Monday, August 31, 2015

Jeb Bush Proposes Increasing NSA Spying Powers To Combat ‘Evildoers’

Jeb Bush Proposes Increasing NSA Spying Powers To Combat ‘Evildoers’

GOP presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been a particularly vocal advocate for the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program, and on Tuesday he said he believes the NSA should have increased spying powers in order to combat “evildoers.”

Bush criticized the changes that were made to the NSA’s authority when the U.S. passed the USA Freedom Act after the Patriot Act expired in June. He also said he disagreed with the argument that the NSA collected bulk data records from innocent Americans violates their constitutionally protected privacy rights.

“There’s a place to find common ground between personal civil liberties and NSA doing its job,” Bush said. “I think the balance has actually gone the wrong way.”

In May, a federal appeals court ruled that NSA data collection is illegal, stating that Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was used to justify the program, “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.”

Section 215 expired on June 1, and after lengthy debate in the Senate on whether the NSA should continue its illegal surveillance, the USA Freedom Act was passed on June 2. The USA Freedom Act changes the channels the government has to go through to collect Americans’ records by transferring bulk data collection records from the NSA, to private companies.

While the USA Freedom Act was supposed to end NSA’s bulk data collection, the Department of Justice submitted a request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asking the Court to reinstate the NSA’s collection for the next six months, and to ignore the ruling from the Federal Appeal’s Court. The FISA court approved the request, and allowed NSA data collection through November 29, 2015.

On Tuesday, Bush also criticized private technology companies for encrypting their products in an attempt to make it harder for the NSA to gain access.

University of Texas Removes Jefferson Davis, Woodrow Wilson Statues

University of Texas Removes Jefferson Davis, Woodrow Wilson Statues

“Over-taxing the rich” hurts the poor and middle class

“Over-taxing the rich” hurts the poor and middle class

Current popular presidential candidate Donald Trump has issued a few specifics about what he would do with his tax policy. “I think the rich should pay more” he says. President Obama agrees, often saying the “The rich should pay their fair share,” although never actually specifying what a “fair share” is. In reality raising taxes on the rich, hurts all of us.

President Obama has already raised marginal income tax rates on the wealthy by 10%. He also raised capital gain taxes on the wealthy by more than 50%. He says this is needed to reduce income inequality and to pay for health insurance, welfare and food stamps for the lowest income earners.

Donald Trump says that wealthy hedge fund managers don’t pay their fair share because of a loophole that allows their income to be taxed at a lower rate. Besides, he says, the financial guys aren’t building buildings. All they are doing is moving paper around. (Perhaps he doesn’t fully understand the value of raising billions of dollars for companies like Google or Facebook or even Trump properties.) Since they earn such large incomes, they should be taxed at a higher rate.

Both Trump and Obama agree that by raising taxes on the wealthy, the middle class will get a tax break and therefore pay less taxes. The problem is that while the middle class could pay a lower rate, there will likely be less people paying income taxes and those that do pay will be earning less income.

If we remove the emotional reaction to people earning what seems like a ridiculously large income, often exceeding $100 million annually, and just look for a fair and optimum tax policy, we can make a more reasonable conclusion.

The goal should be to implement a tax policy that encourages economic growth to continually raise the standard of living of Americans and that meets the goals of raising sufficient revenue, achieving equity, creating no market distortions and is easy to administer.

Following Obama and Trump’s suggestion of over-taxing the wealthy would lead to slower growth, less equity by worsening income inequality and less opportunity for Americans. The reason is simple.

There are three things that people do with their income. They pay taxes, spend it or save (invest) it. For income earners, the taxes are paid first, then the level of spending is set. What is left over goes to saving and investments. By raising taxes on the wealthy, and with their level of spending staying the same, there is less available for them to save and invest which reduces capital available to the economy. It is the highest income earners who provide the majority of new capital to the economy.

There are two basic inputs into the economy: capital and labor. How productive the inputs are when producing output depends on a number of factors like technology, entrepreneurship, natural resources and human capital (education).

In today’s economy, the labor force is disproportionately small since less than 63% of the adult population is working or willing to work. This figure should be in the 67% range as it was before the great recession.

Raising taxes on the wealthy reduces capital formation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Concentration of power: Rand Paul scores on Trump

Concentration of power: Rand Paul scores on Trump

Speaking at the New England Council’s Politics & Eggs breakfast at St. Anselm College last week, presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul made a subtle point.

Most politicians want more power for themselves, he observed. “When you see people bray and, you know, say how great they are and how smart they are, do you think that’s a person who’s going to give up more power, or take more power?” Paul asked. He didn’t name Donald Trump, but he didn’t have to.

Classical conservatives distrust the concentration of power in a chief executive. They value checks and balances and co-equal branches of government. They support leaving as many decisions as possible in the hands of the people, through their representatives, in Congress. They prefer the devolution of power from Washington to the states and to our local communities.

Nothing we’ve observed of Trump over his decades as a high-profile businessman, as a television personality, or have heard from Trump the populist politician suggests he would share an ounce of power willingly.

Trump is no conservative

Trump is no conservative

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Software Metrics by Norman Fenton and James Bieman

Reflecting the immense progress in the development and use of software metrics in the past decades, Software Metrics: A Rigorous and Practical Approach, Third Edition provides an up-to-date, accessible, and comprehensive introduction to software metrics. Like its popular predecessors, this third edition discusses important issues, explains essential concepts, and offers new approaches for tackling long-standing problems.

With numerous examples and exercises, this book continues to serve a wide audience. It can be used as a textbook for a software metrics and quality assurance course or as a useful supplement in any software engineering course. Practitioners will appreciate the important results that have previously only appeared in research-oriented publications. Researchers will welcome the material on new results as well as the extensive bibliography of measurement-related information. The book also gives software managers and developers practical guidelines for selecting metrics and planning their use in a measurement program.

Hoggetowne Medieval Faire 2015 - Royal Procession

Hoggetowne Medieval Faire 2015 - Royal Procession

Walking around at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, including the royal procession.

Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (DOS, Apple II)

Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (DOS, Apple II)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Reality Check: Is Supporting Corporate Welfare A Conservative Position?

Reality Check: Is Supporting Corporate Welfare A Conservative Position?

I asked Huckabee how it could be considered the conservative position to support farmers who have been building out the system of ethanol subsidies when so many would say it’s nothing more than corporate welfare and federal mandates with the government forcing subsidy use.

Here’s his response:

“Well, here’s the problem: the government is the one that did the mandate,” Huckabee said. “The government is the one that basically said to the industry and said to agriculture, ‘look we need to have biofuels, we need to start putting these in place.’ So the government created the mandate.”

Is that true?

Well, not entirely.

Corn ethanol receives the trifecta of government support. That is, tax breaks and government subsidies for farmers and ethanol infrastructure; an import tariff on any ethanol producers overseas; and a federal protection mandate called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

That RFS mandate by the federal government requires 15 billion gallons of gasoline be mixed with ethanol each year, starting in 2015 and continuing through 2022.

So when Huckabee says that government forced these mandates upon the corn industry, it’s not entirely true.

In 2012, the corn ethanol industry spent $22.3 million—or more than $61,000 per day—lobbying before the U.S. Congress and federal agencies. “The private sector went out and invested billions of dollars to carry out that mandate,” Huckabee said. “Now if the government comes back and changes the rules, you have just busted billion dollars in private sector investment.”

And that’s true.

The private sector did invest billions of dollars in private capital into an industry that was built upon certain rules, subsidies and mandates. But the problem with Huckabee’s argument is that we should keep a system in place, even if it is unfair and uses law to force consumers to buy a product, because private industry invested in it.

Stop equating Donald Trump to Ron Paul. It’s ridiculous

Stop equating Donald Trump to Ron Paul. It’s ridiculous

On Friday, Megan McCardle at the Bloomberg View argued that Donald Trump is the new Ron Paul.

She made the case that both figures represent seemingly fresh alternatives to conventional insiders like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush. McCardle foreshadowed Trump’s ultimate failure, because she thought that like Paul, Trump wouldn’t be able to expand his appeal beyond a small base.

McCardle’s right that Donald Trump is bound to failure. But that’s the only bulls-eye she was even close on.

Let’s go through them.

nt polling of Trump supporters suggests his cadre is overwhelmingly old, white, and male. That might be okay for a Republican primary, but that’s not going to win you a general election, let alone keep your party nationally viable for another 10 years.

Unlike Trump, Ron Paul’s campaign made massive gains among Millennials, winning nearly half the under-30 vote in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2012.

Trump’s past leaves us guessing what he really believes about anything. His speeches are full of vague, technocratic appeals to competency, as if we only need better bureaucrats running an inherently flawed system.

Ron Paul had a platform and a record of principled dedication to freedom. It’s no surprise that younger voters appreciated his consistency.

Trump thrives on exploiting tribalism to pit people against each other– whether he’s saying ridiculous things about Latinos, women, or Vietnam POWs.

Paul saw people as individuals and brought them together in a common struggle for liberty. At the same time, he realized how government policies can disproportionately impact our most vulnerable.

You Hate It From Barack Obama. But You Love It From Donald Trump.

You Hate It From Barack Obama. But You Love It From Donald Trump.

Rand Paul leads bipartisan effort to declassify 28 pages of 9/11 report

Rand Paul leads bipartisan effort to declassify 28 pages of 9/11 report

Rand Paul urged President Obama to declassify 28 additional pages of the 9/11 commission’s report on Tuesday, but made clear that he does not intend to exercise his constitutional prerogative as a senator and read the pages on the floor of Congress – yet.

The Kentucky Republican joined other members of congress at a press conference on Tuesday to promote bipartisan legislation urging Obama to declassify the pages, which are widely believed to detail ties between Saudi Arabian funders and al-Qaida.

Rep Thomas Massie, also from Kentucky, said “the information in these 28 pages establishes a chain of liability” around the attacks. The conference was held with members of an advocacy group called 9/11 Families and Survivors United For Justice Against Terrorism, who have engaged in legal efforts to hold the Saudi government legally liable for the September 11 attacks.

Democrats also spoke on behalf of the bill. Representative Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts said it was important “to hold accountable those who aided and abetted these savage attacks on our homeland”. Lynch went on to emphasize “this wasn’t a mere deletion of a few words but a full-fledged blackout of 28 pages of the report”.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Duane Barry,” “Ascension”

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Duane Barry,” “Ascension”

Aborted baby’s heart was beating as we harvested his brains: worker in new Planned Parenthood video

Aborted baby’s heart was beating as we harvested his brains: worker in new Planned Parenthood video

A former procurement technician who helped harvest organs at Planned Parenthood said she saw a baby boy’s heart beating outside his body before the child’s body parts were extracted.

Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement technician at StemExpress, said at Mar Monte’s Alameda clinic in San Jose a co-worker named Jessica brought over the most fully developed baby she had ever seen and said, “I want you to see something kind of cool.”

There she saw the “closest thing to a [fully-developed] baby I’ve seen.”

“It had a face. It wasn’t completely torn up,” she said. “Its nose was very pronounced.”

“She has one of her instruments, and she taps the heart, and it starts beating.”

“I’m looking at this fetus, and it’s heart is beating,” O’Donnell said in astonishment.

“I don’t know if that constitutes it’s technically dead, or it’s alive,” she continued.

Dr. Ben Van Handel, the vice president of Novogenix Laboratories, says on the video “there are times when, after the [abortion] procedure is done, that the heart is still beating.”

O’Donnell said that, after showing her the child’s beating heart, Jessica told her, “This is a really good fetus, and it looks like we can procure a lot from it.”

She then asked O’Donnell to remove the baby’s brain with scissors through the baby’s face.

“I can’t even describe what that feels like,” O’Donnell said. “That was the moment I knew I couldn’t work for the company anymore…

Why Trump’s border wall plan is not very constitutional or conservative

Why Trump’s border wall plan is not very constitutional or conservative

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rand Paul leaves the campaign trail for eye surgeries in Haiti

Rand Paul leaves the campaign trail for eye surgeries in Haiti

This weekend, while the political world descends on Iowa’s state fairgrounds, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will be fixing cataracts 2000 miles away. As he’s done every summer recess since joining the Senate, Paul’s performing pro bono eye surgery. This year’s mission, run and sponsored by the Moran Eye Center from the University of Utah, will take Paul to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

“We kind of suggested it,” said Paul in an interview. “There was talk about Haiti being in great need, and it’s fairly close to the United States. Haiti, unfortunately, is famous for a long history of problems.”

In 2014, Paul joined the Moran center on a similar trip to Guatemala, where he reunited with old patients and broke out his rusty, Texas-tutored Spanish. He has no similar connection to Haiti.

“You want to go where the need is greatest,” Paul said. “In our country, when you have cataracts, they’re relatively easy to fix. The people we will treat in Haiti — many of them will be completely blind. There’s less medical access there. It’s closer to the equator. There’s more sun, people are outside more, fewer people even have sunglasses. So there’s a lot you can do.”

“The main thing is for me personally is that it’s one of the most incredible things I get to be involved with,” said. “It’s still the most important thing I get to do, even while I’m in the Senate, even running for president. Two hundred people will be better because we are going to be down there. Local surgeons will get some training, and they’ll use that training. The goal is not for Americans to keep coming down and doing it, but for Haitians to do more of it themselves.”

Paul was staying clear of politics, but he was making a point that jibed with his own views of foreign aid. Training people, then trusting them to build their own lives, was always better than constant intervention. Paul cited the example of Sanduk Ruit, a Nepalese doctor who designed a simplified kind of cataract surgery, because he had to work “without sophisticated equipment” — and in the process, did something a Western doctor would never have thought to do.

“In medicine, you’re transferring skills,” said Paul. “Even when you train, you’re learning skills. I will continue doing this throughout my life, and at some point I can foresee getting back into medicine full time.

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 8 (Ghostbusters)

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 8 (Ghostbusters)

Ahoy!, Issue Number 12, December 1984

Ahoy!, Issue Number 12, December 1984

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Here’s Why Bernie Sanders is Wrong About Everything

Here’s Why Bernie Sanders is Wrong About Everything

Senator Bernie Sanders recently published an op-ed in the Huffington Post where he makes numerous claims about the economy. In typical leftist political theater, his narratives are either grossly misrepresented or outright lies, nor does he include a single citation for his wild claims.

From “stagnant middle class” and “income inequality” to “child poverty” and “evil corporations”, his analysis employs one step thinking and over-generalization to draw incomplete conclusions. I will directly address some of his specific claims.

Income inequality is one of today’s most popular economic myths derived from the misconception that wealth and income are fixed pies. Sanders makes the usual claim of the “1%” having a disproportionate amount of both.

Economic inequality is largely overstated through aggregate statistics, nor is there a connection between inequality levels and overall economic well-being.

In a paper for Columbia University, economists Emmanuel Saez and Wojciech Kopczuk analyzed wealth shares from 1916 to 2000 using more inclusive and exact definitions of income and wealth. They found that “there has been a sharp reduction in wealth concentration throughout the 20th century”. Around the 1920s, the top 1% held about 40% of wealth, but that has remained about 20% in the last few decades. Saez, who worked with Thomas Piketty at one point, postulates that, in 2004, the top 1% held about 18% of total wealth, which is a historic low.

Robert Haig and Henry Simons developed the Haig-Simon metric. Their measurement includes: wages/salaries, transfer payments (such as employer insurance), gifts of inheritance, income in-kind, and net increases in the real value of assets.

In a 2013 paper, economists found that Haigs-Simon is an attractive standard for calculating wealth and income because of its inclusive definition. By employing Haigs-Simon, observed growth of income inequality within tax brackets is dramatically reduced.

Based on the inclusive metric, top income shares have not significantly increased in the last 20 years, and most income growth has been in the bottom 80% of earners. Also, by incorporating accrued capital gains and not just IRS-realized capital gains, economic inequality quickly dissipates.

Leftists such as Sanders often cite the Gini Coefficient, which is the measure of a country’s inequality. The United States ranks next to African countries, while egalitarian Norway ranks next to Afghanistan. The Gini Coefficient might measure inequality to a degree, but, if anything, it proves that income inequality is not associated with economic well-being.

Bernie Sanders must not care to read further. Instead, he bases his claim off incomplete data by adjusting the CPI for inflation, which overstates it, and then excludes fringe benefits, which have doubled since 1970. Why would you when pandering to the base is more profitable?

“Income inequality” is expectedly followed by claims of a “shrinking middle class”. In reality, however, the middle class has “shrunk” upwards to higher incomes.

According to Census Bureau data compiled by the American Enterprise Institution, 61% of families qualified as middle-class income in 1967. They define “middle class” as $25K to $75K per family per year. In the same year, upper-income families, or over $75K, only made up about 16% of families.

Fast forward to 2009 and things have dramatically changed. We have 43% of families in middle class incomes and 38% of families in the upper class. It’s also worth mentioning that lower incomes declined from 22.8% to 17% in that same time period.

A well-respected paper published by NBER further illustrates the increasing wealth and income going to the middle class. According to their findings: “using our broadest measure of available resources – post-tax, post-transfer size-adjusted household income – median income growth of individual Americans improved to 36.7% from 1979 to 2007”.

In other words, by expanding the definition of “income” and “wealth”, much like in the Haig-Simon metric, the narrative changes dramatically. Such a narrative, however, doesn’t make for vote-inducing rhetoric.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Havana Storm by Clive Cussler

While investigating a toxic outbreak in the Caribbean Sea that may ultimately threaten the United States, Pitt unwittingly becomes involved in something even more dangerous—a post-Castro power struggle for the control of Cuba. Meanwhile, Pitt’s children, marine engineer Dirk and oceanographer Summer, are on an investigation of their own, chasing an Aztec stone that may reveal the whereabouts of a vast historical Aztec treasure. The problem is, that stone was believed to have been destroyed on the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, which brings them both to Cuba as well—and squarely into harm’s way. The three of them have been in desperate situations before . . . but perhaps never quite as dire as the one facing them now.

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 7 (Avatar)

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 7 (Avatar)

Electronic Gaming Monthly 2 – Issue Number 17 – November 1995

Electronic Gaming Monthly 2 – Issue Number 17 – November 1995

Friday, August 14, 2015

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Blood,” “Sleepless”

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Blood,” “Sleepless”

Census: Record 42.1 million immigrants in U.S., Mexicans drive latest surge

Census: Record 42.1 million immigrants in U.S., Mexicans drive latest surge

EPA won’t face fines for polluting rivers with orange muck

EPA won’t face fines for polluting rivers with orange muck

Unlike BP, which was fined $5.5 billion for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the EPA will pay nothing in fines for unleashing the Animas River spill.

“Sovereign immunity. The government doesn’t fine itself,” said Thomas L. Sansonetti, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s division of environment and natural resources.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and other lawmakers have called on the EPA to hold itself to the same standards as it would a private company in the aftermath of Wednesday’s accident, in which an EPA-led crew uncorked a 3 million-gallon spill of orange wastewater from the abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.

However, “The EPA does not fine itself the way that you would fine an outside company like BP,” said Mr. Sansonetti, who served from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush.

What the EPA can be expected to cover is the cost of the cleanup and compensation for the damage caused, funding that would have to be appropriated by Congress, meaning that the taxpayers will foot the bill.

Is Conventional Wisdom About GMO Safety Correct?

Is Conventional Wisdom About GMO Safety Correct?

In Texas, police search woman’s vagina for marijuana

In Texas, police search woman’s vagina for marijuana

A Spring woman claims sheriff’s deputies violated constitutional protections by conducting a body cavity search on the concrete of a Texaco gas station parking lot during a routine traffic stop in late June.

Charnesia Corley, a 21-year-old African American, was driving in northern Harris County around 10:30 p.m. on June 21 when a male deputy pulled her over for allegedly running a stop sign. He said he smelled marijuana, handcuffed Corley, put her in his vehicle and searched her car for almost an hour. He didn’t find any pot, according to her attorney, Sam Cammack.

Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her.

Then, according to Cammack, Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.

Incredibly, a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department told a local TV station that “the deputies did everything as they should.” And so there you have it. Holding a woman down and forcibly penetrating her vagina to search for pot is official policy in Harris County.

Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul

Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul

The dust-up between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul over presidential fidelity to the Constitution — particularly the Fourth Amendment — was the most illuminating two minutes of the Republican debate last week.

It is a well-regarded historical truism that the Fourth Amendment was written by victims of government snooping, the 1770s version. The Framers wrote it to assure that the new federal government could never do to Americans what the king had done to the colonists.

What did the king do? He dispatched British agents and soldiers into the colonists’ homes and businesses ostensibly looking for proof of payment of the king’s taxes and armed with general warrants issued by a secret court in London.

A general warrant did not name the person or place that was the target of the warrant, nor did it require the government to show any suspicion or evidence in order to obtain it. The government merely told the secret court it needed the warrant — the standard was “governmental need” — and the court issued it. General warrants authorized the bearer to search wherever he wished and to seize whatever he found.

The Fourth Amendment requires the government to present to a judge evidence of wrongdoing on the part of a specific target of the warrant, and it requires that the warrant specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized. The whole purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect the right to be left alone — privacy — by preventing general warrants.

The evidence of wrongdoing that the government must present in order to persuade a judge to sign a warrant must constitute probable cause. Probable cause is a level of evidence sufficient to induce a neutral judge to conclude that it is more likely than not that the government will find what it is looking for in the place it wants to search, and that what it is looking for will be evidence of criminal behavior.

But the government has given itself the power to cut constitutional corners. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Patriot Act and the Freedom Act totally disregard the Fourth Amendment by dispensing with the probable cause requirement and substituting instead — incredibly — the old British governmental need standard.

Hence, under any of the above federal laws, none of which is constitutional, the NSA can read whatever emails, listen to whatever phone calls in real time, and capture whatever text messages, monthly bank statements, credit card bills, legal or medical records it wishes merely by telling a secret court in Washington, D.C., that it needs them.

And the government gets this data by area codes or zip codes, or by telecom or computer server customer lists, not by naming a person or place about whom or which it is suspicious.

These federal acts not only violate the Fourth Amendment, they not only bring back a system the Founders and the Framers hated, rejected and fought a war to be rid of, they not only are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, but they produce information overload by getting all the data they can about everyone. Stated differently, under the present search-them-all regime, the bad guys can get through because the feds have more data than they can analyze, thus diluting their ability to focus on the bad guys.

Among the current presidential candidates, only Paul has expressed an understanding of this and has advocated for fidelity to the Constitution. He wants the government to follow the Fourth Amendment it has sworn to uphold. He is not against all spying, just against spying on all of us. He wants the feds to get a warrant based on probable cause before spying on anyone, because that’s what the Constitution requires. The remaining presidential candidates — the Republicans and Hillary Clinton — prefer the unconstitutional governmental need standard, as does President Obama.

But Christie advocated an approach more radical than the president’s when he argued with Paul during the debate last week. He actually said that in order to acquire probable cause, the feds need to listen to everyone’s phone calls and read everyone’s emails first. He effectively argued that the feds need to break into a house first to see what evidence they can find there so as to present that evidence to a judge and get a search warrant to enter the house.

Such a circuitous argument would have made Joe Stalin happy, but it flunks American Criminal Procedure 101. It is the job of law enforcement to acquire probable cause without violating the Fourth Amendment. The whole purpose of the probable cause standard is to force the government to focus on people it suspects of wrongdoing and leave the rest of us alone. Christie wants the feds to use a fish net. Paul argues that the Constitution requires the feds to use a fish hook.

Christie rejects the plain meaning of the Constitution, as well as the arguments of the Framers, and he ignores the lessons of history.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett’s fantasy classic Wyrd Sisters, a novel in the Discworld series, is the story of Granny Weatherwax, the most highly regarded non-leader a coven of non-social witches could ever have.

Generally, these loners don't get involved in anything, mush less royal intrigue. but then there are those times they can't help it. As Granny Weatherwax is about to discover, though, it's a lot harder to stir up trouble in the castle than some theatrical types would have you think. Even when you've got a few unexpected spells up your sleeve.

Granny Weatherwax teams with two other witches — Nanny Ogg and Margat Garlick - as an unlikely alliance to save a prince and restore him to the throne of Lancre, in a tale that borrows — or is it parodies — some of William Shakespeare's best-loved works.

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 6 (Harry Potter)

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 6 (Harry Potter)

Melodian (Commodore 64)

Melodian (Commodore 64)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Obama Administration’s War on the Press Could Become a Touch More Literal

The Obama Administration’s War on the Press Could Become a Touch More Literal

Now a new Pentagon document, a Law of War Manual, states that journalists can be treated like “unprivileged belligerents,” which is apparently the new term for “unlawful combatants,” which some may recall was the new term for “suspected terrorists.”

According to some media coverage of the manual, military leaders are insisting they’re not declaring that journalists are the enemy. Rather they’re pointing out that journalists just might be the actual enemy, as in terrorists, spies, and propagandists posing as journalists.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, however, is concerned that the vagueness of the manual will give clearance to the military to detain and harass journalists with very little evidence that they’re doing anything but honest reporting…

Los Angeles Enacts “Confiscatory” Ban on Ammo Clips That Carry Over 10 Rounds

Los Angeles Enacts “Confiscatory” Ban on Ammo Clips That Carry Over 10 Rounds

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday that bans the ownership of firearms magazines that carry more than 10 rounds. The new law, which was first introduced by City Councilman Paul Krekorian and passed Los Angeles’ City Council unanimously on July 28, is set to take effect in early September, and individuals found in violation of it will be charged with a misdemeanor.

According to Los Cerritos News, a 15-year-old statewide ban prohibits the sale, purchase, or importation of magazines with more than ten rounds, but a grandfather clause in the law allows gun owners to keep the magazines they owned prior to its passage. The City of Los Angeles’ new ordinance effectively repeals that grandfather clause within the city.’s Chris Eger, who called the magazine ban “confiscatory,” wrote, “People who currently possess such magazines, many for collectible firearms registered decades ago, have a 60 day window to remove them from the city, sell them to a legal gun dealer, or turn them in to the Los Angeles Police Department.”

‘Top Secret’ emails found as Clinton probe expands to key aides

‘Top Secret’ emails found as Clinton probe expands to key aides

As pressure builds on Hillary Clinton to explain her official use of personal email while serving as secretary of state, she faced new complications Tuesday. It was disclosed her top aides are being drawn into a burgeoning federal inquiry and that two emails on her private account have been classified as “Top Secret.”

The inspector general for the Intelligence Community notified senior members of Congress that two of four classified emails discovered on the server Clinton maintained at her New York home contained material deemed to be in one of the highest security classifications – more sensitive than previously known.

The notice came as the State Department inspector general’s office acknowledged that it is reviewing the use of “personal communications hardware and software” by Clinton’s former top aides after requests from Congress.

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead, to include former aides and associates, as appropriate,” said Douglas Welty, a spokesman for the State Department’s inspector general.

Despite the acknowledgment, the State Department inspector general’s office has left numerous unanswered questions, including exactly who and what is being investigated. The office initially declined to comment and referred questions to the Intelligence Community inspector general’s office, which said it is not currently involved in any inquiry into aides and is being denied full access to aides’ emails by the State Department. Clinton, herself, is not a target.

The expanding inquiry threatens to further erode Clinton’s standing as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Since her reliance on private email was revealed in March, polls in crucial swing states show that increasing numbers of voters say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, in part, because of her use of private emails.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wants Clinton and her aides to “come clean and cough up” information about their personal email use.

“Both the State Department and Intelligence Community inspectors general should be looking into the staff use of the Clinton private server for official State Department business. This means giving both inspectors general access and custody of all emails that haven’t already been deleted,” said Grassley of Iowa. “From what is publicly known, it appears that the investigation thus far has focused so much on the former secretary of state, that it’s gotten lost that high-level staff apparently also used this server too.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby referred to the Intelligence Community’s disclosure as a recommendation to “upgrade” the two emails’ classification to “Top Secret.” In a statement, he said that “while we work with the Director of National Intelligence to resolve whether, in fact, this material is actually classified, we are taking steps to ensure the information is protected and stored appropriately.”

‘X-Files’ — Annabeth Gish Cast in Revival

‘X-Files’ — Annabeth Gish Cast in Revival

Strong evidence that Trump is running to help Hillary

Strong evidence that Trump is running to help Hillary

It was recently made public that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump had a phone call in the weeks leading up to Trump’s entrance in the presidential race.

Former president Bill Clinton had a private telephone conversation in late spring with Donald Trump at the same time that the billionaire investor and reality-television star was nearing a decision to run for the White House, according to associates of both men.

Four Trump allies and one Clinton associate familiar with the exchange said that Clinton encouraged Trump’s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party and offered his own views of the political landscape.

That set off eyebrows among Republicans. But the truth is, Trump and the Clinton’s have long been friends.

In July, Trump picked Bill Clinton as his favorite among the last four. He also praised the Clintons during the 2008 elections, and was big on Obama picking Hillary Clinton as VP, something he ultimately decided not to do. The fact that he used words like “fantastic people” and “good people” to describe the notoriously shady Clintons should disturb conservatives. The Clintons also attended Trump’s wedding.

Trump donated to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s Senate campaigns for years.

From a political point of view, how would a Donald Trump run help Hillary Clinton?

His campaign alone is alienating women, minorities, and independents from the GOP, which in turn helps Hillary’s narrative. She is running to be the first female President, and she is rumored to pick Hispanic Julian Castro as her VP.

Trump is also currently blocking fresh blood like Rubio, Paul, Cruz, Walker, etc. from challenging Jeb Bush. Americans are generally far more receptive to electing another Clinton than another Bush.

If Trump himself becomes the nominee, polls show him losing in dramatic fashion.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

‘X-Files’ Reboot Spoilers: Event Series Will Make A Major Change To Mulder And Scully’s Relationship

‘X-Files’ Reboot Spoilers: Event Series Will Make A Major Change To Mulder And Scully’s Relationship

With the “The X-Files” revival on its way, many fans are clamoring for information on what their favorite characters have been up to after all this time. Now, new information has surfaced about the main characters of the show that some fans may not enjoy hearing.

It seems that after 22 years of chasing paranormal and alien cases for the FBI, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are no longer romantically involved when the six-episode event-series hits the Fox network.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That's because he's being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he's really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 5 (Tetris)

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 5 (Tetris)

Game Player’s Encyclopedia of Nintendo Games, Volume 4

Game Player’s Encyclopedia of Nintendo Games, Volume 4

Monday, August 10, 2015

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Little Green Men,” “The Host”

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Little Green Men,” “The Host”

Google’s Search Algorithm Could Steal the Presidency

Google’s Search Algorithm Could Steal the Presidency

IMAGINE AN ELECTION—A close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome.

In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”

Don’t Fall for a Fake Conservative

Don’t Fall for a Fake Conservative

I ran for office because I was tired of being misled by Republicans who promised conservative government and gave us bank bailouts and more debt. The Wall Street bankers got richer and the American taxpayer got poorer.

The Tea Party erupted over dissatisfaction with false conservatives. It amazes me that anyone in the Tea Party movement could possibly consider Clinton/Reid/Pelosi supporter Donald Trump for President.

I honestly have no idea what Mr. Trump’s real philosophy is. He was liberal before he was conservative, and has openly professed for decades that his views are those of a Democrat.

In 1990, he said if he ever ran for office, he’d do better as a Democrat. He became an independent briefly in 1999 before he switched back to registering as a Democrat. In 2004, he identified more of his beliefs as those of a Democrat, especially on economic policy, stating on CNN that“it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.” He only registered as a Republican in 2009 before dropping the party again in 2011, only to re-register in 2012.

This is a guy who said in 1999 that he was a strong supporter of the United Nations. He was for partial birth abortion before he was against it. He lavished praise on the bank bailouts. He was for Obamacare before he was against it and has said he’s “liberal on health care.”

In the debate, I reminded Trump that conservatives in the GOP have spent decades opposing a single-payer system like the socialized medicine of Canada and England. He responded that I hadn’t heard his answer. The problem is, I had heard his answer and, like many of his answers, it made absolutely no sense. What I heard was that he was once for a single-payer system—today, he’s against Obamacare but still kind of likes the concept of single-payer and isn’t sure it works.

No conservative in America supports a single-payer government-run healthcare system, and yet around 25 percent of Republicans seem to favor Trump. How can this be possible? How can a quarter of the GOP support a guy who was a Republican, then an Independent, then a Democrat, and then a Republican again?

Are conservatives really willing to gamble about what Donald Trump really believes in?

It is refreshing to hear someone speak truth to power, to transcend Washington-speak, and cut through the staidness of our politically correct world but not when it is all blather, non-sequitur, and self-aggrandizing bombast.

Donald Trump is showing he isn’t suited to lead the country, and I think we all need to discuss why.

Frankly, it sounds too much like he is someone used to bullying to get his way. What do you do to a bully? You stand up to him. That’s what I did on the debate stage, and I was the only one.

The only one to tell Donald Trump that if he is willing to possibly give the election to Hillary, he shouldn’t be on the stage. That should be our first and uniting principle.

We don’t need a bully, and we don’t need another President who thinks he is King. We certainly don’t need someone who has driven his companies into bankruptcy four times yet smugly tells us he uses our nation’s Chapter 11 laws to his own personal advantage. All well and good for him – but what of the creditors and vendors he defaulted on?

Voters are hungry for a plain-spoken critique of Washington. But I’m unsure how credible that voice is when it comes from the consummate insider, a man who buys and sells politicians like he does Lamborghinis.

Trump has paid over 1.5 million dollars to politicians from both sides of the aisle, from Harry Reid to Rahm Emanuel to Jeb Bush. The majority of his donations were to Democrats until a few years ago when he began thinking more seriously of making a play for the Republican nomination.

(For the record, Donald Trump has NEVER donated to any of my political campaigns, perhaps because he knows I can’t be bought. He has donated to an eye institute that sponsored the medical mission I took to Guatemala where the funding was directly spent on our surgical work restoring sight to over 200 men and women.)

He has, however, put a significant down payment on Hillary Clinton—at least a $100,000 investment in the Clinton “Foundation” in addition to repeated donations to her campaigns—and acknowledges he spoke to Bill Clinton before he decided to pursue the Republican nomination. What kind of access was he purchasing?

I asked him in the debate why he’s hedging his bets. If he doesn’t win the GOP nomination will he support Clinton? Will he run as a third party candidate? Ross Perot gave us Bill Clinton. Will Trump give us Hillary Clinton?

Why give so much money to both sides?

That’s the problem with the system. Big Government and Big Business get in bed together, and the ordinary taxpayer ends up with the short end of the stick while our country is driven deeper into debt.

I for one don’t think you should run for President if you believe what Trump says about money in politics: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

Isn’t this buying and selling what’s wrong with Washington?

Bill Clinton is under fire for accepting donations and high speaking fees from foreign governments while Hillary served as Secretary of State. I think it’s despicable that politicians like Hillary sell access. But isn’t it equally despicable for people like Trump to buy access?

It makes me sad to think that Tea Party awakening could be hijacked or hoodwinked by a guy who supported the bank bailouts, supported Obamacare, and continues to support the Clintons.

I was there at the first Tea Party in 2007 and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand passively by and watch the movement destroyed by a fake conservative.

I will stand up to anyone, Republican or Democrat, who tries to use government as their own personal piggy bank and I won’t be bought or sold.

Rand Paul: The Lone Voice of Liberty at the Republican Debate

Rand Paul: The Lone Voice of Liberty at the Republican Debate

On Thursday night, 10 Republican Presidential wanna-bees met in front of a record television audience to “debate” the issues and let the American electorate know what they believe.

While some candidates were explaining away immigration and abortion positions they held in the past, explaining away the horrible economies in the states they govern, (also here) or telling stories of tying yellow ribbons or talking of the occupation of their fathers, one candidate was the lone voice for liberty on the Cleveland stage, and that was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

Despite getting the least amount of speaking time, a whopping 4 minutes and 51 seconds (see list below), with some of that due to his own interjections, Sen Paul defended liberty and freedom rather well, clearly standing apart from his opponents.

Buying off politicians

It took little time for Dr Paul to jump in and point out to the world one of the biggest problems in Washington, big money buying off politicians for votes, favors or whatever else they desire.

At the beginning of the debate, billionaire Donald Trump, who has been vocal about the fact that he has donated money to get what he wants ( a real problem), was answering a question about pledging not to run 3rd party, Sen Paul jumped in–“This is what’s wrong! I mean, this is what’s wrong. He buys and sells politicians of all stripes, he’s already…

“Hey, look, look! He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent. But I’d say that he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”

Trump replied, “Well, I’ve given him plenty of money”. Paul later explained on the O’Reilly Factor Friday evening that Trump had donated money for the University of Utah, where Paul, a Duke trained physician and ophthalmologist does mission work.

Paul also elaborated about Trump: “Donald Trump is trying to run as an outsider, but he is a consummate insider who buys politicians. He’s given $300,000 to Democrats and $300,000 to Republicans, and he says it’s so they’ll do whatever he tells them to do.

“That doesn’t sound like what we need to change Washington, and I’m horrified by the idea that we could consider someone who would buy and sell politicians.”

Defending the First Amendment

When moderator Megyn Kelly asked Dr Paul a question from someone on Facebook about ensuring Christians are not prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage and about Christians being forced to conduct business that conflicts with their religious beliefs, Sen Paul replied:

“Look, I don’t want my marriage or my guns registered in Washington. And if people have an opinion, it’s a religious opinion that is heartly felt, obviously they should be allowed to practice that and no government should interfere with them. One of the things, one of the things that really got to me was the thing in Houston where you had the government, the mayor actually, trying to get the sermons of ministers. When the government tries to invade the church to enforce its own opinion on marriage, that’s when it’s time to resist.”

Defending the Fourth Amendment

We all saw or heard about the exchange between Sen Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but lets take another look at that exchange:

Megyn Kelly asks Christie:

“Governor Christie. You’ve said that Senator Paul’s opposition to the NSA’s collection of phone records has made the United States weaker and more vulnerable, even going so far as to say that he should be called before Congress to answer for it if we should be hit by another terrorist attack.

“Do you really believe you can assign blame to Senator Paul just for opposing he bulk collection of people’s phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?”

Christie’s response in a very Guiliani-esque manner:

“Yes, I do. And I’ll tell you why: because I’m the only person on this stage who’s actually filed applications under the Patriot Act, who has gone before the federal — the Foreign Intelligence Service court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th.

“I was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001 (A Christie lie, he was appointed Dec. 7, 2001), and the world changed enormously the next day, and that happened in my state.

“This is not theoretical to me. I went to the funerals. We lost friends of ours in the Trade Center that day. My own wife was two blocks from the Trade Center that day, at her office, having gone through it that morning.

“When you actually have to be responsible for doing this, you can do it, and we did it, for seven years in my office, respecting civil liberties and protecting the homeland.

“And I will make no apologies, ever, for protecting the lives and the safety of the American people. We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to do that, not fewer, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way. As president, that is exactly what I’ll do.”

Paul’s rebuttal:

“I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.”

Christie, a Seton Hall University School of Law graduate, responded: “And — and, Megyn? Megyn, that’s a — that, you know, that’s a completely ridiculous answer. “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.” How are you supposed to know, Megyn?”

“Use the Fourth Amendment!“, Paul exclaimed multiple times. “Get a judge to sign the warrant!”

“Here’s the problem, governor. Here’s the problem, governor. You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights.”

Paul later elaborated on the O’Reilly Factor, “I actually want more surveillance of suspected terrorists, but I want to obey the Fourth Amendment which says you have to name the terrorists and have suspicion. I’m just not for the sweeping surveillance state.”

Entangling Alliances

Sen Paul responded to Bret Baier’s question about the Senator blaming his own party for ISIS:

“First of all, only ISIS is responsible for the terrorism. Only ISIS is responsible for the depravity. But, we do have to examine, how are we going to defeat ISIS? I’ve got a proposal. I’m the leading voice in America for not arming the allies of ISIS.

“I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sake. So, we didn’t create ISIS — ISIS created themselves, but we will stop them, and one of the ways we stop them is by not funding them, and not arming them.”

Later Baier asked Paul about his budget and foreign aid and Paul said, “Well, let’s be clear, I’m the only one on the stage who actually has a five-year budget that balances. I’ve put pencil to paper.

“And I’ve said I would cut spending, and I’ve said exactly where. Each one of my budgets has taken a meat axe to foreign aid, because I think we ought to quit sending it to countries that hate us.

“I think we ought to quit sending it to countries that burn our flag. Israel is not one of those. But even Benjamin Netanyahu said that ultimately, they will be stronger when they’re independent. My position is exactly the same.

“We shouldn’t borrow money from China to send it anywhere, but why don’t we start with eliminating aid to our enemies.”

Baier interjects: “OK. But you still say that Israel could be one of the countries that is cut from financial aid?”

Dr Paul’s response is: “I still say exactly what my original opinion is. Do you borrow money from China to send it to anyone? Out of your surplus, you can help your allies, and Israel is a great ally. And this is no particular animus of Israel, but what I will say, and I will say over and over again, we cannot give away money we don’t have.”

“We do not project power from bankruptcy court. We’re borrowing a million dollars a minute.”

The Perseid Meteor Begins Its Peak

The Perseid Meteor Begins Its Peak

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New ‘X-Files’ scene reveals Sveta is ‘the key to everything’

New ‘X-Files’ scene reveals Sveta is ‘the key to everything’

Thanks, Jon Stewart, for Making Us All Dumber

Thanks, Jon Stewart, for Making Us All Dumber

Under Stewart, The Daily Show became must-see TV for a segment of the population who considers the mocking of political opponents and their positions to be appropriate discourse, and worse—an acceptable method of news-intake. A 2014 Brookings Institution study found that more people trusted The Daily Show than MSNBC for news.

Headlines such as “Jon Stewart destroys Glenn Beck,” “Jon Stewart demolishes Megyn Kelly and Fox,” “Jon Stewart eviscerates CNN,” “Jon Stewart crushes Dick Cheney” became standard for Stewart’s viral videos. He would pick a target, usually a conservative and frequently a Fox News personality, and would proceed to “destroy,” “demolish,” “eviscerate,” “crush,” and sometimes flat-out “shred” them.

Like a musician lecturing into a microphone onstage, Stewart only permitted one-way mockery. When anyone questioned his opinions and methods, he would say his show was just comedy. In 2013 when it seemed that Stewart was mocking the Obamacare rollout a little too often, he got pushback from his liberal followers. Stewart was quick to point out it was just equal-opportunity joking, and he wasn’t taking a position. He, of course, did not offer similar explanations when hammering President George W. Bush’s policies.

In a famous exchange on the CNN debate show Crossfire in 2004, Stewart called Republican Tucker Carlson and Democrat Paul Begala “partisan hacks” who poisoned the discourse. When Carlson pointed out that Stewart had given a softball interview to John Kerry, whom Stewart admitted voting for, Stewart blew up and said, “You’re on CNN! The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls! What is wrong with you?”

Yet Stewart was exactly the kind of partisan hack he eviscerated. Politico recently reported that not only had Stewart met in secret with President Barack Obama right before big stories were set to hit, but Obama’s aides had also worked with Daily Show writers so that their side of the story was well-represented.

I Want To Believe: Why the New X-Files Series Will Be Worth the Wait

I Want To Believe: Why the New X-Files Series Will Be Worth the Wait

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that The X-Files debuted on Fox over 20 years ago—partly because David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson seemingly refuse to age, and partly because of the way the show’s world is still very much thriving in its fans’ minds. With its story of FBI agents Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson)—their encounters with the supernatural and their fight to uncover a government conspiracy—The X-Files built a fan base slowly and deliberately over time, an act even more impressive given the show’s cluing in early to the power of the world wide web’s chat rooms, but gone from networks before such things as social media made brand-building so ubiquitous.

Due to this continued interest (especially via the show’s availability on Netflix and Hulu), there has already been one attempt at a revival: the 2008 film The X-Files: I Want to Believe, a standalone story that found Mulder and Scully drawn into a new FBI case years after the end of the series. All in all, it came off like a meager lark; ignoring the more recognizable themes of the series, its execution felt slapdash, its story too slight—basically, it fell short of satisfying fans’ appetite for more of The X-Files as they knew, and loved, it. Still, series creator Chris Carter has nonetheless resisted letting go of the franchise, making Internet headlines over the past few years by suggesting the possibility of more movies, though none of these came to fruition.

But then, earlier this year, a new, unexpected announcement: The X-Files would return to FOX, its home network, for a limited series with a six-episode run in 2016. Oh, but there was more: There would be an alien abduction; somehow, fan-favorite characters the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and the Lone Gunmen would return—despite being unceremoniously killed off in the show’s final season; and even some of the series’ best writers, Glen and Darin Morgan and James Wong, would be penning new episodes. All good signs, but doubt remains. If the underwhelming I Want to Believe set the precedent, then why get excited for another revival?

Like many television series, The X-Files by its very nature is poorly suited to the Hollywood film format, in particular due to the unanswerable questions at its core (and thus its inability to provide the satisfying resolution that film-going audiences expect) and the immersive world it crafts as the series unfolds. Though it features both serial “mythology” episodes (which follow the abduction of Mulder’s sister, his quest to find her, and the government cover-up of a possible alien invasion) and those stand-alone stories dubbed “monster-of-the-week” entries, the perspective of the former fuels the success of the latter. A new X-Files film is going to lose a lot in translation, while a new X-Files series opens up the potential for the kinds of longer story arcs that fleshed out the show at its peak.

To date, there have been two X-Files films: 1998’s The X-Files: Fight the Future and the aforementioned I Want to Believe. Fight the Future, which hit theaters in the summer between seasons five and six, was aimed squarely at the show’s dedicated fans. Though intended to stand on its own as a film, Fight the Future more or less picked up the series mythology where season five left off, with a complicated plot concerning an extraterrestrial “black oil” virus, the discovery of an alien vessel in Antarctica, and something about bees that I don’t quite remember. To fans, it probably felt like a pretty good mythology episode on a grand scale, but the general public’s response to the film, however, is best summed up in Roger Ebert’s critique: “As a pure movie, The X-Files more or less works. As a story, it needs a sequel, a prequel, and Cliff Notes.”

Ten years later, The X-Files: I Want to Believe attempted to avoid the problem of its predecessor by telling a story unrelated to the series’ mythology. It faced a more difficult road, not least because the series had resolved six years earlier after limping through its final few seasons with very little of its original spark, faltering under the weight of its increasingly convoluted storylines and the departure of Duchovny and Anderson. Instead of playing into fans’ hearts with talk of aliens and government conspiracy, I Want to Believe tells the story of a group of missing women in Virginia and the psychic former priest whose visions help solve the case. Mulder and Scully, no longer with the FBI, are nonetheless called in to help. Somewhere along the way, the film unveils a tangled story about Russian organ thieves and stem cell research and the Catholic Church and other things that don’t really make any sense. Divorced from the series at its peak popularity, and due to these problems with story, I Want to Believe was unpopular with audiences and critics alike (and especially disliked by fans, who expected more than a half-hearted acknowledgement of the themes upon which the series was built).

Clearly, as a revival of a beloved property, I Want to Believe faced many challenges—but the biggest challenge, even bigger than dealing (or not) with the extensive mythology, was to somehow capture in a single, traditional narrative film the particular point of view the series took so much time to establish. The central tension of The X-Files television show, and what made it unique when it began airing in 1993, was the fact that it gave us satisfying episodic television in an “open” serial format—meaning that smaller, micro-stories could be told and resolved, but the main questions driving the series were never really answered. The show’s fan base grew out of the perfectly balanced expectation that each episode, mythology and monster-of-the-week alike, would stay in touch with larger, overarching, explicitly X-philic questions: What constitutes a supernatural event? Do extraterrestrials exist? To what extent is the government concealing the existence of aliens and other supernatural phenomena? And usually, just when we think we know an answer, we’re thrown a new curveball.

Though the individual story of the week would typically come to a resolution (though often with one or other of the agents admitting, in final voiceover, that findings are “inconclusive”), regular X-Files viewers understand that much remains unsolved. Hence the show’s most famous mantra: The truth is out there.

Video: Cop Draws Sidearm on Man for Filming

Video: Cop Draws Sidearm on Man for Filming

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Sourcery, a hilarious mix of magic, mayhem, and Luggage, is the fifth book in Terry Pratchett's classic fantasy Discworld series.

Rincewind, the legendarily inept wizard, has returned after falling off the edge of the world. And this time, he’s brought the Luggage. But that’s not all… Once upon a time, there was an eighth son of an eighth son who was, of course, a wizard. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, said wizard then had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son — a wizard squared (that’s all the math, really). Who of course, was a source of magic — a sourcerer.

Will the sourcerer lead the wizards to dominate all of Discworld? Or can Rincewind’s tiny band stave off the Apocalypse?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Polls show Rand Paul has a better chance of beating Hillary than any other Republican

Polls show Rand Paul has a better chance of beating Hillary than any other Republican

The 2016 Presidential race is turning into a disaster for American competitiveness

The 2016 Presidential race is turning into a disaster for American competitiveness

The eurozone is stuck in permanent depression. The wheels are starting to come off the Chinese economy. The Brics, all the rage just a few years ago, have lost much of their shine – only India really seems to be in good shape right now, but you can’t create a snappy acronym with only one letter.

With commodity prices crashing, the emerging markets look about as a good a bet as Liz Kendall’s campaign for the Labour leadership. Amid a troubled global economy, the US stands out as a beacon of solid growth.

Its economy is growing at a decent rate again. A boom in shale gas has made it self-sufficient in energy for the first time in decades. Its mighty tech titans, from Amazon to Google to Apple, dominate the globe, creating a cadre of multi-nationals that are as strong as the likes of Ford, McDonald’s or Kraft from an earlier generation.

The trouble is the 2016 presidential race is likely to be a catastrophe for American competitiveness. From Donald Trump on the Right, to Hillary Clinton on the Left, all the leading candidates are pushing policies that are likely to set the economy back a decade or more.

Although it gets relatively little attention, in the background there are worrying signs that the American economy, like much of Europe, is losing its edge – and yet none of the candidates is putting forward any solutions to that. In truth, most of the policies on offer would make that much worse.

It is shaping up to be a disaster for the global economy. Why? Because no one seems interested in re-invigorating the economy.

On the Right, Trump is leading the pack. One poll at the weekend showed “the Donald” out in front for the Republican nomination, with 19pc of the vote. The more moderate Scott Walker and Jeb Bush were stuck on 15pc and 14pc respectively. Of course, Trump manages to make more horrible gaffes in the space of a single day than most candidates do in a whole campaign, insulting whole swathes of the electorate with gleeful abandon, and no doubt he will make dozens more over the next few months. And yet, despite the horror he provokes among the professional political classes, nothing seems to be denting his appeal.

But Trump is offering a buffoon-ish mix of protectionism and economic nationalism better suited to France than the US. “Trumponomics”, as the unfortunate reporters who try to make sense of his platform have taken to calling it, involves renegotiating free trade deals between the US and the rest of the world, weakening the dollar to help the manufacturing industry, and restricting immigration, all aimed at bringing back the prosperous blue-collar white working class of the 1950s and 1960s.

It might have a certain appeal among traditional Republican voters, much as Marine Le Pen’s similar pitch does to blue-collar French workers who also feel themselves left out by globalisation. But it would be toxic for the American economy. No developed nation is going to be able to compete with the emerging markets for basic manufacturing – and any attempt to do so will only make everyone worse off.

On the other side, it is hardly any better. Hillary Clinton’s husband may have governed as a pro-business centrist, but she is veering off wildly to the Left. One of her few concrete plans involves a complex set of changes to capital gains tax – the kind pious, meddling Vince Cable might have come up with on a bad day.

Investors would pay less tax so long as they held shares in the right kind of companies for the right length of time – conveniently ignoring the fact that government bureaucrats don’t have the foggiest idea what kind of investment the economy needs at any given time, and it is a sure bet that whatever type they favour will be precisely wrong.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Born Again,” “Roland,” “The Erlenmeyer Flask”

The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Born Again,” “Roland,” “The Erlenmeyer Flask”

Computer Organization and Design by David A. Patterson and John L. Hennessy

The fifth edition of Computer Organization and Design-winner of a 2014 Textbook Excellence Award (Texty) from The Text and Academic Authors Association-moves forward into the post-PC era with new examples, exercises, and material highlighting the emergence of mobile computing and the cloud. This generational change is emphasized and explored with updated content featuring tablet computers, cloud infrastructure, and the ARM (mobile computing devices) and x86 (cloud computing) architectures.

Because an understanding of modern hardware is essential to achieving good performance and energy efficiency, this edition adds a new concrete example, "Going Faster," used throughout the text to demonstrate extremely effective optimization techniques. Also new to this edition is discussion of the "Eight Great Ideas" of computer architecture.

As with previous editions, a MIPS processor is the core used to present the fundamentals of hardware technologies, assembly language, computer arithmetic, pipelining, memory hierarchies and I/O.

  • Winner of a 2014 Texty Award from the Text and Academic Authors Association
  • Includes new examples, exercises, and material highlighting the emergence of mobile computing and the cloud
  • Covers parallelism in depth with examples and content highlighting parallel hardware and software topics
  • Features the Intel Core i7, ARM Cortex-A8 and NVIDIA Fermi GPU as real-world examples throughout the book
  • Adds a new concrete example, "Going Faster," to demonstrate how understanding hardware can inspire software optimizations that improve performance by 200 times
  • Discusses and highlights the "Eight Great Ideas" of computer architecture:  Performance via Parallelism; Performance via Pipelining; Performance via Prediction; Design for Moore's Law; Hierarchy of Memories; Abstraction to Simplify Design; Make the Common Case Fast;  and Dependability via Redundancy
  • Includes a full set of updated and improved exercises

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 2 (Batman)

Space Coast Nerd Fest 2015 - Geekapella - Part 2 (Batman)

Antic, December 1982

Antic, December 1982