Friday, January 31, 2014

Income Inequality: The Debate Ignores Race

Warfare, Welfare, and Wonder Woman: How Congress Spends Your Money

Supporters of warfare, welfare, and Wonder Woman cheered last week as Congress passed a one trillion dollar “omnibus” appropriation bill. This legislation funds the operations of government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Wonder Woman fans can cheer that buried in the bill was a $10,000 grant for a theater program to explore the comic book heroine.
That is just one of the many outrageous projects buried in this 1,582-page bill. The legislation gives the Department of Education more money to continue nationalizing education via “common core.” Also, despite new evidence of Obamacare’s failure emerging on an almost daily basis, the Omnibus bill does nothing to roll back this disastrous law.
Even though the Omnibus bill dramatically increases government spending, it passed with the support of many self-described “fiscal conservatives.” Those wondering why anyone who opposes increasing spending on programs like common core and Obamacare would vote for the bill, may find an answer in the fact that the legislation increases funding for the “Overseas Continuing Operations” — which is the official name for the war budget — for the first time since 2010. This $85 billion war budget contains $6 billion earmarked for projects benefiting Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and other big defense contractors.
Ever since “sequestration” went into effect at the beginning of last year, the military-industrial complex’s congressional cheering session has complained that sequestration imposed “draconian cuts” on the Pentagon that will “decimate” our military — even though most of the “cuts” were actually reductions in the “projected rate of growth.” In fact, under sequestration, defense spending was to increase by 18 percent over ten years, as opposed to growing by 20 percent without sequestration.
Many of the defenders of increased war spending are opponents of welfare, but they are willing to set aside their opposition to increased welfare spending in order to increase warfare spending. They are supported in this position by the lobbyists for the military-industrial complex and the neoconservatives, whose continued influence on foreign policy is mystifying. After all, the neocons were the major promoters of the disastrous military intervention in Iraq.
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Sugar on trial: What you really need to know

It has been called toxic, addictive and deadly, the driving force behind obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Is sugar really so bad?
IMAGINE you are sitting at a table with a bag of sugar, a teaspoon and a glass of water. You open the bag and add a spoonful of sugar to the water. Then another, and another, and another, until you have added 20 teaspoons. Would you drink the water?
Even the most sweet-toothed kid would find it unpalatably sickly. And yet that is the amount of sugar you are likely to eat today, and every day – usually without realising it.
Sugar was once a luxury ingredient reserved for special occasions. But in recent years it has become a large and growing part of our diets. If you eat processed food of any kind, it probably contains added sugar. Three-quarters of the packaged food sold in US supermarkets has had sugar added to it during manufacturing. You can find it in sliced bread, breakfast cereals, salad dressings, soups, cooking sauces and many other staples. Low-fat products often contain a lot of added sugar.
It's hardly controversial to say that all this sugar is probably doing us no good. Now, though, sugar is being touted as public health enemy number one: as bad if not worse than fat, and the major driving force behind obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes. Some researchers even contend that sugar is toxic or addictive.
As a result, health bodies are gearing up for a "war on sugar". The World Health Organization wants us to cut consumption radically. In the US, doctors and scientists are pressing food companies to reduce sugar and be more open about how much they add; in the UK a group called Action on Sugar has just launched a campaign to ratchet down sugar. Politicians are mulling taxes on sugary drinks. But is sugar really that bad? Or is it all a storm in a teacup – with two sugars please?
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Britain entering first world war was 'biggest error in modern history'

Niall Ferguson

Britain could have lived with a German victory in the first world war, and should have stayed out of the conflict in 1914, according to the historian Niall Ferguson, who described the intervention as "the biggest error in modern history".
In an interview with BBC History Magazine, Ferguson said there had been no immediate threat to Britain, which could have faced a Germany-dominated Europe at a later date on its own terms, instead of rushing in unprepared, which led to catastrophic costs.
"Britain could indeed have lived with a German victory. What's more, it would have been in Britain's interests to stay out in 1914," he said before a documentary based on his book The Pity of War, which will be screened by BBC2 as part of the broadcaster's centenary season.
The Laurence A Tisch professor of history at Harvard University rejected the idea that Britain was forced to act in 1914 to secure its borders and the Channel ports. "This argument, which is very seductive, has one massive flaw in it, which is that Britain tolerated exactly that situation happening when Napoleon overran the European continent, and did not immediately send land forces to Europe. It wasn't until the peninsular war that Britain actually deployed ground forces against Napoleon. So strategically, if Britain had not gone to war in 1914, it would still have had the option to intervene later, just as it had the option to intervene after the revolutionary wars had been under way for some time."
It was remarkable, he said, that Britain intervened on land so early in 1914, when quite unprepared.
"Creating an army more or less from scratch and then sending it into combat against the Germans was a recipe for disastrous losses. And if one asks whether this was the best way for Britain to deal with the challenge posed by imperial Germany, my answer is no.
"Even if Germany had defeated France and Russia, it would have had a pretty massive challenge on its hands trying to run the new German-dominated Europe and would have remained significantly weaker than the British empire in naval and financial terms. Given the resources that Britain had available in 1914, a better strategy would have been to wait and deal with the German challenge later when Britain could respond on its own terms, taking advantage of its much greater naval and financial capability."

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Corporatism and Gay Marriage: Natural Bedfellows

One of the truer sayings that comes down to us is that “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Coalitions form and dissolve according to changing political winds and tides, and at times temporary partnerships are forged that are at best amusing, at worst, incoherent. The home-schooling movement has brought together anarchist hippies and conservative Christians; libertarians and social conservatives have spent some time shacked up together in their common animus against the activist liberal State; today, Catholics and evangelicals often find themselves manning the barricades against the HHS mandate. The list is long and sometimes amusing if not jarring.
One of the more remarkable partnerships that is least remarked upon today is the coalition that has formed around the effort to advance gay marriage—namely, left-leaning gay activists and corporations. If any political antipathy seemed to be permanent and unchangeable, one would have believed that it would be the Left’s hatred of the Corporation. Corporations, by the Left’s telling, represent almost everything that is wrong in contemporary America—crony capitalism, structural inequality, environmental degradation, worker indignity—in short, legalized immorality. Occupy Wall Street designated the corporation as Enemy #1, and the Left generally begins foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of Citizens United as, effectively, a coup by corporate America against democracy.
Yet, generally unremarked upon has been the deep friendliness between the Left and corporations in the most burning issue of the day (according to the Grammy Awards at least)—gay marriage. It has been particularly noticeable to me as a recently transplanted Hoosier, given recent efforts to defeat the proposed amendment banning gay-marriage in Indiana by a combination of Left gay-activists and corporations. To the extent that the amendment has run into trouble, it has been arguably because of the concerted resistance not by the activist Left—who were always going to have limited traction with an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature—but corporations.
Here is what those corporations are saying: “A ban would tell talented workers to stay out of Indiana.” According to Marya Rose, chief administrative officer for Indiana-based company Cummins, “If we have a climate in our state that makes people feel unwelcome in any way, we think that’s bad for Cummins, and we think that’s bad for business.” Similar arguments have been made by Nike in Oregon and General Mills in Minnesota. In New York, the push for legal recognition of gay marriage received major financial backing from some of the oft-denounced “wolves” of Wall Street—many of them prominent in conservative circles, especially Paul E. Singer, chairman of the conservative think-tank the Manhattan Institute. In Indiana, a coalition combining gay activists and corporations has been formed under the banner, “Freedom Indiana.”
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Media Blacks Out New Snowden Interview The Government Doesn’t Want You to See

This past Sunday evening former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sat down for an interview with German television network ARD. The interview has been intentionally blocked from the US public, with virtually no major broadcast news outlets covering this story. In addition, the video has been taken down almost immediately every time it’s posted on YouTube.

In contrast, this was treated as a major political event in both print and broadcast media, in Germany, and across much of the world. In the interview, Mr. Snowden lays out a succinct case as to how these domestic surveillance programs undermines and erodes human rights and democratic freedom.

He states that his “breaking point” was “seeing Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress” denying the existence of a domestic spying programs while under questioning in March of last year. Mr. Snowden goes on to state that, “The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public.”

It seems clear that the virtual blackout of this insightful interview is yet another deliberate attempt to obfuscate the truth from the view of the American public. The media has continually attempted to shill the official government lies about mass domestic surveillance programs, justifying them as necessary to fight the “War on Terror”, while attempting to painting Mr. Snowden as a traitor.

In regards to accusations that he is a traitor or a foreign agent, he states, “ If I am traitor, who did I betray? I gave all my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues. If they see that as treason, I think people really need to consider who they think they’re working for. The public is supposed to be their boss, not their enemy. Beyond that as far as my personal safety, Ill never be fully safe until these systems have changed.”

The attempt to bury this interview by the government/corporate symbiosis has extremely dark implications. Additionally, the fact that government officials have openly talked about assassinating Mr. Snowden cannot be taken lightly, and Mr. Snowden obviously takes these threats to his life very seriously. Sadly, the reality of the US government assassinating an American citizen is not beyond the realm of possibility in the age we live in.

For Full Article, go to:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Self-Esteem Über Alles

Self-Esteem Über Alles

As the civil-rights movement settles into stagnation and one nostrum after the next fails to move the needle, public rituals celebrating the faith have become de rigueur. Nowhere is this religion-like activity more visible than when people beseech prestige universities to open their doors for more blacks and graduate them by hook or by crook. The college diploma has taken on a magical quality, the ticket to the middle class as if “the middle class” were an exclusive club requiring a BA to get by the doorman. That this give-us-a-diploma mania has been going on for decades with little to show for it makes scant difference—gotta keep the faith.
The latest public ceremony occurred on January 16, 2014. Here President Obama, egged on by First Lady Michelle, held a daylong White House “summit” attended by scores of college presidents, corporate heads, and nonprofit leaders. As the price of admission, all participants were obligated to bring a plan to increase minority college enrollments. 
It was axiomatically assumed that intellectually talented black high-school students abound but that top colleges ignore them. Furthermore, these potential college graduates were allegedly often clueless regarding the admission process. Particularly odious according to the president were standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT that impede access to top schools. (In the civil-rights lingo, when blacks cannot pass a test, it is “a barrier.”) The president called for doubling of the National College Advising Corps where recent college graduates help students in “underserved” high schools complete the college admission process. He also advocated hiring new advisers and subsidizing college prep classes routinely available to rich white and Asian students.
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TOO MANY FIRES BURNING: Why Emerging Markets Are Tanking

EM currencies versus Treasury yields

Around the world, emerging markets are tumbling. Their currencies are getting slammed and equity markets are selling off.
There are a combination of factors behind the sell-off, including the slowdown in China, unwinding of carry trades, domestic political issues, and monetary policy of the world's biggest central banks.
But the escape from emerging markets (EM) has been brewing for a while.
Investors have been shifting out of EM since mid-2013, when long-term interest rates began rising in the U.S. as the Federal Reserve primed the marketplace for a long-awaited reduction in monetary stimulus.
Much of the inflows into EM assets in recent years were predicated on a search for yield in the absence of any in developed markets. But as U.S. interest rates have risen in recent months, there has been less and less of a justification to be invested in EM, and those flows have begun to reverse.
Since the beginning of 2014, however, U.S. Treasury yields have reversed course from multi-year highs and have fallen swiftly. Yet EM currencies have continued to tumble, breaking the relationship with Treasury yields established in 2013, as Chart 1 shows.
And while rising Treasury yields have proven to be a challenge for EM, falling yields in the past week or so have become even more toxic, given the environment in which that drop in yields has occurred.
Disappointing manufacturing data out of China last week and grim headlines on developments in the country's shadow banking system were enough to spark the unwind of levered bets in the hedge fund community that had become too one-sided.
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Students Should Be Tested More, Not Less

Testing is terrible for learning, destroys student and teacher morale, and impedes opportunities for productive, meaningful teaching. This oft-repeated axiom has become accepted as true without proof. Opposition to testing and all its associated ills has led to an over-generalization of the word “test” and an unwarranted reputation as the embodiment of all that is wrong with American education.
One researcher believes we are throwing a very effective learning tool out with our educational bathwater, and asserts that we should be testing students more, not less.
Henry L. Roediger III, a cognitive psychologist at Washington University, studies how the brain stores, and later retrieves, memories. He compared the test results of students who used common study methods—such as re-reading material, highlighting, reviewing and writing notes, outlining material and attending study groups—with the results from students who were repeatedly tested on the same material. When he compared the results, Roediger found, “Taking a test on material can have a greater positive effect on future retention of that material than spending an equivalent amount of time restudying the material.” Remarkably, this remains true “even when performance on the test is far from perfect and no feedback is given on missed information.”

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Why 1 in 7 U.S. Couples Are “Marrying out”

Today, one in seven new marriages in the United States is between people of different races or ethnicities, according to analysis of U.S. Census data by the Pew Research Center.
These stats hold special meaning for online daters, who are casting wider nets in their search for the perfect match. People open to marrying outside their race or ethnicity “have a bigger pool to choose from, and it’s good to have more options,” says Brian G. from Hoboken, NJ, the first of 10 siblings to marry someone who doesn’t share the same ethnic background as his family. He admits that his mother was hesitant at first, but softened as soon as she met her future daughter-in-law. In fact, most Americans are cool with the idea of a family member “marrying out” — a phrase that now sounds almost moldy to modern ears. In fact, 6 out of 10 people interviewed for the Pew study said “it would be fine” with them if a family member announced plans to marry someone from any of three major races and/or ethnic groups other than their own.
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The Market is Taking Over Sweden’s Health Care

While contemporary mythology has it otherwise, the market is not a distinct phenomenon: it is what exists when people interact and otherwise voluntarily transact with each other. The broad definition of the market is simply what people (choose to) do when they are not forced to do otherwise. So it is not surprising that even the Soviet Union, “despite” its anti-market rhetoric, fundamentally relied on markets: foreign markets for prices to guide planners’ economic calculation, and domestic black markets for resource allocation and goods distribution according to people’s real needs and preferences. The black market, indeed, was “a major structural feature” of the Soviet economy.

In other words, we should expect to see markets wherever governments fail. Or, to put it more accurately, markets exist where government cannot sufficiently repress or otherwise crowd out voluntary exchange.

So it should be no surprise that, as The Local reports, Swedes en masse get private health care insurance on the side of the failing welfare systems. This is indirectly a result of the relatively vast liberalization of the Swedish economy over the course of the past 20 years (as I have noted here and here), which has resulted in the “experimental” privatization of several hospitals (even one emergency hospital is privately owned). While previously only the political elite (primarily, members of the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament) had access to private health care through insurance, the country now sees a blossoming and healthy insurance market.

Private health care insurance was initially offered to employees as part of employers’ benefits packages, since this ensured direct access to care when needed, and a faster return to work. This trend was easily recognizable in service sectors heavily dependent on the skill and knowledge of individual employees. Working as a professional consultant in Sweden in the late 1990s and 2000s, I personally experienced and benefited from such private health care insurance through my employer. This type of very affordable insurance provided same-day appointment with GPs and specialists alike, whereas going to the public hospital would have entailed waiting in line during the overcrowded “open access” times or waits of perhaps a week or more to see a GP.

My experience is first-hand with both alternatives, and they were at the time as different as night and day. While talking heads in the media cried out that private insurance created a “fast track” for “the rich,” the net effect for the already overwhelmed public health care system was relief through decreased demand. As we should expect from any shift toward market, everybody was ultimately better off thanks to this (limited) marketization of Swedish health care (perhaps excepting bureaucrats who previously enjoyed the power to directly control health care).

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Downgraded: Insurance Companies Taste Wrath of ObamaCare

Another day, another dose of bad news for ObamaCare. On Thursday, Moody’s Investor Service announced it was downgrading its outlook for America’s healthcare insurance sector from “stable” to “negative,” due to ObamaCare. “While all of these issues had been on our radar screen as we approached 2014, a new development and a key factor for the change in outlook is the unstable and evolving regulatory environment under which the sector is operating,” Moody’s said. “Notably, new regulations and presidential announcements over the last several months with respect to the ACA have imposed operational changes well after product and pricing decisions had been finalized.”
Moody’s is being polite. It is no secret that President Obama has made unilateral and constitutionally suspect decisions to postpone or alter major sections of the law. His ham-fisted attempts to mitigate the political damage attending the disastrous website rollout, and his oft-repeated lie that Americans could keep their insurance policies and doctors, has wreaked havoc on insurers struggling to keep up with the massive fiscal adjustments those decisions engendered.
Moody’s also cited the the lack of enrollment by younger, healthier Americans needed to keep the healthcare plan fiscally viable as another reason for the downgrade. “Uncertainty over the demographics of those enrolling in individual products through the exchanges is a key factor in Moody’s outlook change,” the ratings agency added.
Moody’s must be referring to uncertainty going forward, because it’s not uncertain as to what the demographic totals are so far. On January 13, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) announced that only 24 percent of Americans signing up for ObamaCare were part of the coveted youth demographic. That’s well below the 39 percent the White House contended was necessary for the law to work. They also revealed that as of Dec. 28, the totalnumber of signups for ObamaCare had reached 2.2 million, well below the 3.3 million they had targeted to sign up by that time.
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A Discredited Supreme Court Ruling That Still, Technically, Stands

Launch media viewer

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States was a disaster. In endorsing an executive order that required 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry to be removed from their homes and confined in detention camps, the court relied on wartime hysteria streaked with racism, sullying its reputation and damaging the constitutional principles it was meant to uphold.
Justice Antonin Scalia has rankedKorematsu alongside Dred Scott, the 1857 decision that black slaves were property and not citizens, as among the court’s most shameful blunders.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer has written that Korematsu has lost all potency as precedent. “The decision has been so thoroughly discredited,” he wrote in a recent book, “that it is hard to conceive of any future court referring to it favorably or relying on it.”
But Korematsu has never been overruled.
Calls for the Supreme Court to renounce the ruling started almost immediately after it was issued, and have persisted for 70 years. “Public expiation in the case of the internment of Japanese Americans from the West Coast would be good for the court, and for the country,” Eugene V. Rostow wrote in 1945 in The Yale Law Journal.
The jurisprudential problem for the court is that it needs a proper setting in which to overrule a decision. It rules on live controversies, and the mass detention of citizens has not arisen again.
The failure to make a definitive statement may also reflect a lack of judicial creativity. The court can say what it likes about its earlier rulings, and it would cost nothing but ink to say something about Korematsu.

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The fanaticism of liberals

I never wanted to be a conservative growing up. Conservatives always lose. They’re the ones stumbling around, unable to organize themselves, while liberals sweep in with a single-mindedness that overwhelms the opposition.
As life went on, I came to distrust single-mindedness. It’s a condition not unlike being an insect. One is made inherently fanatical by single-mindedness, and oblivious to nuance, depth and aesthetics. There is simply the goal. The body, soul, life itself, nature, etc. all become means to an end.
Conservatives always lose because a conservative — like any normal person — has 500 things on her agenda. There’s repairs to the house, get the youngest kid a bike, make dinner, get the dog to the vet, etc. Liberals always win because they have one thing on their agenda, and they sacrifice everything else: promote liberalism.
Even more, liberalism is a bone-simple philosophy. It’s egalitarianism. The individual comes before reality or hierarchy, and to achieve this, we must all be “equal.” What does equal mean? Nobody knows; it means whatever is convenient for it to mean. Thus if there is ever an achievement of the goal, the goalposts can be moved to keep the jihad going.
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Evolution & The Culture War

The reader Thursday commented on an earlier thread:
I believe evolution by natural selection is true, but the evolution wars are mostly about symbolism. Most people who say they believe in evolution would be aghast at the actual implications of the theory. Devoted followers of Steve Sailer they ain’t.
That link takes you to a 1999 Steve Sailer piece in which he observed that many on the left embrace Darwinian evolution not so much because Science as because it gives them a point of view with which to bash the troglodytes of Jesusland. Excerpts:
Although the Darwinian demolition of Old Testament fundamentalism was logically irrelevant to the question of whether all souls are of equal value to God, it made the whole of Christianity seem outdated. Thereafter the prestige of evolutionary biology encouraged egalitarians to discard that corny creed of spiritual equality – and to adopt the shiny new scientific hypotheses that humans are physically and mentally uniform. And that eventually put Darwinian science on a collision course with progressive egalitarians.
For Darwinism requires hereditary inequalities.
The left fears Darwinian science because its dogma of our factual equality cannot survive the relentlessly accumulating evidence of our genetic variability. Gould, a famous sports nut, cannot turn on his TV without being confronted by lean East Africans outdistancing the world’s runners, massive Samoans flattening quarterbacks, lithe Chinese diving and tumbling for gold medals, or muscular athletes of West African descent out-sprinting, out-jumping, and out-hitting all comers. No wonder Gould is reduced to insisting we chant: “Say it five times before breakfast tomorrow: … Human equality is a contingent fact of history” — like Dorothy trying to get home from Oz.
Darwin did not dream up the Theory of Evolution. Many earlier thinkers, like his grandfather Erasmus Darwin and the great French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck, had proposed various schemes of gradual changes in organisms. Darwin’s great contribution was the precise engine of evolution: selection. Lamarck, for example, had believed that giraffes possess long necks because their ancestors had stretched their necks to reach higher leaves. This stretching somehow caused their offspring to be born with longer necks. Darwin, however, argued that the proto-giraffes who happened to be born with longer necks could eat more and thus left behind more of their longer-necked children than the proto-giraffes unlucky enough to be born with shorter necks.
And what selection selects are genetic differences. In “The Descent of Man,” Darwin wrote, “Variability is the necessary basis for the action of selection.”

As Sailer points out, it is perfectly possible to reconcile the spiritual and moral equality of humanity with what science tells us is true about human biological variability. The problem, I think, is that we humans are bad at this. Given the history of the 20th century, I flat-out don’t trust our species to handle the knowledge of human biodiversity without turning it into an ideology of dehumanization, racism, and at worst, genocide. Put another way, I am hostile to this kind of thing not because I believe it’s probably false, but because I believe a lot of it is probably true — and we have shown that we, by our natures, can’t handle this kind of truth. We will use it to construct ideologies that justify inhumanity with the authority of Science.
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Google+, ‘Candy Crush’ Show Risk of Leakiest Apps

Revelations that the National Security Agency is tapping smartphone applications to mine personal information highlight the risk millions take every day when they play games, schedule lunch or check the weather.
Documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to theNew York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica show the U.S. and U.K. have infiltrated mobile software for details about users’ comings and goings and social affiliations. Among the so-called leaky apps with the greatest privacy perils are Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Google Plus, Pinterest Inc.’s online bulletin board and “Candy Crush Saga,” the most popular game on Facebook Inc. (FB), according to an analysis by Zscaler Inc.
“Privacy is dead in the digital world that we live in,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at San Jose, California-based Zscaler. “I tell people, unless you are comfortable putting that statement on a billboard in Times Square and having everyone see it, I would not share that information digitally.”
The latest disclosures from Snowden underscore how vast a treasure trove mobile apps are, and not only for the advertisers that sweep them for consumer data. Zscaler’s analysis found that 96 percent of the top 25 social-networking apps request e-mail access, 92 percent ask for access to users’ address books and 84 percent inquire about their physical locations. Sutton said most people give the apps what they want.
No Encryption

Applications for smartphones and tablets present a challenge when it comes to security because, unlike with computer software, most apps depend almost entirely on ads to make money.
While technology companies often encrypt what they collect to shield it from prying eyes, the advertising services they work with frequently don’t, said Kevin Mahaffey, co-founder and chief technology officer of Lookout Inc. in San Francisco.
Lookout studied 30,000 apps a day this month and found that 38 percent of those for Android systems could determine locations, that half could access the unique code assigned to a person’s device and that 15 percent could grab phone numbers.
The reach of apps, and of the networks advertisers use to pass data around, make them natural eavesdropping targets and are aiding a shift in the focus of surveillance efforts away from personal computers, Mahaffey said.
“They have a lot of valuable information and they’re everywhere,” he said. “Everyone from the NSA to Microsoft to Google see mobile as the future.”
Google, based in Mountain View, California, declined to comment and referred to a statement from the Application Developers Alliance, a trade group to which it belongs.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pope Francis Calls upon the Nations of the World to Welcome Immigrants

The pope recalled International Migrants Day, expressing the hope that countries would welcome migrants keeping the values of their culture of origin.
“What does it mean for the Church, for us, today, to be disciples of Jesus the Lamb of God?” Francis asked at St. Peter’s Square. “It means replacing malice with innocence, force with love, pride with humility, prestige with service,” he replied. “We Christians have to do a good job,” Francis added.
“Being disciples of the Lamb means not living as if we were a ‘besieged citadel,’ but as a city set on a mountain, open, welcoming and supportive. It means not assume an attitude of closure, but bringing the Gospel to all , bearing witness with our lives that following Jesus makes us freer and more joyful,” Francis explained.
“The word ‘lamb’ comes up a number of times in the New Testament and always in reference to Jesus.
“This image of the lamb,” Pope Francis said, “might surprise; an animal not known for its strength and robustness takes upon its shoulders an oppressive burden. The enormous mass of evil is removed and taken away by a weak and fragile creature that is a symbol of obedience, docility and helpless love, which arrives at a self- sacrifice. The lamb is not a dominator, but docile; it is not aggressive, but peaceful; it does not bear its claws or teeth in the face of attack but puts up with it and is submissive.”
The Pope addressed migrants and refugees following the Angelus. “Today is the International Migrants Day, which this year has the theme ” Migrants and refugees: Towards a better world,” which the pontiff developed into a Message a few months ago.
“I extend a special greeting,” Francis added, “to the representatives of various ethnic communities gathered here, in particular the Catholic community in Rome. Dear friends, you are close to the heart of the Church, because the Church is a people on a journey towards the Kingdom of God that Jesus Christ has brought into our midst. Do not lose hope for a better future!” the Pope told migrants.
“I hope you live in peace in countries that welcome you, keeping the values of your culture of origin. At this time,” he concluded, “we think of so many migrants, those without documents, without work, we think of their suffering. And we think of those who are committed to defending them from those who Blessed Scalabrini called ‘the merchants of human flesh.’ ”
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The world's most ancient Christian communities are being destroyed — and no one cares

Egyptian Coptic Christians mourn during a mass funeral in 2011.

Like many Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ayman Nabil Labib had a tattoo of the cross on his wrist. And like 17-year-old men everywhere, he could be assertive about his identity. But in 2011, after Egypt's revolution, that kind of assertiveness could mean trouble.
Ayman's Arabic-language teacher told him to cover his tattoo in class. Instead of complying, the young man defiantly pulled out the cross that hung around his neck, making it visible. His teacher flew into a rage and began choking him, goading the young man's Muslim classmates by saying, "What are you going to do with him?"
Ayman's classmates then beat him to death. False statements were given to police, and two boyswere taken into custody only after Ayman's terror-stricken family spoke out.
Ayman's suffering is not an isolated case in Egypt or the region.
The Arab Spring, and to a lesser extent the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, were touted as the catalysts for a major historic shift in the region. From Egypt to Syria to Iraq, the Middle East's dictatorships would be succeeded by liberal, democratic regimes. Years later, however, there is very little liberality or democracy to show. Indeed, what these upheavals have bequeathed to history is a baleful, and barely noticed legacy: The near-annihilation of the world's most ancient communities of Christians.
The persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East, as well as the silence with which it has been met in the West, are the subject of journalist Ed West's Kindle Single "The Silence of Our Friends." The booklet is a brisk and chilling litany of horrors: Discriminatory laws, mass graves, unofficial pogroms, and exile. The persecuted are not just Coptic and Nestorian Christians who have relatively few co-communicants in the West, but Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants as well.

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‘The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Seen’

June 28, 1914, Sarajevo, Bosnia. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the multinational Habsburg realms, resplendent in the dress uniform of an Austrian cavalry general, but also absurd in his plumed headdress, was shot at close range by Gavrilo Princip, a local student dropout obsessed with the Serbian national cause. Sarajevo was one of history’s most purple passages: there was the drama of bungled security and hamfisted conspiracy; spectacle and gore; the play of intention and chance; the clash of generations and civilizations, of the old monarchical Europe and the modern terrorist cell.
But of course the Sarajevo assassination captivates posterity for its consequences. Piqued in its prestige and fearful of the threat to its status as a great power by subversion fanned from Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian government delivered an ultimatum to its obstreperous little Balkan neighbor, demanding a say in the management of its internal affairs.
Russia stepped in to protect its Serbian clients; the Germans supported their Austrian allies; the French marched to fulfill their treaty obligations to Russia; Great Britain honored its commitment to come to the aid of France. Within five weeks a great war had broken out. At the very least, this is a gripping tale. Sean McMeekin’s chronicle of these weeks in July 1914: Countdown to War is almost impossible to put down.
Thus was unleashed the calamitous conflict that, more than any other series of events, has shaped the world ever since; without it we can doubt that communism would have taken hold in Russia, fascism in Italy, and Nazism in Germany, or that global empires would have disintegrated so rapidly and so chaotically. A century on we still search for its causes, and very often, if possible, for people to blame. In the immediate aftermath of war that seemed clear to many: Germany, and especially its leaders, had been responsible; the Austrians too, as accomplices, in lesser degree. The Treaty of Versailles made this official, as the victorious powers there spoke of a “war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” This was the notorious guilt clause used to justify severe “reparation” payments stretching far into the future. It was a widespread view, and ordinary Germans might have shared it if the vanquishers had not gone for the premise of collective responsibility, which undermined attempts to build a fresh German regime untainted by the past.
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Matt Drudge Issues Warning: “Have An Exit Plan”

Matt Drudge
His web site may consist of just a single page, but Matt Drudge is arguably the most influential media personality in the world. Garnering nearly one billion readers monthly, the Drudge Report is able to literally shift public sentiment, making it an essential read for D.C. insiders, Wall Street professionals, and anyone who wants to stay on top of the latest global issues.
If Matt Drudge headlines a story its viral spread to millions of readers in near real-time is guaranteed.
With his established connections to critical spheres of influence that include everything from politics and government to finance and entertainment, when Drudge speaks, people listen.
Over the weekend, as noted by Steve Quayle and Susan Duclos, the self made media behemoth took to his Twitter account with a simple warning consisting of just four words… Have an Exit Plan
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Minorities Rising

Minorities Rising

Amy Chua, the Chinese Mom America Loves to Hate, follows up her 2011 bestseller The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother with a new book coauthored with her more laid-back husband and fellow Yale Law School professor Jed Rubenfeld: The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America. Their essential point is that being a minority in 21st-century America can be a pretty sweet deal.
A few years ago, I came up with the idea for a sitcom called Korean Mother-in-Law, about a nice Stuff White People Like white guy (picture Joaquin Phoenix in Her) who has to live with his (wait for it) Korean mother-in-law, who regularly punctures his liberal American delusions with her bleak, Malthusian cackling.
Chua, however, more or less beat me to this shtick with Tiger Mother.
But it’s probably just as well, since Korean Mother-in-Law would have been the lowest rated show ever, judging by how only Charles Murray and I noticed that Tiger Mother was awfully funny. Most of the press, which is heavily driven by the primal resentments of Jewish women writers and editors, was outraged by Chua’s act. First, she steals our husbands, and then she steals our children’s spots at Harvard!
Now Chua has gone back to the theme of her first book, World on Fire: market-dominant minorities.
Here in America, we assume that discussions of minorities, ethnic and/or sexual, controlling certain industries is just conspiracy theory crazy talk. But in many countries that don’t have long histories of intelligent nationalism, a majority of business assets actually are owned by enterprising but insular outsiders, such as the Lebanese in some West African countries or the Chinese in Southeast Asia.
Chua herself comes from a family of Overseas Chinese who got rich in the Philippines. This hasn’t made them popular with the locals. When her aunt was murdered in Manila by a native servant, the Filipino police made only nugatory efforts to track down their compadre.
Market-dominant minorities understand that it’s crucial to stay close to the centers of power to protect them from the masses.

David Pilling: The rise and fall and rise of Japan by Jonathan Derbyshire

After the deluge: Japan’s response to the 2011 tsunami demonstrated its enduring strengths ©PA

David Pilling is the Asia Editor of the Financial Times. He was its Tokyo Bureau Chief from 2002-2008 and he has drawn on his time in Japan in his new book, “Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival” (Allen Lane, £20). Pilling’s book begins and ends with the earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan in March 2011. But the story he tells is a much bigger one: of Japan’s ability to overcome “successive waves of adversity from would-be Mongolian invasions to repeated natural disasters”. Japan’s national genius, Pilling implies, lies in the art of recovery. I talked to him during his recent visit to London from Hong Kong.

JD: The title of your book, Bending Adversity, comes from a Japanese proverb about turning bad fortune into good. But this doesn’t just give you a title does it? It’s your organising metaphor too.

DP: It’s a sort of organising principle, yes. After the tsunami, I called an old friend of mine, someone who’d been a vice-governor of the Bank of Japan, and he quoted this saying to me. It says something like, “Make the best of a bad situation.” I wanted a more literal transition and I came up with: “Bend adversity and turn it into fortune.” I thought this was an interesting way of organising a book that was going to start and finish with the tsunami.

People have often thought of Japan as a place where nothing changes until there’s a huge crisis and then everything changes. The two data points, as Bill Emmott memorably put it in a review of my book, are the Meiji Restoration, where Japan ripped up feudalism and established a parliamentary democracy of sorts in a very short space of time, and the second was ditching its attempt to become a “great power” by building up an empire and changed to becoming a “great power” through economic development. But even the feudal Japan that preceded the Meiji Restoration had actually been changing in all sorts of ways already—this was not just some static, feudal society that had been ever thus. And so it was primed for adversity. It was ready. So when adversity came it could move quite quickly. I think that’s a more sensible way of looking Japan. Another way that people tend to talk about Japan is to see it as change-averse. But I think it is adaptive. It adapts and changes like many other societies do.

This point about Japan’s way of bending with, or adapting to, adversity is also central to your account of the so-called “lost decades” of the 1990s and 2000s. You suggest that those years weren’t quite as lost as the standard story makes out. Do you think the way Japan has dealt with years of apparent economic stagnation is a kind of object-lesson for the west, as it contemplates the possibility that it too might now be mired in what some economists have been calling “secular”, or long-term, stagnation?

I think Japan has done better than people think, but the idea that it’s any kind of model is way over done. It did make some serious policy mistakes, one being to allow deflation to take such a grip. Certainly, it has to some extent been in what is called a “deflationary equilibrium” in which, in some senses, living standards have been preserved and real growth per capita has been at western levels or thereabouts. Just to step back a bit: we greatly exaggerated the threat posed by this astonishing economy that was emerging in the 1980s and was supposed to be going to overtake America. If we didn’t organise our own companies on Japanese lines, with people bowing and singing company songs, they were going to smash the hell out of us. That was the ridiculous story in the Eighties.

The ridiculous story we’ve been given in more recent years is that everything Japan did was wrong and inevitably led to this stagnant, non-changing, non-adaptive society. But neither of those stories was true. They’re both exaggerations and one is perhaps a reaction to the other. So I think the last 20 years [of Japanese] history needs to be reassessed.

As for whether Japan is a model or not—a lesson from Japan is the danger of bubbles. You could argue that Japan is still getting over a bubble that burst in 1990. Companies have built up massive savings post-bubble and because they’re sitting on all these savings, there’s a huge problem for Japanese demand, which has had to be filled by the government. I think Japan should have dealt with all this earlier and more radically.

Does it follow from you said about the danger of bubbles that the reasons for Japanese decline in the Nineties aren’t distinctive or specific to Japan? In other words, was this just a textbook case of irrational exuberance?

I think there’s a lot in that. There may be other factors as well. For instance, Japan’s demography began to change in the 1990s. I would also add that, after the Second World War, Japan had a very good catch-up model, the best the world had ever seen—a model of how to move from being a poorish country to one as rich as many European countries and catching up with American living standards in terms of GDP per capita. It was based on manufacturing, on continually improving the manufacturing process, making things westerners made but making them better. It was brilliant at that. But that model has run out of steam in the digital age. It’s adapted less well to the digital world where systems, openness and integration have become more important. The classic case is Sony. It had this brilliant product, the Walkman, which revolutionised the way we listened to music. It had all the technology to produce something like the iPod and it never did, because it was stuck in this engineering mindset.

Certainly Japan’s strengths in the catch-up phase are still important, and probably underrated even today, but the world has moved on and Japan has not necessarily moved on as quickly as it ought to have done. There are exceptions to that—there are interesting things going on—but certainly Japan is no longer the powerhouse it was in the manufacturing, analogue age.

The book has a wide historical sweep. A crucial part of the story you’re telling is the Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 19th century, what one might describe as Japan’s entry into modernity.

Japan looked at China, the great power that it had looked up to for centuries, and it saw it being chopped up like a melon. A small British contingent brought the Chinese empire to its knees. And so the modernist thinkers in Japan—among them Fukuzawa Yukichi—came to the conclusion that Japan needed to embrace the west, to learn from it. Fukuzawa was one of the most subtle thinkers of the time. There were those who thought Japan had to learn the tricks of the west in order to repel it. Fukuzawa was more subtle: he said, no, the west is about rational thought and scientific discovery. He thought Japan needed an enlightenment. But you could argue that his hope has never fully been fulfilled. The two important data points that I mentioned earlier—the Meiji Restoration and the postwar economic recovery—were both revolutions imposed from above. In the first instance, a clique of Samurai decided that Japan needed to rejuvenate, because otherwise it was going to be overrun. And then the change after the Second World War was ushered in by the Americans.

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‘NYT’ publishes Holocaust trivia on front page

"Book" with word Jew printed 6 million times
“Book” with word Jew printed 6 million times
There’s a lot going on in the Middle East, but what is important for readers in the engine-room of the American empire? The New York Times ran a frontpage storyyesterday by Jodi Rudoren titled “Holocaust Told in One Word, 6 Million Times”on a “book” published in Israel that seeks to memorialize victims of the Holocaust by printing the word “Jew” 6 million times over 1250 pages.
The Times’ Jerusalem correspondent flashes shoe-leather:
The book, more art than literature, consists of the single word “Jew,” in tiny type, printed six million times to signify the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust. It is meant as a kind of coffee-table monument of memory, a conversation starter and thought provoker….
“That’s how the Nazis viewed their victims: These are not individuals, these are not people, these are just a mass we have to exterminate.
“Now get closer, put on your reading glasses, and pick a ‘Jew,’ ” [originator of book, Phil] Chernofsky continued. “That Jew could be you. Next to him is your brother. Oh, look, your uncles and aunts and cousins and your whole extended family. A row, a line, those are your classmates. Now you get lost in a kind of meditative state where you look at one word, ‘Jew,’ you look at one Jew, you focus on it and then your mind starts to go because who is he, where did he live, what did he want to do when he grew up?”
Had enough? We read it so you don’t have to.
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El Salvador: A War By Proxy
Keith Preston, Black House Publishing, 145 Pages
Available for purchase from Amazon here

Reviewed by Gilbert Cavanaugh

A few weeks ago, I was reading Sam Francis'sEssential Writings on Race at work, and a co-worker I knew to be an anarchist gave the book a queer look and asked about it. As you might imagine, our conversation did not proceed pleasantly. At one point I asked him what he made of the blood-and-soil movements left-wingers seem sympathetic to, such as the Zapatistas in Central America or the Basques in the Iberian Peninsula. He gave a non-answer, and the conversation petered out.

Although experience has taught me to expect exactly the above (or worse) from anarchists I personally encounter, Keith Preston is an unapologetic and admirable exception. As a National Anarchist, he respects the desires of all anti-globalist dissidents, and has now spent several years devoting himself to the thankless task of trying to organize them into a united anti-System front. After spending some time bouncing from one dissident website to another (e.g.. Takimag andLewRockwell), he became a mainstay on Alternative Right, and then founded his own website Attack the System. He is also a regular at the H.L. Mencken Club, hasspoken at NPI events, and is all over the Reason Radio Network, both interviewing and being interviewed.

Likely his most famous work (which I cannot recommend too highly) is his essay, "Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy," which won him the 2008 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize. Both the above essay, and Mr. Preston's work in general, possess a unique way of tackling issues in a very thorough and direct manner, always employing facts instead of hearsay and following the logic of arguments to their natural end. His ability to stay level headed likely contributes to his methodological way of deconstructing left-wing perspectives on this or that issue. An impressive author, through and through. But I was not asked to review Keith Preston himself, or his career, but to review his latest book, El Salvador: A War by Proxy

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you and me and hbd

continuing on from the other dayjamie bartlett and timothy stanley are flat-out wrong that human biodiversity (hbd) is “neo-fascist” “bad science.” human biodiversity is simply the diversity found among and between human populations that has a biological basis. that’s all. yes, that most likely includes some degree of biological variation affecting the measurable difference in intelligence between individuals and various populations, but it’s early days yet on that front, and we barely know what exactly that biological variation entails. i’m sure the chinese will let us know all about it soon enough.
bartlett is sorta right about one thing, though (see his fourth paragraphhere): that many who accept human biodiversity, many individuals on the political right, obsess over the racial differences in iq. he’s wrong to claim that the research that has found average differences in iq by race is pseudoscience, and he’s wrong to claim (indirectly as he does) that races don’t exist, but he is right about the obsess part.
now, i am the LAST person who should criticize anybody for obsessing about any one thing (see: most of this blog), but i’m going to anyway. if you accept that humans exhibit biologically based diversity, then you’d better be prepared to accept ALL of it. here’s the problem: too many of the people who obsess over the racial differences in iq DON’T want to accept — or often even think about! — OTHER facts, or possible facts, related to hbd. especially about their own kind.
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