Friday, December 18, 2015
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire—still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire’s glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon.
But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule—a mutant intelligence with a power greater than a dozen battle fleets…a power that can turn the strongest-willed human into an obedient slave.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
“I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate,” said Sen. Rand Paul during the Republican debate. He was referring to Gov. Chris Christie, but could have been talking about virtually any of the other eight people standing on the stage at The Venetian.
Indeed, only the libertarian-ish Republican senator from Kentucky was willing to admit that reckless U.S. interventionism in the Middle East—cheered on by Republicans and Democrats alike—gave birth to ISIS. He calmly explained that deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gadhafi in Libya created a vacuum for even worse radicals to thrive. And as Paul pointed out, if President Obama and Republican hawks had gotten their wish two years ago and deposed Bashar al-Assad, ISIS would now rule in Syria as well.
While most of the other candidates remained staunchly anti-Russia, anti-Iran, and anti-ISIS—even though the former two are unwaveringly opposed to the latter—Paul was willing to criticize the recklessness of a go-to-war-with-Vladimir-Putin over nothing policy.
“If we announce that we’re going to have a no-fly zone… it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Paul. “It’s a recipe for World War III.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
Friday, December 11, 2015
When debating the wisdom of the Constitution’s Second Amendment, the media tends to start from the presumption that the question is purely scientific, and that the answers can — and should — be derived from statistical analyses and relentless experimentation. This approach is mistaken. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is not the product of the latest research fads or exquisitely tortured “data journalism,” but a natural extension of the Lockean principles on which this country was founded. It must be protected as such.
The Declaration of Independence presumes that all men enjoy certain inalienable rights, among them “life” and “liberty.” Practically speaking, at both the state level (as a bulwark against tyranny) and at the individual level (as a means by which to protect oneself), this necessitates the auxiliary right to the private ownership of “arms,” which, in the common law that preceded the Second Amendment, was understood to include personal weapons that could be wielded by an individual — such as the “musket and bayonet”; “sabre, holster pistols, and carbine”; and sundry “side arms.”
At the time of the American founding, it was widely understood that there was a real danger in a government’s attempting to deprive the people of what Alexander Hamilton called their “original right of self-defense.” This is why, when it came to writing the Constitution, the anti-Federalists, who feared the government’s potential to become corrupt, refused to sign on to a more powerful national government until they had been promised certain explicit protections. Then, as now, their logic was clear: It makes no sense to allow the representatives of a free people to disarm their masters.
Reacting to this argument, we often hear advocates of gun control propose that the Founders’ observations are irrelevant because they could “not have imagined the modern world.” I agree with the latter assertion: They couldn’t have. As well-read in world history as they were, there is no way that they could have foreseen just how prescient they were in insisting on harsh limitations of government power. In their time, “tyranny” was comparatively soft — their complaints focused on under-representation and the capricious restriction of ancient rights. In the past century, by contrast, tyranny involved the systematic execution of entire groups and the enslavement of whole countries. The notion that if James Madison had foreseen the 20th century he would have concluded that the Bill of Rights was too generous is laughable.
Nor could the Founders have imagined the entrenched tyranny that would arise in their own country. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Company were hypocrites, certainly — like so many at the time they spoke of equality and liberty while indulging slavery — but the generation that met at Philadelphia did at least consider that the institution would die out peacefully. Instead, it was abolished only by bloody force, and then transmuted into something almost as abhorrent.
Conservatives who are scared of tyrants often ask, “Could it happen here?” Well, it did. Jim Crow, the KKK, lynching, legal segregation — for a period, the South was everything a free man should fear. When Ida B. Wells noted that “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give,” she was confirming an age-old truth: The gun is a great equalizer, and the state a capricious beast.
Does everyone who uses a firearm to protect himself survive? Of course not. But as a free man, I do not consider my inalienable rights to be contingent upon my ability to exercise them successfully. I may debate freely, even if I am destined to lose the argument. I may enjoy a jury trial even if I am guilty.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens's maturity. Stephen Wall's introduction examines Dickens's transformation of childhood memories of his father's incarceration in the Marshalsea debtors' prison. This revised edition includes expanded notes, appendices and suggestion for further reading by Helen Small, a chronology of Dickens's life and works, and original illustrations.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Host Marc B. Lee warms up the crowd before John Rhys-Davies comes on stage.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
President Obama Hints At Asking Silicon Valley To Magically Block Terrorists From Using Tech Products
As you probably know, last night President Obama gave a big address from the Oval Office about what he plans to do about ISIS, along with dealing with the threat of lone wolf and other attacks at home. Buried deep within (in fact, I missed it the first time through) was a nod towards the idea of pushing Silicon Valley to magically undermine encryption. Here’s the entirety of what he said on the subject:
I will urge high tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder to use technology to escape from justice.
That seems like a simple sentence, but it’s loaded with meaning, and most of it’s not good. As we’ve noted over and over again, the last refuge of those looking to undermine encryption is to bring up the idea of “if only Silicon Valley techies and law enforcement could get together, surely they could come up with some magic golden key. But that’s clueless, because what they’re asking for is impossible. This isn’t something that’s “difficult” — it’s impossible. You can’t make a backdoored encryption system that doesn’t make everyone vulnerable and less safe.
And, yes, while you can say he doesn’t specifically say “encryption” here, the use of the phrase “technology to escape from justice” clearly implies encryption.
2016 Republican presidential candidate and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump said that he supports reauthorizing the USA PATRIOT Act and bulk cell phone metadata collection by the National Security Agency in an interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show earlier this month.
In the above-embedded clip, Hewitt asks Trump, “On metadata collection, Ted Cruz is glad the NSA got out of it. Marco Rubio wants it back. What’s Donald Trump think?”
“Well, I tend to err on the side of security, I must tell you,” Trump replied, “and I’ve been there for longer than you would think. But, you know, when you have people that are beheading if you’re a Christian and frankly for lots of other reasons, when you have the world looking at us and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible, I err on the side of security, and so that’s the way it is, that’s the way I’ve been, and some people like that, frankly, and some people don’t like that.”
Hours after Donald Trump suggested the U.S. ban Muslims from entering the United States, the leading Republican presidential candidate said America should also consider “closing the Internet up in some way” to fight Islamic State terrorists in cyberspace.
Trump mocked anyone who would object that his plan might violate the freedom of speech, saying “these are foolish people, we have a lot of foolish people.”
“We have to go see Bill Gates,” Trump said, to better understand the Internet and then possibly “close it up.”
Trump characterized the problem of Internet extremism by saying, “We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet.”
The Internet has taken center stage in both the 2016 presidential race and the Obama administration’s current fight against ISIS. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton urged tech companies to “deny online space” to terrorists. Clinton then anticipated and waved away presumed First Amendment criticisms.
“We’re going to hear all the usual complaints,” she said on Monday, “you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating. It’s more complicated with some of what they do on encrypted apps, and I’m well aware of that, and that requires even more thinking about how to do it.”
The Obama administration spoke about cyberspace in a Sunday night speech from the Oval Office. The president said he would “urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder to use technology to escape from justice.”
Thursday, December 3, 2015
For outstanding heroism in the field (despite himself), computational demonologist Bob Howard is on the fast track for promotion to management within the Laundry, the supersecret British government agency tasked with defending the realm from occult threats. Assigned to External Assets, Bob discovers the company (unofficially) employs freelance agents to deal with sensitive situations that may embarrass Queen and Country.
So when Ray Schiller—an American televangelist with the uncanny ability to miraculously heal the ill—becomes uncomfortably close to the Prime Minister, External Assets dispatches the brilliant, beautiful, and entirely unpredictable Persephone Hazard to infiltrate the Golden Promise Ministries and discover why the preacher is so interested in British politics. And it’s Bob’s job to make sure Persephone doesn’t cause an international incident.