Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fun Quiz

A quiz on military style police tactics. [Link]
Today's Quiz:
You should find this one more difficult than the previous quiz.
Police did not carry out an aggressive, military-style raid to accomplish which of the following purposes?
    (a) To find the source of a parody Twitter feed
    (b) To check a bar for underage drinkers
    (c) To recover a large number of overdue library books
    (d) To enforce copyright law against a DJ
    (e) To check whether barbers had valid barbering licenses
    (f) To apprehend Tibetan monks who overstayed their visas
    (g) They did that in all these cases
I think it is worth considering this one for a moment, so I'm going to put the answer and further discussion after the jump below.

If you find it slightly terrifying that they did this (and by "this," I mean used a SWAT team or a gang of officers using similar tactics) for any of those purposes, congratulations, you are sane. The answer is (c): to my knowledge, a SWAT team has never been used to recover overdue library books, but I think that example is no less ridiculous than the others. And inevery one of those other cases, police aggressively stormed the premises with guns drawn, wearing body armor and even masks, though they had no reason to think there would be any danger.
The Tibetan monks were here on a peace mission, for Christ's sake.
Well, not for Christ's sake, but you know what I mean.

The importance of text

Always bet on text. [Link]
At every step of communication technology, textual encoding comes first, everything else after. Because it's vastly cheaper on a symbol-by-symbol basis. You have a working optical telegraph network running in 1790 in France. You the better part of a century of electrical telegraphy, trans-oceanic cables and everything, before anyone bothers with trying to carry voice. You have decades of teleprinter and text-only computer networking, mail and news, chat and publishing, editing and diagnostics, before bandwidth gets cheap enough for images, voice and video. You have pagers, SMS, WAP, USSD and blackberries before iPhones. You haveTeletext and BBSs, netnews and gopher before the web. And today many of the best, and certainly the most efficient parts of the web remain text-centric. I can download all of wikipedia and carry it around on the average smartphone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

But at least there's a process

The TSA is NOT listening to your complaint. [Link]
Today I begin a series of posts that will use documents obtained from the TSA following a FOIA request. I asked for, and got, complaints sent to the agency in the last year by active duty military personnel or combat-wounded military veterans. To the TSA’s credit, I filed my request in August, and – very much to my surprise – got 216 pages of documents in early October. While the agency has fiercely resisted transparency, they got this one right. And the documents I received are pretty revealing.
First thing the documents tell us: when you complain to the TSA, you aren’t complaining to the TSA. Whether you call or use their website to write to them, your complaint is processed and answered by an employee of K4 Solutions, the TSA’s call center contractor. This form does not send information directly to the TSA. If you use it, you’re writing to a corporation. To be sure, the forms often indicate that the complaints have been sent on to TSA officials at the appropriate airport, but K4 Solutions is a layer of insulation. It is not TSA headquarters, and your complaints don’t go directly to TSA headquarters. The contractor controls the messages, and decides where and if to route them.
Second, news stories about TSA outrages always contain the obligatory statement from the TSA press office, and it’s always a meaningless jumble of lines read from a script: the TSA takes passenger safety very seriously and has multiple layers of security. The responses to TSA complaints are exactly the same. The K4 employee who reads or hears your complaint has a scripted set of available responses, and cuts and pastes a set of paragraphs to answer your call or letter. The amount of thought that goes into that cutting and pasting is, let’s put this charitably, negligible.


Dilbert.com

Thursday, October 02, 2014

When pigs fly

Or Hell freezes over. [Link]
It’s always arrogance that gets the powerful, in the end. Arrogance and pride.  Because here’s the situation – and I write this with an enormous grin of schadenfreude on my face from thinking about how progressive activists will react to what I’m about to write – it’s clear by now that George W Bush knows how to beat a terrorist insurgency, and Barack Obama does not.  Barack Obama’s previous Iraq policy was a miserable failure.  Barack Obama’s foreign policy staff was incompetent. The President himself demonstrated that, when it came to terrorists and figuring out why they hate us, Obama was fundamentally intellectually incurious and far too prone to episodes ofepistemic closure.  Do I need to keep using all those progressive antiwar sneers as handy flails, or has everybody gotten the point by now?
Excellent.  So, now that we’ve established Barack Obama’s past litany of failure, the question becomes: how can the man fix his mistakes? – Because it’d be swell if that happened, of course.  Well… Barack Obama could start out by going to his predecessor – that would be George W Bush – and asking for help. This would, of course, humiliate Obama’s supporters (and Obama himself); which is unfortunate.  For them.  But that’s not really anybody else’s problem.  The bottom line is that Barack Obama should maybe not regularly chat with GWB; but Obama should certainly have Bush (and probably Bill Clinton*) over on a semi-regular basis.  These guys have been where Obama is; they know the score.
And, hey: it’s even good politics.  After all: George W Bush polls rather better than Barack Obama does right now.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Say, Why Don’t Republicans Want President Obama To Be Killed?

Projection. They thought that way about Bush, and can't comprehend why Republicans don't reciprocate. [Link]
WELL, AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS OF BUSH ASSASSINATION-FANTASIES BY THE LEFT, YOU CAN SEE WHY THEY’D BE PUZZLED: New York Times: Say, Why Don’t Republicans Want President Obama To Be Killed? “Of course we want the president to be safe. Those who are surprised by this perhaps need to spend some more time with their ideological opponents, or — and this will be harder, I grant — spend a little more time examining what it is about their ideology that led them to conflate political opposition and violence in the first instance.”
Death of a President

Windows 10

Windows 9 disappeared after being operational for only 24 hours.

Which is the real story and which is the satire piece?

Microsoft skips 'too good' Windows 9, jumps to Windows 10
Details about Windows 9 are sketchy, but according to internal Microsoft communications obtained by InfoWorld, the OS was fast, intuitive, bug-free, and equally adept with both the Windows Desktop and Metro-style interfaces. "And who would've thought to put the Start button there?!? Genius!" marveled one engineer, though it's unclear where "there" is exactly.
Another engineer likened the OS to the Nintendo Entertainment System's Power Glove accessory, saying, "It's that good a melding of man and machine."
One email chain riffed extensively on how Windows 9 is like the sitcom "Seinfeld" in that it's "about nothing," but also because "there was that one episode where Kramer got the deli meat slicer, and he said he had cut slices of meat so thin, he couldn't even see them. Well, Windows 9 is so transparent, you won't even know it's there. Hell, I'm not even sure I used it!"
"Hey guys, if all this is true, then we can't release this [OS] to the public," one HR manager who had been CC'd on the emails declared. "We have to keep this internal and advertise it as a perk. You know: 'Come work for Microsoft, and you get to use Windows 9!'"
Surprise! Microsoft jumps to Windows 10
Microsoft just said no to 9. The follow-on to the current Windows 8 operating system will be known as Windows 10.
Originally codenamed Windows Threshold, the new operating system essentially does away with the dependency on the tiled "Metro" user interface that Microsoft had attempted to implement across its entire device line, from desktop PCs to Surface tablets and Windows Phone devices. In its place is a combination of the so-called live tiles, present in areas like the new Start Menu, and a more classic Windows experience that aims to please both touch and keyboard-and-mouse users.
Windows 10 is such a substantial leap, according to Microsoft's executive VP of operating systems, Terry Myerson, that the company decided it would be best to skip over Windows 9, the widely expected name for the next version.
"Windows 10 will run on the broadest amount of devices. A tailored experience for each device," Myerson said at a press event here Tuesday. "There will be one way to write a universal application, one store, one way for apps to be discovered purchased and updated across all of these devices."

Friday, September 26, 2014

FBI Director upset they can't break into your phone as easily

Perhaps if you (the government), hadn't spent all your credibility to snoop on people who are not suspected of a crime. Also, trying to play the terror card and the child card doesn't fool anyone anymore. [Link]
Apple said last week that it would no longer be technically feasible to unlock encrypted iPhones and iPads for law enforcement because the devices would no longer allow user passcodes to be bypassed. The move comes as tech companies struggle to manage public concerns in the aftermath of last year's leak of classified National Security Agency documents about government access to private user data.
On a privacy site for its new mobile operating system, iOS 8, Apple outlined new features and tips for users on how to manage their privacy. It also included an explanation of how Apple will respond to government information requests in the future.
"Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," the company said. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."
Comey said that while he understood the need for privacy, government access to mobile devices may be needed in extreme circumstances, such as in the event of a terror attack.
"I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone's closet or their smart phone," he said. "The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened -- even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order -- to me does not make any sense."
Comey said FBI officials have had conversations with both Apple and Google about the marketing of their devices.
"Google is marketing their Android the same way: Buy our phone and law-enforcement, even with legal process, can never get access to it," he said.
"There will come a day -- well it comes every day in this business -- when it will matter a great, great deal to the lives of people of all kinds that we be able to with judicial authorization gain access to a kidnapper's or a terrorist or a criminal's device. I just want to make sure we have a good conversation in this country before that day comes. I'd hate to have people look at me and say, 'Well how come you can't save this kid,' 'how come you can't do this thing.'"
The director further expressed concern that public outcry over privacy in the wake of the NSA scandal may lead to unforeseen consequences.
"I get that the post-Snowden world has started an understandable pendulum swing," he said. "What I'm worried about is, this is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far."
No, no it hasn't.
They really do not like this. Chicago Chief of Detectives claims the iPhone will now be the choice for pedophiles. [Link]

Now, the chief of detectives for Chicago's police department has issued an alarming statement on the effects of Apple's heightened encryption.
Speaking to the Washington Post, John J. Escalante said, "Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile. The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone."


Monday, September 22, 2014

Jail video conferencing

Let's squeeze the poor families of those incarcerated for every last penny. [Link]
Dallas County, TX, considers banning live visits for jail inmates and switching to for-pay videoconferencing service. However, other communities have already installed the system by jail-telecom-for-profit experts, Securus.

In fact, Dallas County, TX, appears to have originally accepted the company's bid. However, as of this week,inmate advocates have managed to have the original contract nulled and the bid for services re-opened.

Nonetheless, among other places (including Michigan, where Ingham County jail administer Sam Davis proudly gushes over their jail's new visitation-for-pay system, ""Imagine, a first born is brought home and mom gets to turn on the webcam. Dad gets to see their newborn")Securus is already installed in Florida. (Good news, library fans! If you don't have a computer, Securus has arranged that you can use your commmunity library's computers.)

Besides striving to punish families of people who are incarcerated (most of whom have not yet been tried), apparently Securus also dabbles in patent trolling and disconnecting calls coming from competing (less-expensive) VOIP-based services.

Besides pay-for-pay videoconferencing with friends and family, Louisiana (via TX-based US Telehealth) now provides "telemedicine" to inmates.

Of course, another advantage—as infamous AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who began having such equipment procured and installed last year) points out—all calls and informations such as IP addresses are tracked and recorded allowing investigators to "mine intelligence data like never before."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it

Well this is going to go just great. [Link]

Attention, whoever in the White House monitors this site. Google ‘Lyndon Johnson micromanagement Vietnam.’

Google that RIGHT NOW.
“The U.S. military campaign against Islamic militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Obama to exert a high degree of personal control over the campaign, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential sign-off for any strike in Syrian territory,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
To expand on something I said on Twitter earlier today: considering just how much the Left loves to describe every military action in terms of Vietnam, you would think that more of them would actually have a basic familiarity with the war, its origins, and how we fought it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

We Don’t Have A Strategy Yet

Too busy working on his golf game. [Link]
Board members and investors will want to know what you are doing to try and get the waters calm.  If you don’t take definitive action, the startup will die or the CEO gets fired.
Same goes for the President of the United States. When the world is crashing around you, that’s not an answer.   The time to answer the question with, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” was a year ago.
  • What is the US strategy for Russia?  They are invading Ukraine and putting pressure on Poland, and Germany.
  • What is the US strategy for Syria?  A civil war has raged for over a year.
  • What is the US strategy for Israel?  Hamas has built tunnels and is launching rockets daily.
  • What is the US strategy for ISIS?  A new terror organization that is well funded and organized is beheading all kinds of people in a Game of Thrones march through the desert to set up a radical muslim caliphate.  By the way, 16% of France agrees with ISIS.
  • What is the US strategy for North Korea?  Always a tense pressure point on the 43rd parallel.
  • What is the US strategy for China?  Last week, a Chinese fighter jet in a show of strength Top Gun barrel rolled a US patrol plane.  They aren’t flexing their muscles for show.  China has some serious underlying economic hurt.
  • There is a massive banking crisis brewing in Europe, what’s the US strategy?
Supposedly, with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, we had an A team working on these problems.  She has pretty much screwed the pooch and I would hate to see how badly she could do as President.  At the same time, where has Obama been?  It’s not just that he is golfing, but goes deeper than that.  It’s not political party differences either, because in a time of crisis, elections shouldn’t matter.  CEO’s and Presidents make decisions for the good of the country; not minutiae or teacher’s pets.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Russia not even trying to hide invasion of Ukraine.

I'm sure it is just a misunderstanding. [Link]
The Associated Press (AP) suggests that "the bold offensive along a new southeastern front" indicates that "separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea, which also would give them control over the entire Azov Sea." Logistically, it would be near impossible for fighters in the separatist-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to have reached this front on their own, the mayor of the newly-embattled city of Novoazovsk told AP. The fighters would have to cross a large amount of Ukrainian-controlled territory, whereas Russia could easily send troops from just across the border.
Although Russian regular soldiers were captured in Ukraine on Monday and admitted that they are, in fact, Russian soldiers, the Kremlin continues to deny any involvement, and claims it can't really help the situation. Says President Vladimir Putin:
We, Russia, cannot talk about any cease-fire conditions whatsoever, or possible agreements between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk. We can only facilitate the creation of an environment of trust in the course of this possible and much needed, in my opinion, negotiation process.
Putin does admit that sometimes soldiers accidentally cross the border.
I'm the response from President Obama will be decisive and strong.

No, really.

Yeah, I don't believe it either.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Well that makes Rick Perry look better

He was going to replace drunken Democrat DA with sober Democrat. [Link]
This should shock nobody.
Gov. Rick Perry personally called a well-known Austin Democrat to discuss her interest in replacing Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg days before the public learned Perry was threatening to withhold state funding from Lehmberg’s office unless she resigned.
Austin defense attorney Mindy Montford, who previously ran as a Democratic candidate for state district judge and district attorney in Travis County, confirmed her conversation with Perry — which took place in early June 2013, to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV on Sunday.
It should, however, embarrass the excrement of every progressive hyper-partisan who has been using this non-scandal as bitter masturbation fodder.  You see, in the realworld smart politicians know that if you’re trying to remove somebody for, say, being a drunken belligerent trying to use her authority to get out of trouble, and it’s somebody who is not in your party, then you can avoid a lot of agitation by simply replacing said drunken would-be bully with somebody else from the same party.  This is such an obvious point – and something that both Democrats and Republicans do all the time – that you almost have to wonder why the Activist Left apparently didn’t even think that Rick Perry would act accordingly.

Police often provoke protest violence

This is my surprised face. [Link]
The violence that turns a small-town protest into a fiery national spectacle like the one that has played out this month in Missouri is often unwittingly provoked by police, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.
The research team, which studied clashes between police and activists during the Occupy movement three years ago, found that protests tend to turn violent when officers use aggressive tactics, such as approaching demonstrators in riot gear or lining up in military-like formations.
Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a good example, the study's lead researcher said. For nearly two weeks, activists angered by a white police officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager have ratcheted up their protests when confronted by heavily armed police forces.
"Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he's carrying an AR-15," said Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley'sInstitute for Data Science who leads the Deciding Force Project. "It just upsets the crowd."
Adams said many law enforcement agencies aren't aware that they set the tone of a protest and end up inflaming it.

192 cities studied

His team reached its conclusions by analyzing Occupy protests in 192 U.S. cities in 2011. The researchers sifted through thousands of news reports about the protests, which were sparked by concerns over economic inequality, and isolated patterns of violence and their apparent causes.
Some of the most contentious Occupy protests happened in Oakland, where the fallout is still being scrutinized.
In one October 2011 protest over the clearing of an Occupy encampment outside Oakland City Hall, officers fired tear gas and projectiles into crowds, injuring several activists. One of them, Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, was critically hurt and settled a lawsuit against the city in March for $4.5 million.
Oakland police later tried to address concerns about heavy-handed tactics, seeking to head off unruly protests with early crowd-control measures such as issuing tickets for jaywalking.
But finding the appropriate balance between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough hasn't been easy.

Unmockable

I do not think that means what you think it means. [Link]
At last, we know the reason why comedy writers don’t make fun of President Obama much.
It turns out the man is completely unmockable.
We learn this from Jim Downey, the longtime “Saturday Night Live” specialist in political japery. “If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, ‘Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10,’” the writer says in the expanded new edition of the “SNL” oral history book, “Live from New York.”
“It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled,” Downey says. “There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these ‘handles,’ so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that’s the way I wrote him.”
Oh really?
The charter Choom Ganger, confessed eater of dog and snorter of coke. The doofus who thinks the language spoken by Austrians is “Austrian,” that you pronounce the p in “corpsman” and that ATMs are the reason why job growth is sluggish. The egomaniac who gave the queen of England an iPod loaded with his own speeches and said he was better at everything than the people who work for him. The empty suit with so little real-world knowledge that he referred to his brief stint working for an ordinary profit-seeking company as time “behind enemy lines.” The phony who tells everyone he’s from Chicago, though he didn’t live there until his 20s, and lets you know that he’s talking to people he believes to be stupid by droppin’ his g’s. The world-saving Kal-El from a distant solar system who told us he’d heal the planet and cause the oceans to stop rising. The guy who shared a middle name with one of the most hated dictators on earth.
Nope, nothing there to mock. No way to get a grip on this polished, oiled obsidian.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Submit

This will all be over quicker if you just submit. [Link]

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?


Monday, August 18, 2014

Police Militarization over a less violent public

Violence has been going down, so why do we need militarized police? [Link]
Over the past generation or so, we’ve militarized our police to protect a public that has broadly become less and less violent.
It all starts back in 1990, a time when the country found itself with less demand for military equipment abroad and new use for it back home. Within our shores, the drug wars were escalating; gang violence was surging; and sociologists were warning of sociopathic child “superpredators.” At the same time, the military was starting to shrink as the Cold War ended. Put two and two together and you get the 1033 program, which transferred assets from the military to the police. (Here’s a capsule history.) 
A bigger flush of money and equipment followed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Times reports, when the federal government equipped local police outfits to be the front line of the Global War on Terror:
Department of Homeland Security grant money paid for the $360,000 Bearcat armored truck on patrol in Ferguson, said Nick Gragnani, executive director of St. Louis Area Regional Response System, which administers such grants for the St. Louis area. 
Since 2003, the group has spent $9.4 million on equipment for the police in St. Louis County. That includes $3.6 million for two helicopters, plus the Bearcat, other vehicles and night vision equipment. Most of the body armor worn by officers responding to the Ferguson protests was paid for with federal money, Mr. Gragnani said.
“The focus is terrorism, but it’s allowed to do a crossover for other types of responses,” he said. “It’s for any type of civil unrest. We went by the grant guidance. There was no restriction put on that by the federal government.”
But here’s the thing. Since 1990, according to Department of Justice statistics, the United States has become a vastly safer place, at least in terms of violent crime. (Drug crime follows somewhat different trends, though drug use has been dropping over the same time period.) The number of murders dropped to 14,827 in 2012 from 23,438 in 1990. The number of rapes has plummeted to 84,376 from 102,555. The number of robberies, motor-vehicle thefts, assaults — all have seen similarly large declines. And the number of incidents has dropped even though the country has grown.

Women rising in Algeria

Good. [Link]
Women make up 70 percent ofAlgeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.
In a region where women have a decidedly low public profile, Algerian women are visible everywhere. They are starting to drive buses and taxicabs. They pump gas and wait on tables.
Although men still hold all of the formal levers of power and women still make up only 20 percent of the work force, that is more than twice their share a generation ago, and they seem to be taking over the machinery of state as well.
“If such a trend continues,” said Daho Djerbal, editor and publisher of Naqd, a magazine of social criticism and analysis, “we will see a new phenomenon where our public administration will also be controlled by women.”
The change seems to have sneaked up on Algerians, who for years have focused more on the struggle between a governing party trying to stay in power and Islamists trying to take that power.
Those who study the region say they are taken aback by the data but suggest that an explanation may lie in the educational system and the labor market.
University studies are no longer viewed as a credible route toward a career or economic well-being, and so men may well opt out and try to find work or to simply leave the country, suggested Hugh Roberts, a historian and the North Africa project director of the International Crisis Group.
But for women, he added, university studies get them out of the house and allow them to position themselves better in society. “The dividend may be social rather than in terms of career,” he said.
This generation of Algerian women has navigated a path between the secular state and the pull of extremist Islam, the two poles of the national crisis of recent years.
The women are more religious than previous generations, and more modern, sociologists here said. Women cover their heads and drape their bodies with traditional Islamic coverings. They pray. They go to the mosque — and they work, often alongside men, once considered taboo.
Sociologists and many working women say that by adopting religion and wearing the Islamic head covering called the hijab, women here have in effect freed themselves from moral judgments and restrictions imposed by men. Uncovered women are rarely seen on the street late at night, but covered women can be seen strolling the city after attending the evening prayer at a mosque.

Rational Scientology

Richard Dawkins as L Ron Hubbard. I wonder when Dawkins will buy a ship? [Link]
My man in the pub was at the very low end of what believers will do and pay for: the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.
When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.
But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’
The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.
At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits.

Michael Brown Autopsy

The evidence does not match the witness stories. [Link]
Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a police officer, sparking protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed on Sunday found.
One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.
Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.
With that, the police still handled the aftermath poorly, escalating tensions rather than defusing them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Drink up!

It is good for you, even if they don't want to admit it. [Link]
So the more you drink—up to two drinks a day for woman, and four for men—the less likely you are to die. You may have heard that before, and you may have heard it doubted. But the consensus of the science is overwhelming: It is true.
Although I dispute many of the caveats offered against the life-saving benefits of alcohol, I will endorse two. First, these outcome data do not apply to women with the “breast-cancer gene” mutations (BRCA 1 or 2) or a first-degree (mother, sister) relation who has had breast cancer, for whom alcohol consumption is far riskier. Second, drinking 10 drinks Friday and Saturday nights does not convey the benefits of two or three drinks daily, even though your weekly totals would be the same: Frequent, heavy binge drinking is unhealthy. But then you knew that already, didn’t you? If you don’t distinguish binge drinking from daily moderate drinking, that would be due to Americans’ addiction-phobia, which causes them to interpret any daily drinking as addictive.
The global summary of alcohol’s benefits raises a key question: How much do you have to drink regularly before you become as likely to die as an abstainer? We’ll see below.
First, let’s address some typical objections to these findings. Of course, abstainers may not drink because they are already ill. Thus the meta-analysis relied on studies that eliminated subjects who are abstaining due to illness, or else contrast drinkers with lifetime abstainers. Additionally, objectors note, drinkers showing such longevity may be wine-sniffling, upper-middle-class professionals (virtually no study has ever found that the type of alcohol consumed impacts these results), people who exercise, eat right, and don’t smoke. To counter this argument, researchers from the prestigious Harvard Health Professionals Study published a paper which found that even men with four healthy life factors (diet, weight, non-smoking, exercise) had one-third to one-half the risk of suffering a heart attack if they had one to two drinks daily, relative to comparable men in each category who abstained.
Now let’s turn quickly to four special topics—biological mechanisms; cognitive benefits of drinking; the resveratrol myth; and the answer to our key question: If you drink just a little too much alcohol, doesn’t your death rate shoot up way over that of abstainers? (This is the so-called “J–shaped curve.”)