Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

A "Victory" That Pulls Russia and China Closer Together. Nuland’s Ukrainian Mess by RAY McGOVERN

Washington’s role in the coup d’etat in Kiev on Feb. 22 has brought the U.S. a Pyrrhic victory, with the West claiming control of Ukraine albeit with a shaky grip that still requires the crushing of anti-coup rebels in the east. But the high-fiving may be short-lived once the full consequences of the putsch become clear.
What has made the “victory” so hollow is that the U.S.-backed ouster of elected President Viktor Yanukovych presented Russia’s leaders with what they saw as a last-straw-type deceit by the U.S. and its craven satellites in the European Union. Moscow has responded by making a major pivot East to enhance its informal alliance with China and thus strengthen the economic and strategic positions of both countries as a counterweight to Washington and Brussels.
In my view, this is the most important result of this year’s events in Ukraine, that they have served as a catalyst to more meaningful Russia-China rapprochement which has inched forward over the past several decades but now has solidified. The signing on May 21 of a 30-year, $400 billion natural gas deal between Russia and China is not only a “watershed event” – as Russian President Vladimir Putin  said – but carries rich symbolic significance.
The agreement, along with closer geopolitical cooperation between Beijing and Moscow, is of immense significance and reflects a judgment on the part of Russian leaders that the West’s behavior over the past two decades has forced the unavoidable conclusion that – for whatever reason – U.S. and European leaders cannot be trusted. Rather, they can be expected to press for strategic advantage through “regime change” and other “dark-side” tactics even in areas where Russia holds the high cards.
This Russian-Chinese rapprochement has been a gradual, cautious process – somewhat akin to porcupines mating, given the tense and sometimes hostile relations between the two neighbors dating back centuries and flaring up again when the two were rival communist powers.
Yet, overcoming that very bitter past, Russian President Putin – a decade ago – finalized an important agreement on very delicate border issues. He also signed an agreement on future joint development of Russian energy reserves. In October 2004, during a visit to Beijing, Putin claimed that relations between the two countries had reached “unparalleled heights.”
But talk is cheap – and progress toward a final energy agreement was intermittent until the Ukraine crisis. When Russia supported Crimea’s post-coup referendum to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, the West responded with threats of “sectoral sanctions” against Russia’s economy, thus injecting new urgency for Moscow to complete the energy agreement with China. The $400 billion gas deal – the culmination of ten-plus years of work – now has provided powerful substantiation to the Russia-China relationship.
Indeed, you could trace the evolution of this historic détente back to other Western provocations and broken promises. Six months before his 2004 visit to China, Putin watched NATO fold under its wings Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Five years before that, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic had become NATO members.
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Why Teaching Kids "Grit" Works. A teacher testifies.

As a teacher, I know that helping kids succeed academically, while absolutely essential, is only part of my job. Another equally important part is helping them develop the character strengths they need to overcome challenges and to be good people. For the past five years, I have made this my goal as a middle school teacher and administrator at KIPP Infinity Middle School, a public charter school in Harlem. 
So I read Jeffrey Aaron Snyder’s essay on KIPP’s character work with great interest. In the end, I found his criticisms unfounded. The program he describes does not resemble the one I see in action every day.
Snyder claims that KIPP teachers talk about character, but don’t make it relatable for students. In fact, the opposite is true, and I’m living proof. I immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua with my family when I was a child, and we lived below the poverty line. I wanted to go to college, but I knew it would be a huge challenge. So I worked as hard as I possibly could, and eventually graduated from Harvard. I then joined Teach For America, and ten years later, I’m still working in education.
So when I talk to my students about character, it’s not abstract. It’s personal. My students can identify, and they recognize how my journey might be similar to theirs. I’m always conscious that I’m leading by example, showing them what grit and optimism look like in real life. 
Snyder says that “we don’t know how to teach character.” This assumes that we’re looking at character in isolation, rather than as part of a student’s entire learning experience. I can share one example of a student who built character strengths through the classroom. This student had struggled all year with impulse control. His reading teacher placed him in a study group with a few other struggling students, and asked them to set goals for each other for the year. For this student, the experience clicked while reading the novel Hatchet, about a boy who gets stranded in the Canadian wilderness. The student recognized that both he and the protagonist had to shown grit and self-control to reach their goals. He was able to both articulate the character strengths needed to reach a goal, and also to describe how they applied to his life. 
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Who Owns America? What conservatives of the '30s teach left and right today about crony capitalism By RALPH NADER

illustration by Michael Hogue
There was a time in the Depression of the 1930s when conservative thought sprang from the dire concrete reality of that terrible era, not from abstractions.
They did not use the word “conservative” very often, preferring to call themselves “decentralists” or “agrarians.” Eclectic in background, they were columnists, poets, historians, literary figures, economists, theologians, and civic advocates. In 1936, Herbert Agar, a prominent author, foreign correspondent, and columnist for theLouisville Courier-Journal and Alan Tate, poet and social commentator, brought a selection of their writings together in a now nearly forgotten book: Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence.
In his 1999 foreword to the reissued edition, historian Edward S. Shapiro calledWho Owns America? “one of the most significant conservative books published in the United States during the 1930s” for its “message of demographic, political, and economic decentralization and the widespread ownership of property” in opposition “to the growth of corporate farming, the decay of the small town, and the expansion of centralized political and economic authority.”
It is not easy today to convey the intense belief of many activists and intellectuals in the ’30s concerning the necessity and inevitability of radical change. Among the best known are the different advocacies that swirled around Franklin Roosevelt’s liberal New Deal years. Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party’s frequent presidential candidate, was pushing FDR toward government health insurance, unemployment compensation, Social Security, and labor union rights.
Then there were the “spread the wealth” movements of popular figures like Sen. Huey Long and radio personalities like Father Coughlin and, in contrast, the Wall Streeters’ own challenge: the attempt to save capitalism from President Roosevelt, whom they called a “traitor to his class.”
In this mix, there was espoused a political economy for grassroots America that neither Wall Street nor the socialists nor the New Dealers would find acceptable. It came largely out of the agrarian South, casting a baleful eye on both Wall Street and Washington, D.C. To these decentralists, the concentrated power of bigness would produce its plutocratic injustices whether regulated through the centralization of political authority in Washington or left to its own cyclical failures. They were quite aware of both the corporate state fast maturing in Italy and Nazi Germany and the Marxists in the Soviet Union constructing another form of concentrated power with an ideology favoring centralized bigness in the state economy. They warned that either approach would produce unrestrained plutocracy and oligarchy.
Nor did they believe that a federal government with sufficient political authority to modestly tame the plutocracy and what they called “monopoly capitalism” could work because its struggle would end either in surrender or with the replacing of one set of autocrats with another. As Shapiro wrote in the foreword, “while the plutocrats wanted to shift control over property to themselves, the Marxists wanted to shift this control to government bureaucrats. Liberty would be sacrificed in either case. Only the restoration of the widespread ownership of property, Tate said, could ‘create a decent society in terms of American history.’”
Although the decentralists were dismissed by their critics as being impractical, as fighting against the inevitable wave of ever-larger industrial and financial companies empowered by modern technology, their views have a remarkable contemporary resonance given today’s globalized gigantism, absentee control, and intricate corporate statism, which are undermining both economies and workers.
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Global warming: the 97% fallacy

Are 97% of scientists really in agreement on climate change? Don’t bet on it.

It is the season of commencement addresses. A season when a generation with one foot in the grave offers advice to a generation with one foot in the nursery. A season of platitudes and conventional wisdom. A season of warm self-congratulation and fuzzy wisdom.
So when US secretary of state John Kerry told graduates at Boston College on 19 May that there is a scientific consensus on climate change, you wouldn’t expect him to footnote his sources. But he seized upon a specific figure – that 97 per cent of the world’s scientists believe that climate change threatens the future of the planet – and projected it as the Gospel truth.
His boss, President Barack Obama, was even more trenchant in his description of the problem. In a tweet on 17 May, he said: ‘Ninety-seven per cent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, manmade and dangerous. Read more: OFA.BO/gJsdFp.’
Ninety-seven per cent is a very specific number. Where does it come from?
Happily, Mr Obama did footnote his source: an article published last year in the journal Environmental Research Letters written by an Australian scientist at the University of Queensland, John Cook, and several colleagues. They were even more specific: ‘97.1 per cent [of scientists] endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.’

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NYC Mayor de Blasio bars media from dozens of events

From the first moments of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, when he initially declared his midnight swearing-in off limits to the media, he has established a record of frequently conducting public business in private, with dozens of events closed to the press.
In nearly five months in office, de Blasio barred the media from 53 events and limited access to 30 more, an Associated Press analysis of de Blasio's schedule shows. On a handful of days, his entire schedule was off limits. All told, more than 20 percent of his listed events were closed to the media.
Events in which reporters were notified of their existence but prevented from attending ranged from meetings with government figures such as the mayor of Seattle and Israel's minister of foreign affairs to sit-downs with the NBA commissioner, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Russian band Pussy Riot.
Often, the mayor's photographer later published images from those so-called private meetings, meaning that an official image of the event is the only one that exists.
It's a tactic President Barack Obama has also used while restricting access to events in the White House and around the world. Several news organizations, including the AP, refuse to distribute such handout images from Obama or de Blasio.
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Friday, May 30, 2014


As they face the midterm elections with the wind in their faces, Democrats increasingly stake their collective political future on the issue of inequality. The topic has great resonance, given the economy’s vast preponderance of benefits to the very rich and the almost obsessive focus on the issue by the mainstream media.
But if raising the class-warfare flag gives Democrats at least hope for avoiding a 2010-style shellacking, it also threatens to open up huge, and potentially irreconcilable, differences within the party. Unlike with social issues, where the party is relatively united, class divides threaten party unity by pitting its different constituencies against each other.
Today we can speak really of three Democratic parties, each with a separate class interest. Their divisions are as deep, perhaps more so, as that between the mainstream Republican Party and the Tea Party. As the Republicans are divided between Main Street grass-roots activists and the corporate “moderate” wing, the Democrats face potential schisms over a whole series of policies, from policing Wall Street to the environment, monetary policy and energy.
The Gentry Liberals
This group currently dominates the party, and have the least reason to object to the current administration’s performance. All in all, the gentry have generally done well in the recovery, benefiting from generally higher stock and real estate prices. They tend to reside in the affluent parts of coastal metropolitan areas, where Democrats now dominate.
The liberal gentry have been prime beneficiaries of key Obama policies, including ultra-low interest rates, the bailout of the largest financial institutions and its subsidization of “green” energy. Wall Street Democrats also profit from the expansion of government since, as Walter Russell Mead points out, so many make money from ever-expanding public debt.
What most marks the gentry, particularly in California, is their insensitivity to the impact of their policies on working-class and middle-class voters. They may support special breaks for the poor, but are in deep denial about how high energy and housing prices – in part due to “green” policies – are driving companies and decent-paying jobs from the state. The new “cap and trade” regime about to be implemented figures to push up gasoline and electricity prices for middle-income consumers, who, unlike the poor, have little chance of getting subsidies from Sacramento. High energy prices, one assumes, have less impact on the Bay Area or West Los Angeles Tesla- and BMW-driving oligarchy than to people living in the more extreme climate and spread-out interior regions.
The gentry liberals’ power stems from their dominion over most of the key institutions – the media, the universities, academia and high-tech – that provide both cash and credibility to the current administration. The gentry impact is epitomized by hedge-fund billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer, an increasingly influential figure in Democratic circles, as well as nanny-state billionaire Michael Bloomberg and financier George Soros. It is largely the gentry who are pushing climate change as the party’s big issue, even though the voters, notes Gallup, rank it as among the least-important issues.
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Bloomberg: Universities becoming bastions of intolerance

Watch this video

(CNN) -- Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, delivering Thursday's commencement speech at Harvard University, criticized what he described as a disturbing trend of liberals silencing voices "deemed politically objectionable."
"This spring, it has been disturbing to see a number of college commencement speakers withdraw -- or have their invitations rescinded -- after protests from students and -- to me, shockingly -- from senior faculty and administrators who should know better," Bloomberg said.
The billionaire former mayor cited an October speech during which his ex-police commissioner, Ray Kelly, was shouted down by students at Brown University. The university canceled Kelly's speech when protesters opposed to the police department's stop-and-frisk policy shouted down and interrupted Kelly.
Bloomberg noted other universities have had speakers back out. He pointed to Rutgers, where former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice withdrew amid protests, and Smith College, where International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde withdrew after a student petition.

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Humans hunger for the sacred. Why can’t the new atheists understand that? Look at life under communism, and you’ll see why religion will never die. By Roger Scruton

Does the world have a purpose? The new atheists regard the question as absurd. Purposes emerge in the course of evolution, they tell us; to suppose that they could exist before any organism can gain a reproductive advantage from possessing them is to unlearn the lesson of Darwin. With the theory of evolution firmly established, therefore, there is no room in the scientific worldview for an original purpose, and therefore no room for God.
Today’s evangelical atheists go further, and tell us that history has shown religion to be so toxic that we should do our best to extinguish it. Such writers describe the loss of religion as a moral gain — even though, for most ordinary believers, it looks like the loss of all that they most seriously value.
But maybe the atheists have misunderstood their target.
The ‘god of the philosophers’ — serene, omniscient, and outside space and time — has appeal to those who think in abstract terms. But ordinary people don’t think in abstract terms. They don’t see God as the answer to a cosmological question, since they don’t have cosmological questions. But they do have the question of how to live, and in the effort to live with others they often stumble upon moments, places, relationships and experiences that have a numinous character — as though removed from this world and in some way casting judgment upon it.

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Two-Thirds of Obese People Now Live in Developing Countries. "No national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years," a new study finds.

We tend to think of obesity as a rich-country problem, but for several years now evidence has been building that the public-health hazard is assailing low- and middle-income countries as well, even as these same countries struggle with high rates of malnutrition. In perhaps the most comprehensive snapshot yet of this phenomenon, a study published in The Lancet on Thursday found that one-third of the world's population is now overweight or obese, and 62 percent of these individuals live in developing countries.

The graph below shows how the prevalence of overweight and obese men and women has risen between 1980 and 2013 in the developing and developed world, and as a whole. The research team—led by the Washington-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—defined "overweight" adults as those with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30, and "obese" adults as those with a BMI of 30 or more.
These across-the-board increases translate into the global overweight and obese population ballooning from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013. Men tend to have higher obesity rates in developed countries, and women tend to have higher rates in developing countries.

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The Price of a Sex-Slave Rescue Fantasy

WITH a sensational story of surviving child sex slavery in Cambodia, Somaly Mam became a worldwide icon, the best-selling author of a memoir and the head of a foundation raising millions in the name of saving girls and women from the sex trade, victims she recounted rescuing in dramatic brothel raids. Last year, introducing the State Department’s annual “Trafficking in Persons” report, Secretary of State John Kerry called Ms. Mam “a hero every single day.”

But all this wasn’t true. A Newsweek cover story last week found inconsistencies and flat-out fraud in Ms. Mam’s story of being abducted and forced to work in a brothel as a child — instead, former neighbors said she came to their village with her parents and graduated from high school, later sitting for a teacher’s exam — and in the stories of women she said she had rescued by the thousands. Ms. Mam even said traffickers had kidnapped her teenage daughter — but the girl’s father said she ran away with her boyfriend.

On Wednesday, Somaly Mam resigned from her own foundation.

The consequences of her fables will prove harder to correct. Ms. Mam and her foundation banked on Western feel-good demands for intervention, culminating in abusive crackdowns on the people she claimed to save.

The International Labor Organization estimates that more than three times as many people are trafficked into work like domestic, garment and agricultural labor than those trafficked for sex. I’ve interviewed human-rights advocates in Phnom Penh since 2007, and they raised concerns about Ms. Mam’s distortion of this reality. Her portrayal of all sex workers as victims in need of saving encouraged raids and rescue operations that only hurt the sex workers themselves.

In 2008, Cambodia enacted new prohibitions on commercial sex, after the country was placed on a watch list by the State Department. In brutal raids on brothels and in parks, as reported by the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers in a 2008 documentary, women were chased down, detained and assaulted. The State Department commended Cambodia for its law and removed the country from the watch list.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014


When a work of art is considered great, we may stop thinking about it for ourselves. Ian Leslie weighs the evidence
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2014
In 1993 a psychologist, James Cutting, visited the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to see Renoir’s picture of Parisians at play, “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”, considered one of the greatest works of impressionism. Instead, he found himself magnetically drawn to a painting in the next room: an enchanting, mysterious view of snow on Parisian rooftops. He had never seen it before, nor heard of its creator, Gustave Caillebotte.
That was what got him thinking.
Have you ever fallen for a novel and been amazed not to find it on lists of great books? Or walked around a sculpture renowned as a classic, struggling to see what the fuss is about? If so, you’ve probably pondered the question Cutting asked himself that day: how does a work of art come to be considered great?
The intuitive answer is that some works of art are just great: of intrinsically superior quality. The paintings that win prime spots in galleries, get taught in classes and reproduced in books are the ones that have proved their artistic value over time. If you can’t see they’re superior, that’s your problem. It’s an intimidatingly neat explanation. But some social scientists have been asking awkward questions of it, raising the possibility that artistic canons are little more than fossilised historical accidents.
Cutting, a professor at Cornell University, wondered if a psychological mechanism known as the “mere-exposure effect” played a role in deciding which paintings rise to the top of the cultural league. In a seminal 1968 experiment, people were shown a series of abstract shapes in rapid succession. Some shapes were repeated, but because they came and went so fast, the subjects didn’t notice. When asked which of these random shapes they found most pleasing, they chose ones that, unbeknown to them, had come around more than once. Even unconscious familiarity bred affection.
Back at Cornell, Cutting designed an experiment to test his hunch. Over a lecture course he regularly showed undergraduates works of impressionism for two seconds at a time. Some of the paintings were canonical, included in art-history books. Others were lesser known but of comparable quality. These were exposed four times as often. Afterwards, the students preferred them to the canonical works, while a control group of students liked the canonical ones best. Cutting’s students had grown to like those paintings more simply because they had seen them more.
Cutting believes his experiment offers a clue as to how canons are formed. He points out that the most reproduced works of impressionism today tend to have been bought by five or six wealthy and influential collectors in the late 19th century. The preferences of these men bestowed prestige on certain works, which made the works more likely to be hung in galleries and printed in anthologies. The kudos cascaded down the years, gaining momentum from mere exposure as it did so. The more people were exposed to, say, “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”, the more they liked it, and the more they liked it, the more it appeared in books, on posters and in big exhibitions. Meanwhile, academics and critics created sophisticated justifications for its pre-eminence. After all, it’s not just the masses who tend to rate what they see more often more highly. As contemporary artists like Warhol and Damien Hirst have grasped, critical acclaim is deeply entwined with publicity. “Scholars”, Cutting argues, “are no different from the public in the effects of mere exposure.”
The process described by Cutting evokes a principle that the sociologist Duncan Watts calls “cumulative advantage”: once a thing becomes popular, it will tend to become more popular still. A few years ago, Watts, who is employed by Microsoft to study the dynamics of social networks, had a similar experience to Cutting in another Paris museum. After queuing to see the “Mona Lisa” in its climate-controlled bulletproof box at the Louvre, he came away puzzled: why was it considered so superior to the three other Leonardos in the previous chamber, to which nobody seemed to be paying the slightest attention?
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Once upon a time in America. Rediscovering the first color photographs of the New World.

An American Odyssey

These rediscovered Photochrom and Photostint postcard imagesfrom the private collection of Marc Walter were produced by the Detroit Photographic Company between 1888 and 1924. Using a photolithographic process that predated the autochrome by nearly 20 years, they offered people the very first color photographs of The United States. Suddenly, the continent's colors were available for all to see. The rich ochres and browns of the Grand Canyon, the dazzle of Atlantic City, became a visual delight not only for eyewitnesses, but for Americans far and wide.

Imbued with this sense of discovery and adventure, the pictures gathered here are a voyage through peoples, places and time at once. They take us through North America’s vast and varied landscape, encounter its many communities, and above all transport us back to the New World of over a century ago. Over more than 600 pages including fold-out spreads, this sweeping panorama takes us from Native American settlements to New York's Chinatown, from some of the last cowboys to Coney Island's heyday. As luminous now as they were some 120 years ago, these rare and remarkable images that brought America to Americans now bring American's past to our present.

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Reconstructing Race by Steve Sailer

Denunciatory reviews of Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History have typically fallen into two general categories:
• Well, nobody believes that race has no biological reality and is just a social construct, so the first half of the book, while accurate, is unnecessary.
• Race has no biological reality and is just a social construct!
It’s characteristic of the dumbing down effect that race has on intellectual discourse that it occurs to so few that race can be a biological reality that has been constructed by social decisions.
Advocates of the dogma that race is merely a “social construct” point to the artificiality of the traditional American “one drop of blood” rule for defining blackness. Yet it’s likely that the one-drop rule itself helped construct the American genetic reality of a bimodal distribution of black and white genes, in contrast to the more evenly blended Latin American populations.
The essential intellectual shortcoming is that Americans have largely forgotten that the essence of race isn’t skin color but genealogy. Races are extended families of individuals who are more closely related to some people than to other people. Skin color and other visible traits should not be seen as an end in themselves: instead, they are of interest in inferring ancestry. Charles Darwin made this point in an 1857 letter to Thomas Huxley:
I knew, of course, of the Cuvierian view of Classification, but I think that most naturalists look for something further, & search for “the natural system”,—“for the plan on which the Creator has worked” &c &c.—It is this further element which I believe to be simply genealogical. …
Grant all races of man descended from one race; grant that all structure [i.e., physical features] of each race of man were perfectly known—grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known— grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one.
Race isn’t just skin deep; it’s about who supplied your genes. In horse racing, for instance, where a full genealogy going back 20 generations is common, membership in the Thoroughbred breed is not a question of color but of pedigree. An awareness of genealogy has largely disappeared from American intellectual life, but it is omnipresent in high culture (Oedipus Rex) and pop culture (“I am your father.”)
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Jim Rogers Says: Buy Russia!

It’s always worthwhile to listen to what legendary investor Jim Rogers has to say. Recently, he offered some comments on China, Russia, the Crimea and the dollar.

He is long Russia and China, but is not investing in the Ukraine. Contrarian investing does not oblige you to invest in just any basket case.

In the diplomatic pas-de-deux between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, Rogers believes that Putin came out on top:

Unfortunately America seems to have really bungled this whole thing very badly. As you know, they’ve tried to instigate a coup in Ukraine against an elected government, and they did that somewhat successfully, but then they didn’t think through the consequences. Mr. Putin seems to have outsmarted us, Putin now is in control of Crimea, which Russians have controlled for many decades, so that’s not so unusual – what’s unusual is that America didn’t think through what they were doing, they seem to just react on a day-to-day basis, so now… Crimea is part of Russia, the Russians have more and more allies in Asia. I’m afraid America just didn’t think it through, they’ve bungled, they’ve acted on a day-to-day basis, and they’ve reacted to events instead of looking to the future and controlling events. Mr. Putin seems to have outsmarted Mr. Obama.

America failed because the federal government is incompetent:

Because we have incompetence in the State Department, in Washington. I guess they thought that they could take over control of Ukraine, which will give America more influence in central Europe and would certainly damage Russia, but in the end it seems to have strengthened Russia and has damaged America. You know, politicians make mistakes; bureaucrats make mistakes all the time. Looks like this time it was America that made the mistakes, and not Russia.

But, some people, like George Soros suggest that America should supplant Russia as supplier of European gas. That will teach Russia a lesson, won’t it?

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Pregnant woman beaten to death by family outside Pakistani court

Muhammad Iqbal
A pregnant woman was beaten to death by her own family members on the streets of one of Pakistan's most refined cities on Tuesday after marrying against their wishes.
The "honour killing" happened in front of a large crowd of witnesses outside Lahore's grand high court building where Farzana Parveen, 25, had been due to appear in a case brought by her family.
The attack began when one of Parveen's brothers attempted to shoot her before he and other male family members attacked her with bricks and blunt instruments.
Throughout the deadly assault her father simply looked on while no members of the public outside the busy court complex came forward to intervene despite her cries for help.
Some reports said policemen watched the incident – and all of the attackers managed to escape, although her father was arrested.
The affluent city of Lahore likes to think of itself as Pakistan's "cultural capital", far removed from the country's rural hinterland where killings to protect family "honour" are more common.
Parveen and her family come from the small town of Nankana Sahib to the west of Lahore. Her lawyer said her family had been enraged by her decision in January to marry Muhammad Iqbal rather than one of her own cousins, whom they had chosen.
Parveen, who was three months pregnant, was due to appear in the high court in an effort to quash a case brought by her parents, who alleged Iqbal had kidnapped the young woman.
Iqbal said he fell in love with Parveen after the death of his previous wife. He said her family had been angry after failing to extract money from him before their marriage.
"I simply took her to court and registered a marriage," he said, infuriating her family.
According to the women's campaign group the Aurat Foundation about 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year in "honour killings" committed by their families. Few cases come to court and trials can take years.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Man killed wife for making vegetarian dinner: prosecutors

Man killed wife for making vegetarian dinner: prosecutors
A Pakistani immigrant beat his wife to death in their Brooklyn home after she made the mistake of cooking him lentils for dinner instead of the hearty meal of goat meat that he craved, according to court papers.
Noor Hussain, 75, was so outraged over the vegetarian fare that he pummeled his wife, Nazar Hussain, 66, with a stick until she was a “bloody mess,” according to prosecutors and court papers.
“Defendant asked [his wife] to cook goat and [his wife] said she made something else,” the court papers indicated as Hussain’s murder trial opened on Wednesday.
“The conversation got louder and [his wife] disrespected defendant by cursing at defendant and saying motherf- -ker, and . . . defendant took a wooden stick and hit her with it on her arm and mouth.”
Defense attorney Julie Clark admitted Hussain beat his wife — but argued that he is guilty of only manslaughter because he didn’t intend to kill her. In Pakistan, Clark said, beating one’s wife is customary.
“He comes from a culture where he thinks this is appropriate conduct, where he can hit his wife,” Clark said in her opening statements at the Brooklyn Supreme Court bench trial. “He culturally believed he had the right to hit his wife and discipline his wife.”
Prosecutors, however, said Hussain meant for his wife to die.
“His intentions were to kill his wife,” Assistant District Attorney Sabeeha Madni said in court. “This was not a man who was trying to discipline his wife.”
Madni said that Hussain “brutally attacked his wife as she lay in her bed” — leaving deep lacerations on her head, arms and shoulders, and causing her brain to hemorrhage.
He beat her with a stick that the family had found in the street and used to stir their laundry in a washtub, the court papers state.
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Beauty ≠ truth Scientists prize elegant theories, but a taste for simplicity is a treacherous guide. And it doesn’t even look good by Philip Ball

Theoretically beautiful; geometrically pruned trees, Leer, Germany. Photo by Karl Johaentges/Getty

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is a century old next year and, as far as the test of time is concerned, it seems to have done rather well. For many, indeed, it doesn’t merely hold up: it is the archetype for what a scientific theory should look like. Einstein’s achievement was to explain gravity as a geometric phenomenon: a force that results from the distortion of space-time by matter and energy, compelling objects – and light itself – to move along particular paths, very much as rivers are constrained by the topography of their landscape. General relativity departs from classical Newtonian mechanics and from ordinary intuition alike, but its predictions have been verified countless times. In short, it is the business.

Einstein himself seemed rather indifferent to the experimental tests, however. The first came in 1919, when the British physicist Arthur Eddington observed the Sun’s gravity bending starlight during a solar eclipse. What if those results hadn’t agreed with the theory? (Some accuse Eddington of cherry-picking the figures anyway, but that’s another story.) ‘Then,’ said Einstein, ‘I would have been sorry for the dear Lord, for the theory is correct.’

That was Einstein all over. As the Danish physicist Niels Bohr commented at the time, he was a little too fond of telling God what to do. But this wasn’t sheer arrogance, nor parental pride in his theory. The reason Einstein felt general relativity must be right is that it was too beautiful a theory to be wrong.

This sort of talk both delights today’s physicists and makes them a little nervous. After all, isn’t experiment – nature itself – supposed to determine truth in science? What does beauty have to do with it? ‘Aesthetic judgments do not arbitrate scientific discourse,’ the string theorist Brian Greene reassures his readers in The Elegant Universe (1999), the most prominent work of physics exposition in recent years. ‘Ultimately, theories are judged by how they fare when faced with cold, hard, experimental facts.’ Einstein, Greene insists, didn’t mean to imply otherwise – he was just saying that beauty in a theory is a good guide, an indication that you are on the right track.

Einstein isn’t around to argue, of course, but I think he would have done. It was Einstein, after all, who said that ‘the only physical theories that we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones’. And if he was simply defending theory against too hasty a deference to experiment, there would be plenty of reason to side with him – for who is to say that, in case of a discrepancy, it must be the theory and not the measurement that is in error? But that’s not really his point. Einstein seems to be asserting that beauty trumps experience come what may.

He wasn’t alone. Here’s the great German mathematician Hermann Weyl, who fled Nazi Germany to become a colleague of Einstein’s at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton: ‘My work always tries to unite the true with the beautiful; but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful.’ So much for John Keats’s ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’ And so much, you might be tempted to conclude, for scientists’ devotion to truth: here were some of its greatest luminaries, pledging obedience to a different calling altogether.

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Our Oppressed Oppressors Posted by Daniel Greenfield

Some counties have dictators, tyrants and kings. America has victims in high office. Victims with vast powers and great wealth who despite all that are oppressed by the people they rule.

They are the oppressed oppressors. 

Never has a ruling class been as oppressed as ours by an ignorant rabble that rudely abuses the army of benevolent public servants who see to their welfare in exchange for nothing except a feeling of moral satisfaction and a six-figure salary. Not to mention unlimited power.

"They talk about me like a dog," Obama complained. "Is it a lack of respect for me?" he whined to the Secretary of Defense.

When Obama isn't complaining, the media outlets of the ruling class do it for him. Every hour one of the greasy suckers on the tentacle of a massive media corporation with lavish skyscraper headquarters in four countries calls out the subliminal bigotry of the people who dare to criticize the man who controls every aspect of their lives.

The media has worked its iPads off alerting us to the perpetual victimization of the Obamas. From NBC to NPR, from CNN to CBS, from the New York Times to the Washington Post, the billion dollar corporations have spoken in one voice and they have said that criticizing the most powerful man in the world is racist. And they have told us that our ingratitude depresses him.

"The world seems to disappoint him," David Remnick said. Remnick deftly balances the responsibilities of promoting Obama as editor of the New Yorker(Advance Publications - $6.56 billion) and promoting Obama as author of "The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” (Bertelsmann - $22 billion).

Michelle Obama described the White House as a "nice prison" and compared her plight to that of a military wife. And who can blame her? One day the Obamas are just barely making do with a 1,701 person staff and then the sequester, that Obama proposed, kicks in and their staff is cut to a miserly 436.

The 16 assistants who help Michelle Obama perform her important duties of giving speeches and booking NBC sitcom appearances were cut so drastically that she was unable to even Tweet. Of the 90 people who clean up the family quarters of the power couple, only 15 remained.

And that went on for days.

For a term and change, the media has alerted us to the perpetual victimization of the Obamas. It has exposed the hidden racist motives of even their most innocuous critics. It has enlightened us to the many ways in which powerful politicians are oppressed by the people whom they are oppressing.

Oprah Winfrey ($2.9 billion) said that Obama was the victim of racism. As proof she pointed to Congressman Joe Wilson calling Obama a liar... while Obama was lying. The interview was part of her promotional tour for The Butler ($176 million) which was also based on a series of lies.

It would take a racist to point out that the most powerful man in the world and one of the wealthiest women in the country were lying. Our oppressed ruling class deserves better than to have its political lies questioned and we should check our privilege for even considering it.

Oprah Winfrey went on to suggest that the only solution to racism was for "generations of people, older people" to just "die". Sterling, who has a billion less than her, lost his team for much less than proposing age-based racial genocide. But Oprah, who says worse things in public interviews than Sterling said in private, has proposed buying his team.

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Extreme left blames white privilege for Eurasian who wanted to slaughter white women

Elliot Rodger was a self-described “Eurasian.” His father is a Hollywood big shot and his mother was Chinese. He claimed to be a “superior alpha male,” and an “exotic gem” of a man. He claimed that white women couldn’t recognize his superiority, so they deserved to be killed. His primary target was women with blonde hair. He was obsessed with hating blondes.
Maybe the fact that Hollywood and television are obsessed with demonizing blonde-haired people had something to do with this. Blonde men are usually villains, and blonde women are usually portrayed as idiots.
Not since the far-left falsely claimed the Columbine killers (two self described “anti-racist” bisexuals, one of whom was Jewish) were “neo-Nazis,” have we seen such hoax reporting.
Here is what DailyKos, one of the most popular extreme far-left sites in America, wrote:
When an “Arab” or “Muslim” American kills people in mass they are a “terrorist”. When a black person shoots someone they are “thugs”. When a white man commits a mass shooting he is “mentally ill” or “sick”.
Whiteness and white privilege are the luxury to be an individual, one whose behavior reflects nothing about white people as a group.
There will be not be a national discussion of a culture of “white pathology” or how white Americans may have a “cultural problem” with their young men and gun violence. The news media will not devote extensive time to the “social problem” of white male violence and mass shootings.
Elliot Rodger, a rich, white, entitled, young man allegedly shot and killed (as he apparently hunted them down) six women while driving his BMW around Santa Barbara, California late last night. Like Adam Lanza,  this would appear to be a case of aggrieved white male entitlement syndrome, one which has led to a murderous and tragic outcome.
Elliot Rodger was very specific in his manifesto and online video. He did not consider himself to be a white person. Racially he is Eurasian, not Caucasian, European, or “white.” He hated white women, especially blonde women.
The DailyKos hoax article is being syndicated all over the far-left blog-o-sphere. Radical leftists have camped out on wikipedia to make sure the killer is described as a “white man” motivated by “white privilege.”
Even so-called “mainstream” media outlets are taking Elliot’s statement out of context and claiming he is a “white racist.”
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Before he fatally stabbed three roommates, fatally shot three strangers, then put a fatal bullet through his own head last Friday night in Santa Barbara, California, 22-year old Elliot Rodger recorded several videos in which he bitterly complained, with singular and disconcerting intensity, about his perennial inability to get laid. 

These video segments, now posted on Youtube, make for a surreal viewing experience, since it’s difficult to reconcile the perpetually whinging, pitifully feckless lad featured with the gruesome series of murderous acts he undertook just a short time afterward. Speaking in an effete, pompous, comically imperious tone drained of emotion or affect, the slight, baby-faced Rodger expresses morose incomprehension concerning all of the rejection he has endured from girls “over the last eight years,” a span of time he says has been filled with “loneliness and unfulfilled desires.”

“A beautiful environment is the darkest Hell, if you have to experience it all alone,” Rodger laments in one video, shot from the shoulder of a country road, in which he stands before the camera clad in an immaculately-tailored designer shirt (see below). “I don’t know why you girls are so repulsed by me… I dress nice (sic), I’m sophisticated, I’m magnificent! I have a nice car, a BMW… These sunglasses here are $300, Georgio Armani…” (At this point he puts the shades on his face and extends his arms, declaring that he looks “fabulous,” before hurriedly ducking out of the picture to remain inconspicuous as a car drives past in the background.) 

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wading in the Zeitgeist by Fred Reed

Wading in the Zeitgeist
Like apparently everybody who can read, still a probable majority in the U.S., I have just finished Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance, which deals with the genetics of human behavior, race, intelligence, how they came about, and related things about which one must never, ever state the obvious. It is a fine book: cogent, well-informed, devoid of political propaganda. Anyone interested in the foregoing matters should read it. If you are a Democrat, have it shipped in a package marked Weird Sex Books to protect your reputation.
It is creating a great disturbance among professors, the right-thinking press, those college students who have heard of it, race panders, and related herbivores. This is curious. Reduced to a sentence, Wade says that genes have a lot to do with human outcomes. Its major conclusions have been accepted or suspected forever in every blue-collar bar in the country. Yet they are a shock in faculty lounges. It is interesting to consider the pattern of views:
The Lounge: Race is a social construct. It doesn’t biologically exist.
Wade: Yes it does. (He demonstrates this with things like base pair repeat units and single-nucleotide polymorphisms, a bit messy to go into here.)
Joe’s: Sure, race exists. Just look. (If it doesn’t, then everyone who has received benefits based on race should repay them, and face fraud charges.)
The Lounge: No genetic or group differences in intelligence exist.
Wade: Yes they do; they are measurable, and came about through natural selection.
Joe’s: Sure. Everybody knows Jews are smart, blacks aren’t, and the Chinese and Japanese must be smart too because look at what they’ve done.
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