office is not so much about ethical and constitutional issues as about who will wield that power.
The drone guidelines have turned out to be nearly as toothless of a limiting factor as the AUMF. But in each case, Obama seems interested in establishing at least some legal framework… in case of Republicans.
Twenty five years ago, it didn't exist. Today, twenty million people worldwide are surfing the Net. Where Wizards Stay Up Late is the exciting story of the pioneers responsible for creating the most talked about, most influential, and most far-reaching communications breakthrough since the invention of the telephone.
In the 1960's, when computers where regarded as mere giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communications devices. With Defense Department funds, he and a band of visionary computer whizzes began work on a nationwide, interlocking network of computers. Taking readers behind the scenes, Where Wizards Stay Up Late captures the hard work, genius, and happy accidents of their daring, stunningly successful venture.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Empty Hats performs "Star of the County Down" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
When Elon Musk founded SpaceX, way back in 2002, the plan was to colonize Mars. The company is now profitable, America’s number one choice for flying astronauts to the International Space Station, and thinking about building a satellite-based internet to connect the world. But all of those are stepping stones for the Mars plan, which is very much still the focus of the company.
“We’re not shy about talking about Mars, which would be an extraordinary step for humans, to actually have a settlement there,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Tuesday at the Satellite conference in Washington, DC. “The whole company is geared up on that, everybody’s eye is on the Red Planet.”
Mars One, a long shot, crowdsourced plan to colonize Mars, is apparently in shambles, so, even on the non-SpaceX front, there’s not much in the way of a concrete plan to get to Mars. We know that SpaceX is developing a methane-based rocket engine known as Raptor to get to Mars, but beyond that, much of it is speculative. That said, the company is still deadly serious about getting there, eventually.
“When we talked about Mars before, people thought we were certifiable,” Shotwell said. “Now, people kind of groove on it and they like to hear about it.”
Unlike the Mars One mission, Shotwell said that SpaceX has no intention of sending people to Mars to die. That’s one reason (of many) why the company is working on reusable rockets.
The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office.
The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law. The office handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of e-mails.
But the timing of the move raised eyebrows among transparency advocates, coming on National Freedom of Information Day and during a national debate over the preservation of Obama administration records. It’s also Sunshine Week, an effort by news organizations and watchdog groups to highlight issues of government transparency.
“The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me,” said Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.
“It is completely out of step with the president’s supposed commitment to transparency,” she said. “That is a critical office, especially if you want to know, for example, how the White House is dealing with e-mail.”
Who will pay for the communications infrastructure of the 21st century? Will it be broadband consumers, big content providers, or some combination of the two? In its Open Internet Order released last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) sided with Big Content and stuck broadband consumers with the full tab.
Before the FCC’s order, there were two possible ways by which Big Content—think Netflix or Amazon or YouTube—could contribute to the recovery of infrastructure costs by Internet service providers (ISPs). Content providers offering real-time applications (which for the most part do not yet exist) could pay for special handling of their packets or “priority delivery.” Alternatively, online video providers could pay ISPs a fee for interconnection.
By reclassifying ISPs as public utilities, however, the FCC has foreclosed both forms of contribution. Paid priority has been banned (see para. 19), snuffing out the market for real-time applications in its infancy. And interconnection arrangements will be regulated under Title II’s “just and reasonable” standard (see para. 29), which could mean anything, including Big Content paying only the ISP’s incremental cost of adding interconnection capacity (see para. 200). If Netflix has its way, that nebulous standard could mean free interconnection for the largest content providers.
Zero contribution is great news for Big Content. Indeed, Netflix’s stock price is up nearly $100 (a 25% increase) since President Obama came out in favor of public-utility regulations in November of 2014.
But it is bad news for broadband consumers. In a two-sided market such as broadband, banning payments from one side of the market will likely reduce broadband adoption. The simple reason is that broadband users are more price-sensitive than Big Content.
Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for. It's a brave new corporate world, but you don't want to be caught without a platinum credit card--as lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike is about to find out. Trapped into building street cred for a new line of $2500 sneakers by shooting customers, Hack attracts the barcode-tattooed eye of the legendary Jennifer Government. A stressed-out single mom, corporate watchdog, and government agent who has to rustle up funding before she's allowed to fight crime, Jennifer Government is holding a closing down sale--and everything must go.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Empty Hats performs "Galway Girl" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
Fines from those citations, which came from nearly every city in the county, would have amounted to more than $6.3 million, with each ticket at $264.
"We made the argument that the program was an improper delegation of police power because the videos were being sent out of state for employees of American Traffic Solutions to do the screening," said Ted Hollander, an attorney with Ticket Clinic. He said the firm has challenged the program for more than four years on behalf of clients.
American Traffic Solutions, a vendor based in Arizona, reviewed videos captured by traffic cameras in Broward County before forwarding them to local police for ticketing. State law mandates that only law enforcement can issue violations.
"You can't enforce one law and break another, which is what these cities have been doing for the better part of four years now." Hollander said.
Other cities around South Florida have ended red-light camera programs. Boca Raton stopped its program last month, joining other municipalities like Palm Beach County, Margate, Hallandale Beach and Coral Springs, which have put a stop to red-light camera tickets.
Fort Lauderdale suspended its red light traffic program on March 6, after a Broward traffic court ruled that it violated the statue. The City Commission is expected to discuss the matter at its regular meeting Tuesday night. Mayor Jack Seiler declined to comment on the case, saying he didn't have enough information on the latest ruling.
Full article: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-red-light-cameras-court-20150316-story.html
Monday, March 16, 2015
The dead are walking, men die impossible deaths, and it seems as though reality itself has become unstable: All are signs of the imminence of Tarmon Gai'don, the Last Battle, when Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, must confront the Dark One as humanity's only hope. But Rand dares not fight until he possesses all the surviving seals on the Dark One's prison and has dealt with the Seanchan, who threaten to overrun all nations this side of the Aryth Ocean and increasingly seem too entrenched to be fought off. But his attempt to make a truce with the Seanchan is shadowed by treachery that may cost him everything. Whatever the price, though, he must have that truce. And he faces other dangers. There are those among the Forsaken who will go to any length to see him dead--and the Black Ajah is at his side....
Unbeknownst to Rand, Perrin has made his own truce with the Seanchan. It is a deal made with the Dark One, in his eyes, but he will do whatever is needed to rescue his wife, Faile, and destroy the Shaido who captured her. Among the Shaido, Faile works to free herself while hiding a secret that might give her her freedom or cause her destruction. And at a town called Malden, the Two Rivers longbow will be matched against Shaido spears.
Fleeing Ebou Dar through Seanchan-controlled Altara with the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, Mat attempts to court the woman to whom he is half-married, knowing that she will complete that ceremony eventually. But Tuon coolly leads him on a merry chase as he learns that even a gift can have deep significance among the Seanchan Blood and what he thinks he knows of women is not enough to save him. For reasons of her own, which she will not reveal until a time of her choosing, she has pledged not to escape, but Mat still sweats whenever there are Seanchan soldiers near. Then he learns that Tuon herself is in deadly danger from those very soldiers. To get her to safety, he must do what he hates worse than work....
In Caemlyn, Elayne fights to gain the Lion Throne while trying to avert what seems a certain civil war should she win the crown....
In the White Tower, Egwene struggles to undermine the sisters loyal to Elaida from within....
The winds of time have become a storm, and things that everyone believes are fixed in place forever are changing before their eyes. Even the White Tower itself is no longer a place of safety. Now Rand, Perrin and Mat, Egwene and Elayne, Nynaeve and Lan, and even Loial, must ride those storm winds, or the Dark One will triumph.
The New Minstrel Revue performs "Rusulka" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
It’s one of the central contradictions of American politics: that there’s no such thing as the “Catholic vote,” yet the Catholics vote still matters.
There’s no “Catholic vote” in terms of Catholics representing an electoral bloc that votes according to what their bishops tell them, or in lockstep with the tenets of their religion. Yet winning Catholic voters has been essential to almost every presidential victory in modern times. And the defection of Catholics voters has played a role in some of the most consequential congressional turnovers in recent history — from 1994 to 2014 — making Catholics the ultimate swing voters. And for Democrats, that could be bad news.
While Catholics have been swing voters since Richard Nixon’s second term, white Catholics are now identifying as Republican by historic margins. According to the most recent polling from the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of white Catholics now favor the GOP, versus 39 percent who favor the Democrats—the largest point spread in the history of the Pew poll. And for the first time, white Catholics are more Republican than the voting group usually considered the ultimate Republicans: white Protestants (a designation that includes both mainline and evangelical Protestants).
These are ominous signs for the Democrats, evincing a new and growing allegiance with the Republican Party that has long-term implications.
So why are white Catholics abandoning the Democratic Party? There are some long-term trends at play. Steve Krueger, head of the group Catholic Democrats, notes that conservative bishops have been beating the war drums since the George W. Bush administration, even going so far in some cases as to argue that “good” Catholics can’t vote for Democrats because of their support for abortion rights and, more recently, same-sex marriage — which has resulted in an increased politicization of the church. “The bishops have gone from pastoral advocates to partisan enforcers,” Krueger said. “It’s gone from the old saying of ‘Pray, Pay and Obey,’ to ‘Obey, Pay and Pray’.”
Stephen Schneck of Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies has noted that there’s been a certain “distillation” of the Catholic vote as a record number of presumably more liberal-leaning Catholics — some one-third of those raised Catholic — have left the faith altogether. “More and more of those who remain are those who actively choose to embrace the church and its teachings,” he wrote.
But neither of these trends explains why white Catholics have abandoned the Democratic Party so suddenly and so dramatically. After all, in 2008 Barack Obama managed to keep his margin of loss of white Catholic voters to John McCain to just 5 points. But four years later, he lost the white Catholic vote to Mitt Romney by a stunning 19 points.
Krueger points to the Catholic bishop’s demonization in 2011 of the “contraceptive mandate” in the Affordable Care Act, and their subsequent ginning up of the war on “religious liberty” — which was joined by elements of the religious right and fused with its war on Obamacare — as another factor helping to drive Catholics toward the GOP. And the numbers bear Krueger out. According to Pew, between 2009 and 2014, the number of white Catholics who said the Obama administration — and by inference the Democratic Party — was “unfriendly to religion” more than doubled from 17 percent to 36 percent.
Friday, March 13, 2015
The New Minstrel Revue performs "The Blackwater and the Lee" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
IN NOVEMBER, A spacecraft made a dramatic, first-ever landing on a comet—three times. After the Philae lander touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the harpoons that were supposed to latch it onto the surface didn’t fire, and instead, the spacecraft bounced back into space before returning to the comet. Another shorter hop then took it to its current, shady resting spot. Since then, the Philae lander has been slumbering in the cold and dark some 286 million miles away, with only meager recharging from its solar panels. Now, with warmer and brighter days ahead, it’s time to see if the Philae lander is awake and ready to get back to work. Just don’t expect anything too soon.
Today, for the first time since it started napping, mission engineers have begun trying to communicate with Philae, which exhausted its batteries soon after landing. After four months, the orbit of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which has been circling comet 67P, is now aligned with Philae so that they can talk to each other—as long as Philae has eked out enough power and warmth from its limited sunlight. “We don’t think we’ll hear anything just yet, but we cannot be very sure,” says Koen Geurts, the technical manager of the Philae team.
Lacking communication with Philae, scientists still don’t know exactly where it is and what its surroundings are like. Engineers have used Rosetta’s cameras to narrow down its location, but the orbiting spacecraft is currently too far away to spot the lander. Rosetta will swoop in closer in July, but as of now, engineers can only estimate that Philae is only getting 1.3 hours of sunlight for each 12.4-hour day on the comet. For the lander to wake up, its solar panels have to be turning those meager hours of sunlight into 5.5 watts of power. And to send and receive signals from Rosetta, it needs 19 watts. Philae also has to be warmer than -49˚F to work. “We do not expect that this is already the case,” Geurts says. “We think Philae is still cold.” In its shadowy hole, Philae’s temperature may have dropped to as low as -150˚F, and even though comet 67P is getting closer to the sun—Philae’s getting twice as much solar energy than it did in November—the spacecraft probably needs more time to thaw.
Bitcoin core developer Jeff Garzik’s bold plan to put mini satellites into orbit to provide secure, remote backup for the digital currency’s growing store of critical data has taken a step close to becoming a reality.
Mr. Garzik’s company, Dunvegan Space Systems, announced Thursday that it has signed a contract with its partner, Deep Space Industries Inc., to build the first 24-unit constellation of “BitSats,” an idea it first unveiled nearly a year ago.
Dunvegan plans to have the BitSats keep a complete record of bitcoin’s ever-growing blockchain ledger, thus acting as crucial “full nodes” to backup bitcoin’s all-important core database at a time when the number of earth-based computers providing this vital storage service has declined.
Separately, Mr. Garzik said, Dunvegan will offer BitSats to paying customers, who would use them for proprietary data storage solutions and communications services. For such companies, which might choose a space-based operation for, among the reasons, keeping their most sensitive data physically removed from potential attackers, the company already has a price menu: $1 million for one BitSat, $19 million for a full 24-unit constellation.
This for-profit part of the business would monetize an operation that was initially conceived as a public utility aimed at securing bitcoin’s decentralized network.
In the year 1689, a cabal of Barbary galley slaves -- including one Jack Shaftoe, aka King of the Vagabonds, aka Half-Cocked Jack -- devises a daring plan to win freedom and fortune. A great adventure ensues -- a perilous race for an enormous prize of silver ... nay, gold ... nay, legendary gold.
In Europe, the exquisite and resourceful Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, is stripped of her immense personal fortune by France's most dashing privateer. Penniless and at risk from those who desire either her or her head (or both), she is caught up in a web of international intrigue, even as she desperately seeks the return of her most precious possession.
Meanwhile, Newton and Leibniz continue to propound their grand theories as their infamous rivalry intensifies, stubborn alchemy does battle with the natural sciences, dastardly plots are set in motion ... and Daniel Waterhouse seeks passage to the Massachusetts colony in hopes of escaping the madness into which his world has descended.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
The New Minstrel Revue performs "The Undressing Song" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
Tax Day is quickly approaching, which means that the absurdity of America’s corporate tax rate is on full display.
At 35 percent, our corporate tax rate is the highest among developed countries. The Land of the Free has a higher corporate tax rate than socialist-run France. This is partially because corporations in this country are looked down upon when, in reality, it’s corporations that play a large role in the creation and flourishing of the middle class.
Corporations like CaptiveAire, a manufacturer of commercial kitchen ventilation equipment I founded in 1976 in Raleigh, make an easy target for misguided activists. We have experienced strong financial growth over the years, and it seems to some that we reap too much.
However, what many forget is that our profits are used to invest in new equipment and technologies, increasing value for users and creating new jobs. Recently, we opened our sixth U.S. manufacturing plant and created 50 jobs. We also expanded our service and sales departments, hiring 32 service techs and sales engineers, and we still have trouble keeping up with demand.
Yes, we are a high-growth company, and, yes, we collect the financial rewards, but more importantly we use these results to create American jobs, and many of them. Money earned by the private sector supports job expansion and real income growth for the middle class.
But truth be told, it’s not easy. America’s corporate tax code is tough on corporations – and the nation’s workers. America’s high corporate tax rate leads many companies to invest their money elsewhere. When that happens, job opportunities, real wages and economic growth in our country decline – disproportionately hurting the middle class.
Rand Paul’s Epic Rant: ‘I’m Not Particularly Happy With Being Lectured to by the Administration About the Constitution’
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) excoriated several top Obama administration officials on Wednesday for telling Congress how the Constitution works at a Senate hearing, when the administration itself has routinely ignored the Constitution.
“I’m not particularly happy with being lectured to by the administration about the Constitution,” Paul said. “This is an administration who I believe has trampled the Constitution at many turns.”
“This is an administration that seeks to legislate when it is not in their purview, whether it be immigration, whether it be health care, or whether it not be a war that’s been going on for eight months without congressional authorization,” he said, referring to the war against the Islamic State.
Paul’s remarks seemed to be prompted by Secretary of State John Kerry, who criticized Senate Republicans at the hearing for sending an open letter to Iran that said any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program would at some point have to be approved by Congress.
“To write to the leaders in the middle of a negotiation… to write them and suggest that they’re going to give a constitutional lesson, which by the way was absolutely incorrect, is quite stunning,” Kerry said. “This letter ignores more than two centuries of precedent in the conduct of American foreign policy.”
Paul was one of the 47 senators who signed the letter, and replied by saying that letter was really a message to the Obama administration that it doesn’t understand that Congress has a role to play here.
“The message I was sending was to you,” Paul said. “The message was to President Obama, that we want you to obey the law, we want you to understand the separation of powers.”
“I signed it to an administration that doesn’t listen, to an administration that at every turn tries to go around Congress, because you think you can’t get your way,” he added. “The president says, ‘oh, the Congress won’t do what I want, so I’ve got a pen and I’ve got my phone and I’m going to do what I want.’ The letter was to you.”
On Monday, 47 Republican senators led by Tom Cotton, R-Ark., released an “open letter” to Iran’s leaders noting that any deal the regime signs with President Obama without the approval of Congress could be revoked by a future president or changed by Congress. The White House went into a tizzy trying to portray the move as somehow “unprecedented” — a view that has found a friendly audience with the media.
Vice President Joe Biden claimed the letter “ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American president, whether democrat or republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States.” The New York Daily News featured an editorial blasting the letter on its front page, with photos of the senators and the bold-faced headline “TRAITORS.” A more muted NBC roundup called the move “extraordinary — if not unprecedented.” In reality, whatever one’s view of the letter, to call it “unprecedented” is to ignore history. The reality is that on many occasions, Democrats have reached out to foreign leaders to undermine the foreign policy of a sitting Republican president.
Here are just five examples.
1. That time “liberal lion” Ted Kennedy proposed a secret alliance with the Soviet Union to defeat President Ronald Reagan
A 1983 KGB memo uncovered after the fall of the Soviet Union described a meeting between former KGB officials and former Democratic Sen. John Tunney (Sen. Kennedy’s confidant) in Moscow. Tunney asked the KGB to convey a message to Yuri Andropov, the Soviet leader, proposing a campaign in which Kennedy would visit Moscow to offer talking points to Andropov and Soviet officials on how to attack Reagan’s policies to U.S. audiences. According to the memo, Kennedy, through the intermediary, offered to help facilitate a media tour in a proposed visit by Andropov to the U.S. Kennedy’s hope, as conveyed by the letter, was to hurt Reagan politically on foreign policy at a time when the economic recovery was working in his favor.
Nineteen Eighty-Four revealed George Orwell as one of the twentieth century’s greatest mythmakers. While the totalitarian system that provoked him into writing it has since passed into oblivion, his harrowing cautionary tale of a man trapped in a political nightmare has had the opposite fate: its relevance and power to disturb our complacency seem to grow decade by decade. In Winston Smith’s desperate struggle to free himself from an all-encompassing, malevolent state, Orwell zeroed in on tendencies apparent in every modern society, and made vivid the universal predicament of the individual.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
The New Minstrel Revue perfoms at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Fire in Gainesville, Florida.
In the tenth book of he Wheel of Time from the New York Times #1 bestselling author Robert Jordan, the world and the characters stand at a crossroads, and the world approaches twilight, when the power of the Shadow grows stronger.
Fleeing from Ebou Dar with the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, whom he is fated to marry, Mat Cauthon learns that he can neither keep her nor let her go, not in safety for either of them, for both the Shadow and the might of the Seanchan Empire are in deadly pursuit.
Perrin Aybara seeks to free his wife, Faile, a captive of the Shaido, but his only hope may be an alliance with the enemy. Can he remain true to his friend Rand and to himself? For his love of Faile, Perrin is willing to sell his soul.
At Tar Valon, Egwene al'Vere, the young Amyrlin of the rebel Aes Sedai, lays siege to the heart of Aes Sedai power, but she must win quickly, with as little bloodshed as possible, for unless the Aes Sedai are reunited, only the male Asha'man will remain to defend the world against the Dark One, and nothing can hold the Asha'man themselves back from total power except the Aes Sedai and a unified White Tower.
In Andor, Elayne Trakland fights for the Lion Throne that is hers by right, but enemies and Darkfriends surround her, plotting her destruction. If she fails, Andor may fall to the Shadow, and the Dragon Reborn with it.
Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn himself, has cleansed the Dark One's taint from the male half of the True Source, and everything has changed. Yet nothing has, for only men who can channel believe that saidin is clean again, and a man who can channel is still hated and feared-even one prophesied to save the world. Now, Rand must gamble again, with himself at stake, and he cannot be sure which of his allies are really enemies.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The end of last week produced yet another head-against-table moment in the war on terrorism. Boko Haram, the Islamist group spreading mayhem across Nigeria, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, the terrorist group spreading mayhem across the Middle East and Northern Africa.
If these reports hold up and Boko Haram proves to be an amenable collaborator, ISIS will expand its presence from western Syria through Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and into northeastern Africa.
They’ll meet resistance, of course. Chad, Benin, Cameroon, and Niger have all teamed up with Nigeria to repel the Boko Haram threat. Recently their coalition secured two towns under jihadist control and killed 200 enemy fighters in the process. There’s also hope on the Mesopotamian front, where the Iraqi army and Shiite militias are pushing into ISIS-controlled Tikrit.
But the point is that this wasn’t supposed to happen. When George W. Bush officially declared the war on terrorism on September 20, 2001, he said: “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” That was always too lofty, but it was a lofty time.
Monday, March 9, 2015
The New Minstrel Revue performs "The Minguelay Boat Song" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama supports the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’–which is to say, President Obama’s–ongoing attempt to ban M855-type AR-15 ammunition. Obama “has long believed that there are some common sense steps that we can take,” Earnest said.
“[E]veryone should agree that if there are armor-piercing bullets available that can fit into easily concealed weapons, that it puts our law enforcement [officers] at considerably more risk.”
For starters, notice Earnest’s words “everyone” and “common sense.” As investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson recently explained, the use of such words is an “astroturfing” technique designed “to give the impression that there’s widespread support for or against an agenda when there’s not.”
In reality, Obama’s attempt to ban the second most popular ammunition for the most popular rifle in America is being widely and vigorously opposed. More than half the members of Congress have signed House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) letter to BATFE director R. Todd Jones opposing the ban.
Strong opposition is also expected with a Senate opposition letter being spearheaded by Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley. Large numbers of gun owners are contacting Congress, urging opposition to the ban. Gun owners are also contacting BATFE to convey their reasons for opposing the ban. (To assist gun owners, NRA-ILA provided initial information about the ban on February 13th, and additional details on February 18th.)
In 1878, an experimental precursor to the radio elicits an invitation from space too fantastic to ignore. From the onset perils arise and those threatened by the adventurers' work become fierce enemies. The ensuing journey sees each traveler grow in their humanity while enduring hardships on hostile worlds. Their voyage puts them amidst struggling civilizations in crisis. Once face to face with the beckoning voice from beyond they learn the true nature of their trek.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Empty Hats performs "Donald McGillavry" at the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.
Californians will now have to pay yet another tax as part of the state’s effort to fight global warming. Residents will now pay a global warming tax for buying gasoline on top of the already existing state gas tax.
The global warming tax on gas retailers is part of the state’s cap-and-trade program. But state officials are not calling the global warming charge a tax, instead they are saying it’s a fee paid by gas retailers when distributors load tanker trucks — even though the cost is passed onto consumers through the cost of fuel.
“They are not calling it a tax, and these guys (wholesalers) are adding it to the cost of the fuel, so you are paying a tax on a tax,” Max Castillo, who owns a convenience store and gas station, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “California is the leader of the nation in paying taxes.”
The global warming tax adds about 10 cents a gallon to wholesale gas prices and 12 cents to diesel prices, reports the Union-Tribune
Last week, Senate Republicans were given bad news by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough. She doesn’t believe Republicans can bypass cloture and repeal Obamacare with a simple majority by attaching its repeal to a spending bill.
As a libertarian, I’m glad to hear it. No, I do not like Obamacare any more than I like most other government programs, especially those that further enrich multi-billion dollar corporations on my dime. But I’m glad it’s still difficult to get things through the Senate. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
But progressives should feel differently. The should want to see at least two bills pass both houses, one repealing Obamacare and one blocking the president’s immigration policies. Progressives profess a belief in democracy and the Republicans have been democratically elected to both houses. Whether you agree with them or not, there’s no question repealing Obamacare and reversing the president’s immigration agenda were two of their strongest mandates.
If progressives truly believe in democracy, they should take the high ground and demand that Democratic senators stand aside and allow a repeal of Obamacare to pass in the Senate. They kicked and screamed when Republicans used Senate rules to block legislation when Democrats had a majority in that house. Now, the shoe is on the other foot.
It’s time to find out if the Democrats are any more principled than the Republicans. If it was wrong for Republicans to “obstruct” the Democrat’s agenda for the past ten years, if they were truly undermining the government’s ability to do the will of the people, then it is just as wrong for Democrats to use the same tactics now. If we truly live in a democracy, Democratic senators should accept the verdict of the people and let Republicans pass their bills.