Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Comes To A Close

The year 2014 will reach its conclusion in just a few hours.  I'd say that this year has lived up to the old curse, "may you live in interesting times", which contrary to the popular notion, does not come from China.

The year has certainly been interesting for the people of Crimea, which was taken from Ukraine by Russia, in a conflict that also included the downing of a civilian airliner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Another Malaysia Airlines plane, Flight 370, took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, but made a westward turn towards the Indian Ocean.  The fate of the plane, its passengers, and its crew, and the reason for its deviation from its intended course are still unknown.  More recently, AirAsia Flight 8501, bound from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, went down near the island of Borneo.  Wreckage and bodies from the plane have been found.

In Iraq and Syria, a terrorist organization known variously as ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State emerged and took parts of Iraq that American forces had previously taken from al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups.  They also trapped some 40,000 Yazidis, members of a religious minority, on Mount Sinjar in northwestern Iraq.  While they imposed Sharia on the people in the areas they controlled, including using Sharia to justify enslaving women, our president assured us that "ISIL is not Islamic."  Only recently have the Yazidis been freed from ISIS, by the Kurdish militia known as the Peshmerga, with help from American airstrikes.

Back home, Obama gave us some interesting domestic times, enacting a "series of executive immigration actions" that largely amounts to an amnesty.  He continued to be the most golf-addicted president in recent history, managing to force a pair of army captains to relocate their wedding.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Few Random Musings #3

As 2014 comes to a close and 2015 is almost upon us, here are my thoughts about some things going on, other things that have gone before, and just some other things in general:
Like most people, I can only rely on indirect knowledge when trying to figure out what I believe about the encounter between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown.  But from what I can gather, it's quite possible that had Brown been walking on the sidewalk instead of in the middle of the street, Wilson might not have even noticed him.  Instead of arguing about whether Wilson was justified in shooting Brown, we'd be arguing about whether Brown is the same person as the large black man shown in that video robbing a store.  No matter what we think happened that day, I believe that it would be good to exercise a bit of humility and realize that the grand jurors who decided against indicting Officer Wilson most likely know far more about the incident than the general public does.

When black people are killed, it's mostly by other blacks, and not by police.  It seems that the people pushing the meme "black lives matter" apparently take it seriously mainly when the end of a black life can be blamed on white people or the police.

The 12 Days Of Waste-mas

According to an adage I heard a few years back, we all go through four stages of life with respect to Santa Claus:
1. You believe in Santa Claus,
2. You don't believe in Santa Claus, but still play along,
3. You are Santa Claus, and
4. You look like Santa Claus.

One of the ways we enter stage 3, regardless of whether we ever progressed from stage 1 to stage 2, is by paying taxes.  This continues whether or not we ever reach stage 4, and serves to keep most of us in stage 3 even after we get to stage 4.  With that in mind, The Daily Signal gives us 12 specific examples of the gifts given by the federal government during 2014, but which ultimately come from us, the taxpayers.  In that sense, you could say that the government plays the role of Santa, with us as the elves.  In any event, read the full story.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Monday Links Of The Year

Now that I'm back from Virginia, where I spent Christmastime with various family members, it's time to see what's going on out there, as the end of the year closes in.

From Bloomberg, two army captains are forced to relocate their wedding so that the Golfer-In-Chief could play through.  (via Yahoo Finance.  I have no idea what this story has to do with finance, but that's where Yahoo posted the link to Bloomberg.)

From Reuters, NY Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at his city's police academy graduation, gets what I'll call a mixed reaction.

From Liberty Alliance, a man assaulting a woman in Texas is stopped by the Second Amendment.

From the Epoch Times, the winter storm Frona is expected to bring more snow to the western United States.

From ESPN, during the Liberty Bowl, a student assistant for the Texas A&M football team strikes two West Virginia players who had run out of bounds.

From Frontpage Mag, this year's top anti-muslim hate crime hoaxes.

From UPI, the defense team of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev move to delay his trial, so that they can analyze a hard drive belonging to his friend.

From The New American, the District of Columbia’s Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an attempt to regulate bullets and shot.

From CBS Chicago, vandals in northern Chicago spray paint anti-Semitic graffiti onto garages and a synagogue.

From K105, gasoline prices continue to go down.

From LifeNews, a bill proposed in Nevada would legalize assisted suicide.

From Fox News, the destroyer USS Sampson will join in the search for AirAsia Flight 8501.

From The Telegraph, in the United Kingdom, the Queen's Guards have been moved behind the gates of Buckingham Palace, due to terror fears.  (via the New York Post)

From TPNN, in a disturbing trend, teenagers have been gathering in malls in order to have brawls.

In USA Today, Dan Wolken advises the NCAA to note the attendance at the new college football playoff before considering expanding it.

And from The Daily Caller, Canadian singer Justin Bieber tries his hand at skateboarding.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

May everyone out there have a merry Christmas and safe holiday travels.  To put forth what we're celebrating, here's Linus:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Links

Three days before Christmas, here are some things that have been stirring, in the United States and elsewhere:

From The Washington Post, North Korea, recently accused of hacking Sony, has been experiencing some technical difficulties with the Internet.  (via Legal Insurrection)

From ABC News, the Cuban government claims to be open to all parts of President Obama's detente.

From Fox News Latino, a court in Argentina rules that an orangutan in a zoo is entitled to certain legal rights.

From Campus Reform, the Dean for Religious Life wants the church to focus more on art and less on religion.

From CBS Chicago, 3 people were killed and 25 wounded in shootings in Chicago over the past weekend.

From Real Clear Politics, Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post claims that the protesters who called for "dead cops" drowned out the more numerous peaceful protesters.

From the New York Daily News, the New York Yankees will pay for the education of the children of Officer Rafael Ramos, who was killed in the line of duty along with Officer Wenjian Liu.  (via Time)

From The Roanoke Times, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has signed a new five-year contract.

Breitbart's Big Journalism remembers the "climate of hate" that was blamed on Sarah Palin and other conservatives for allegedly inspiring Jared Loughner to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

From CNS News, Obama has declared upstate New York a disaster area, in response to the snow storm that recently hit the area.

From CNBC, the Dow and S&P close at record highs.  (via World Net Daily and Rino Blog Watch)

From Townhall, a former FBI assistant director says that police are under attack "from those who seek to evade responsibility".

From My Fox Memphis, the FBI has warned of a possible terrorist attack in Memphis.

From WHIO, a woman in Dayton, Ohio claims to have been injured because a pizza deliveryman gave her the wrong pizza.

And from The New York Times, singer Joe Cocker has died lung cancer at age 70.  Here is his rendition of a famous Beatles song.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

NY Rangers Salute Fallen Policemen

From PIX11:
The New York Rangers held a moment of silence Sunday for the two NYPD officers who were killed the day before.
The moment of silence for Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu was held before the team’s match against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Read the full story, which includes a video.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Policemen Attacked In The U.S. And France

This afternoon in Brooklyn, New York, a gunman shot and killed two policemen in what has been called an "execution", before killing himself.  According to the New York Post:
Two uniformed NYPD officers were shot dead Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner — in what investigators believe was a crazed gunman’s execution-style mission to avenge Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
The gunman had also allegedly shot his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier today.

Meanwhile in France, a man entered a police station in Joue-les-Tours and attempted to attack the police there with a knife, while shouting "Allahu akbar".  He injured three policemen before being shot dead.  Read more at Weasel Zippers.

UPDATE:  According to the New York Daily News, the shooter in New York has been identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley.

103-Year-Old Man Makes Hole-In-One

Guinness, take note.  From Fox News:
A 103-year-old Florida golfer has made history, becoming the oldest person to record a hole-in-one.
Gus Andreone achieved his special feat on “Wacky Wednesday” at the Palm Aire Country Club in Sarasota.
Read the full story.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Senators React To Obama's Cuba Deal

President Obama's move to normalize American relations with Cuba has been soundly criticized by all three Cuban-descended American Senators.

From I'm 41, Ted Cruz (R-TX) "educates" CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

From NJ(dot)com, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) says of the Obama Cuba deal, "I think it stinks."

Time reports criticism from both Menendez and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

USA Today carries an editorial from Senator Menendez himself.

Others senators have different views.  For example, Rand Paul (R-KY), as reported by Politico, thinks that trading more with Cuba "is probably a good idea".

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Links

In the middle of the last full shopping week before Christmas, here are some items in the news:

From Fox 411, the New York premiere of The Interview has been cancelled.

From Reuters, workers at Amazon warehouses in Germany extend their strike.

From VermontWatchdog, an energy efficiency group has started issuing reports comparing customers to their neighbors.

From MississippiWatchdog, corruption in the Harrison County Utility Authority has led to a former county supervisor pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge.

From The Galveston County Daily News, a plumber in Texas City finds out that pickup truck formerly used by his company has turned up in Syria.

From Fox News, Cuba has released American Alan Gross, who had been in a Cuban prison for five years, in exchange for the release of three Cubans imprisoned in the United States.  This development reportedly could lead to negotiations intended to improve relations between the two countries.  In a reaction, Fausta of Fausta's Blog expects the president to "declare an end to the embargo before year’s end."  She promises updates "throughout the day".

In a commentary carried by GOPUSA, Michele Malkin calls Jeb Bush "the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's waterboy".

From FrontpageMag, Congressman (and former Navy pilot) Jim Bridenstine's keynote speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 20th Anniversary Restoration Weekend.

Newbusters gives us their top 10 attacks on business by the left and the media in 2014.

From Zerohedge, Russian stocks have moved upward by 17% today, with the Ruble now at less than 62 per U.S. Dollar.

From The Telegraph, the bookmaker Coral has suspended betting on whether Queen Elizabeth will announce her abdication during her Christmas address.  (via Breitbart London)

The Daily Caller, in response to the People interview in which Barack and Michelle Obama recall their encounters with racial prejudice, points out how the president's adviser Valerie Jarrett once asked a four-star general to bring her more wine - which he did.

From UPI, the British military has sold its defense support group to Babcock International.

And from The Daily Caller, a caption-the-pic featuring Mr. Bill.  (Oh, noooooo!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Taliban Attack School In Peshawar, Pakistan

Earlier today, Taliban terrorists attacked a school run by Pakistan's military in the city of Peshawar.  As many as 145 people have been reported killed, most of them students.  According to various reports, there were nine attackers, all of whom were killed by security forces.  Peshawar is about 75 miles from the Pakistani capitol of Islamabad, and about 20 miles from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Read more at Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, BBC News and CNN.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Police End Siege In Ghent, Belgium

Police in Ghent, Belgium have successfully concluded a hostage situation after four men armed with kalashnikovs had been reported storming into an apartment.  Three men were detained, but no weapons were found.  Only one person was taken hostage, and is reportedly unharmed.  There is no indication that the incident was related to terrorism, but neighbors have stated that drug dealers had used the apartment.

Read more at Reuters and BBC News.

Muslim Gunman Takes Hostages In Australian Chocolate Shop

Early Tuesday morning Australian time, police in Sydney stormed into a Lindt Chocolate Cafe in an area known as Martin Place, ending a 16-hour siege by a lone gunman who had been holding people hostage inside.  Various reports have indicated that five hostages had fled from the cafe, and an Islamic flag had been placed in one of its windows.  The gunman has been identified as Man Haron Monis, a refugee from Iran and self-proclaimed Islamic cleric who previously had been convicted of sending threatening letters to the families of Australian military personnel killed in Afghanistan.  (As I write this, it's still Monday morning in the United States.)

Read more at BBC News, Yahoo News, USA Today, Time and The Washington Post.

UPDATE:  Some of the reports now indicate that the gunman and two hostages have died.  (Added just after 3:00 p.m., U.S. east coast time)

UPDATE 2:  From 9News, Monis was out on bail and had "a long rap sheet", including being charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.  (H/T catstrangler)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Auburn Football Player Fatally Shot

Jakell Mitchell, an 18-year-old freshman on the Auburn University football team, was shot early this morning at an apartment near the school, and died after being taken by ambulance to East Alabama Medical Center.  Police have arrested Markale Deandra Hart and charged him with murder.  Whether Hart had any alleged accomplices, and any motive he may have had, have not been reported.  Mitchell was from Opelika, Alabama and had played football at Opelika High School.

Read more at NBC News, Fox News, USA Today, AL(dot)com and AOL.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Senate Passes "CRomnibus" Spending Bill

From Fox News:
The Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill late Saturday that funds the government through next September, averting a partial government shutdown and sending the measure to President Obama's desk
The Senate voted 56-40 for the long-term funding bill, the main item left on Congress' year-end agenda. The measure provides money for nearly the entire government through the Sept. 30 end of the current budget year.
The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27.
The Senate spent most of today debating and voting on this bill, which now goes to the president for his signature (or his veto, but I don't think one is likely).  Earlier today, they had passed a bill that would have funded the federal government only until this coming Wednesday, and shot down a constitutional point of order raised by Ted Cruz (R-TX) objecting to the president's recent immigration measure.

The Hill also reports on the bill, which report comes via The Right Scoop, who also note some reactions on Twitter.  Legal Insurrection has more details and reactions, including their own "The #CRomnibus has landed" Tweet.

Music Break: Singing Drummers

Here are a few more selections that I've enjoyed listening to over the years, which all include lead or backing vocals by a drummer.  Let's start out with the man who is arguably the most famous singing drummer in all of rock and roll.

In late 1974, Ringo Starr released the Goodnight Vienna album, which included All By Myself, written by Starr and Vini Poncia.  This track features John Lennon on guitar and (if I'm not mistaken) Dr. John (real name Malcolm John Rebennack) on piano.  The bass vocal is by Richard Perry, who produced the album.  I assure everyone that this song is very different from the Eric Carmen song of the same title.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Links For 12/12

Here are some things in the news on this year's 12/12, which is the second anniversary of 12/12/12:

From Israel Hayom, during a pre-dawn drive-by attack, terrorists fired shots on the Israeli embassy in Athens, Greece.  (via The Washington Free Beacon)

From Radio Free Europe, the Russian Ruble has fallen below 57 to the dollar and 71 to the Euro.

From The Daily Beast, VP Joe Biden recalls threatening to kill a local bully who had pushed his sister off her bicycle.

From UPI, two people have been reported dead as winter storms continue to pound the west coast.

From Reuters, American consumer sentiment is reported to be at an 8-year high.

From Fox News, one of their own correspondents, Dominic Di-Natale, has been found dead, apparently by suicide.

Also from Fox News, a time capsule from 1795 has been found in the cornerstone of the Massachusetts state house.

From The Clarion Ledger, Rose Clayton Cochran, the wife of Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss), has died "after a lengthy illness".

From The Daily Caller, at the U.N. climate conference in Lima, Peru, Secretary of State Kerry gives an unofficial speech, in which he "tries to out-Gore Al Gore".

From The Harvard Crimson, in Harvard Yard, a die-in protest clashes with a bunch of naked runners.  (via The Washington Free Beacon)

From the Associated Press, Indian tribes in the United States will be permitted by the DOJ to grow and sell marijuana, as long as they follow the same rules imposed on states that have legalized it.  (via Before It's News)

From The Hill and late last night, the House has approved the "Cromnibus" spending bill.

From the New York Post, the Korean Air Lines executive who delayed a flight over being served macadamia nuts has offered an apology, as has her father.

From The Verge, airspace around London has been restricted because of a computer failure at an air traffic control center.

And from ABC News, a type of mushroom with hallucinogenic properties has been found growing in Queen Elizabeth's garden at Buckingham palace.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Media Reluctant To Credit Fracking For Lower Oil Prices

In recent months, the price of crude oil has dropped, which has in turn led to a drop in gasoline prices.  American oil production has increased during the last few years, and could soon exceed that of Saudi Arabia, which would make the United States the world's largest oil-producing country.  But as NewsBusters found out, the reason for the increase in American output is rarely being acknowledged by major broadcast media.
Fracking and other advanced technologies helped the U.S. nearly double its average daily output of oil, from 5 million barrels in 2008 to an expected 9.42 million barrels in 2015. The huge supply increase was one factor sending crude oil prices down. Crude fell by more than 32 percent, from $93 to $63 just since Sept. 29. This already drove gas prices down to a national average of $2.66 for regular on Dec. 9, according to AAA.
This is great news for consumers and businesses which could save as much as $1.3 trillion worldwide because of lower oil prices, according to Julian Jessop, chief global economist at Capital Economics in London. Here in the U.S., Americans could save $230 billion if prices remain low for the next year, The Washington Post said on Dec. 1.
Despite the networks' acknowledgement of falling oil and gas prices, the evening news shows almost completely avoided giving any credit to fracking for the dramatic drop. More than 93 percent (29 of 31) of ABC, CBS and NBC evening show stories and news briefs about oil and gas ignored fracking. More than 77 percent (24 of 31) of those stories between Sept. 29, and Dec. 8, even failed to mention domestic oil production increases.
There is one possible drawback.  Since fracking is a relatively expensive process, prices for crude oil could become so low that fracking would not be profitable.  However, the oil industry does not seem to have encountered this problem - yet.  Read the full story.

UPDATE:  While the American media are reluctant to attribute lower oil prices to fracking, the president of Venezuela has no doubts whatsoever, as reported by Fox News Latino.  (also via NewsBusters)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Survey Finds America To Be Among Least Racist Countries

Via Weasel Zippers, from The Daily Caller:
With all the recent race clanging on MSNBC and other cable news networks, now’s probably a good time to remind everyone that America is among the least racist countries in the world.
I know this statement will be shocking news to regular viewers of “PoliticsNation,” but it also has the quality of being true.
From 2010 to 2014, the World Values Survey asked residents in over 50 countries who they would not want as neighbors. Just over five percent of respondents in the United States said “people of a difference race.” That’s far more tolerant a response than citizens of most European, African and Asian countries gave. As a comparison, 15 percent of Germans, 41 percent of Indians and 22 percent of Japanese said they wouldn’t want to live next to “people of a different race.” The Washington Post depicted the results in a useful chart.
While these results would tend to show the United States to be being less racist than other countries, they are essentially based on one question about whom someone would want to live near, and thus most likely don't give a complete picture.  There are also many countries without any reported results.  But I think this survey would show that the people of United States are neither exceptionally nor uniquely racist.  Instead, as I've long believed, like other human vices, racism comes in all colors.  Read more at any of the above links.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bank Of America: Oil Will Slide To $50 Per Barrel

From The Telegraph:
The Opec oil cartel no longer exists in any meaningful sense and crude prices will slump to $50 a barrel over coming months as market forces shake out the weakest producers, Bank of America has warned.
Oil prices are now a bit above $60 per barrel.  Also from The Telegraph:
Francisco Blanch, the bank’s commodity chief, said Opec is “effectively dissolved” after it failed to stabilize prices at its last meeting. “The consequences are profound and long-lasting,“ he said.
The free market will now set the global cost of oil, leading to a new era of wild price swings and disorderly trading that benefits only the Mid-East petro-states with deepest pockets such as Saudi Arabia. If so, the weaker peripheral members such as Venizuela[sic] and Nigeria are being thrown to the wolves.
The recent decline in crude oil prices has caused the price of gasoline to fall, which is obviously good news for anyone who drives a gas-powered vehicle.  Considering that America's economy was doing quite well during most of the 1990's, when the prices of crude oil and gasoline were considerably lower than they are now, I'm reluctant to view a further decline in oil prices as bad news.  And considering that OPEC includes some countries whose attitude toward the United States isn't all that great, I don't think I'll miss their influence.

Whatever you think, read the full story.

NFL Quarterback In Traffic Accident

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who won the Heisman Trophy a few years ago playing for Auburn, was involved in a car accident near his team's stadium around 12:30 this afternoon.  He is now said to be in "fair condition", but there are conflicting reports regrading the extent of his injuries, including one indicated that he broke both legs.  The accident reportedly occurred when Newton's truck collided with another vehicle at an intersection after the other driver allegedly ran a red light.

Read more at ESPN, Global Associated News, the Charlotte Observer and TMZ Sports.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Small Plane Crashes In Gaithersburg, Maryland

Around 11:00 a.m. this morning, an Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100 twin-engine jet crashed into a neighborhood in Gaithersburg, Maryland, killing three people on board, and destroying or badly damaging three homes.  The crash site is about a mile northwest of the Montgomery County Airpark, reported to be the plane's intended destination.  Whether anyone on the ground has been injured is not yet known.

Read more at NBC Washington, MyFoxDC, The Washington Post, WUSA and WTOP.

UPDATE:  As reported by AOL, a woman and her two sons were killed in their house when it was struck by the plane.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Links For Pearl Harbor Day

For the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, here is a bit of history, and some things in the news today:

From Business Insider, photographs from Pearl Harbor during the attack.

From Seattlepi, survivors of the attack gather to remember.

From Bloomberg Politics, American racial divisions have worsened during the Obama presidency.

From Fox News, as typhoon Hagupit hits the Philippines, three people have been reported dead, while over 900,000 have been evacuated.

From Skift, autistic children are given a chance to rehearse travelling on an airplane.

From BBC News, a Taliban leader has been turned over to Pakistan.

From NBC Chicago, several churches in Chicago have made plans for after-service protests.

The Rowan Free Press asks if tiny houses could "help lift Salisbury, NC out of poverty."

From Breitbart TV, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) calls Common Core a "bait and switch".

From CNET, a taxi driver in India has been arrested for the alleged rape of a woman who booked her ride using the online service Uber.

From Twitchy, a feminist likens skeptics of the recent Rolling Stone rape story to people hypothetically denying that the Titanic actually sank, and gets rebutted.

From CBS Sports, the four playoff contenders for the NCAA football national championship have been announced.

From the NWF Daily News, the executive director of the Okaloosa County (Florida) Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge faces trial for bringing hyenas into the county.

And from Yahoo, the show Saturday Night Live spoofs Al Sharpton.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mary Landrieu Loses Senate Seat

Three-term Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has lost in her state's runoff election to Bill Cassidy (R), who is currently in the House of Representatives.  Cassidy has also been a physician and a state legislator.  His victory will increase the Republican majority in the upcoming Senate to 54 seats.  The runoff was held because no candidate garnered 50% of the vote during the regular election on November 4.

Read more at the National Journal and NBC News.

UPDATE: Fox News reports the margin as 56% for Cassidy, 44% for Landrieu.  (via Gateway Pundit)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tempe, AZ Postpones "Run From The Cops"

The very name of this race deserves a "you can't make this stuff up" label.  From azcentral:
The Tempe Police Department's "Run From The Cops 5K," which was scheduled to take place Saturday morning around Tempe Town Lake, has been postponed due to civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere.
In a statement released Thursday evening, Tempe Police Department's Chief Tom Ryff explained that a lot of consideration went into canceling Saturday's event.
"I have determined that out of sensitivity, respect and support for all sides of an important debate taking place all across our great country, it is necessary to proactively postpone this year's race," Ryff said.
Read the full story.

Orion Spacecraft Undergoes Test Flight

At 7:05 this morning, NASA launched a Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying an unmanned Orion crew vehicle into earth orbit.  The Orion is intended to eventually carry astronauts to the moon and beyond.  Here's NASA's video:

As reported by USA Today, the launch was originally intended for yesterday, but was scrubbed.  Read about today's successful launch at Yahoo News, NPR, The Guardian and Fox News.

Here's an interesting tidbit.  According to Computerworld, the Orion's computer is about as smart as your smartphone.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chinese Economy Surpasses American

My fellow Americans, it is with deep regret that I pass on this news.  For the first time since the presidency of U.S. Grant, the United States no longer has the world's largest economy.  That distinction has been handed over to China, which has undergone tremendous growth during recent decades.  For example, in 2000, the American economy was almost three times as large as the Chinese.  For 2014, the score is China $17.6 trillion - USA $17.4 trillion.

Read more at MarketWatch, Vanity Fair, AOL and Quartz.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Solar System For Your Christmas Tree

Via Nerd Approved and Geek X Girls:

Putting a star on top of a Christmas tree is a longstanding tradition, but now you can put the planets and even the sun on your tree, too.  A new set of ornaments from Glass Sculpture Org. includes "Earth" and "Mars", each with polar caps, "Jupiter" with a red spot, and "Saturn" with rings.  The "Sun" is not a plain yellow sphere, but a multicolored orb that includes sunspots.  Some purists might object, but "Pluto" is included, even through it's no longer classified as a planet.  If I have one complaint, it's that "Uranus" is not tilted on its side.  Perhaps a tinsel garland made of "asteroids" might be worthy of future consideration.

Read more at either link above, or Glass Sculpture's product page at Amazon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ashton Carter To Be Nominated For Secretary Of Defense

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is expected to be nominated by the president to replace his former boss Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.  Carter had also served as Deputy Secretary under Hagel's predecessor Leon Panetta.  Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who also has been the General Counsel at the Pentagon, had also been under consideration.

Ashton Carter has an impressive academic record, including degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale and a doctorate in physics from Oxford.  He has been on the faculty at Harvard and has lectured at Stanford.  Carter has worked at the Pentagon in a civilian capacity as a technical analyst and as its chief weapons buyer.

Read more at CNN, The Washington Post, Fox News, The New York Times and Yahoo News.

UPDATE:  According to gotnews, Carter wrote articles in the Yale school newspaper calling for reforming the CIA.

Court Ruling Has Implications For Executive Action On Immigration

From Watchdog(dot)org via Fox News:
In a ruling that could short-circuit one of President Obama's executive actions on immigration, a federal court has allowed U.S. tech workers to challenge extensions of foreign laborers' status here.
The case of Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has "major implications" for the president's ability to expand the number of work visas and the terms or durations of those visas, said Dale Wilcox, executive director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
From another section of the Watchdog article:
“The Obama administration and its congressional allies have repeatedly stated that they believed the president’s executive memos were immune from judicial review in federal court,” Wilcox said.
The decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia “demonstrates that this is not true,” Wilcox stated.
This case raises an ominous possibility, even though it does not directly address the president's recent executive action on illegal immigration.  If the administration and its allies are right, their actions cannot be reviewed by the courts, while those of Congress can be reviewed, and even struck down.  Do we want the president to be able to enact de facto laws by executive order, without any meaningful checks and balances?  Whatever you think, read the full story.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rams Player's "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Gesture Yields Irony

Yesterday, before their game with the Oakland Raiders, five St. Louis Rams football players decided to walk onto the field holding their hands up in a "don't shoot" gesture, apparently in protest of the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  As Jammie of Jammie Wearing Fools has discovered, one of them has some real-life experience in the art of placing his hands where police officers can see them.  Wide receiver Kenny Britt, when he played for the Tennessee Titans, had some trouble with the law in his home town.  From Fox Sports, as quoted by Jammie:
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt was arrested on three charges Tuesday afternoon after a car chase in his hometown of Bayonne, N.J., has learned.
A Bayonne police spokesman told that Britt was charged with eluding a police officer, lying to an officer/hindering apprehension and obstructing governmental function. Eluding an officer is a third-degree felony; the other two charges are misdemeanors.
Britt has had other encounters with law enforcement, including being arrested.  Also from Fox Sports via JWF:
Britt has had run-ins with the law three times in the past 16 months, which could make him susceptible to NFL suspension once the lockout ends. He was arrested in January 2010 after failing to pay $865 for three outstanding traffic warrants. Britt was scheduled for a hearing Feb. 22 in Bayonne on a misdemeanor charge of theft by deception after being accused by two bail bond companies of not paying the bail money he had promised on behalf of a friend.
Britt also was questioned as part of an assault claim from a bar fight in October in Nashville. Before being exonerated by a grand jury, Britt was benched for one quarter of a game as punishment by then-head coach Jeff Fisher.
Note the further irony in the last paragraph.  Like officer Wilson, Britt himself was cleared by a grand jury investigating an alleged offense.  Read more at the links above.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Links To End November

Here are some things recently in the news, including a few Ferguson-related items:

From Fox News, former policeman Darren Wilson, who recently resigned, will not receive any severance package.

From Yahoo News, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) gives his opinion of the grand jury proceeding arising from the death of Michael Brown.  He thinks that there should not have been any.

Speaking of opinions, Bernard Goldberg says that Michael Brown is not a civil rights martyr.

From Newsbusters, in a panel discussion on Ferguson, Rich Lowry of the National Review dares to confuse the issue with facts.

From gotnews, the marketing director of United Blackout, a movement to "boycott capitalism" that arose in 2008 in response to the shooting of a black commuter by a transit officer in Oakland, and which more recently urged blacks to avoid shopping on Black Friday in response to the non-indictment of Officer Wilson, is very white and very much a capitalist.

From KMOV, 16 people were arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department Friday night, of which 15 are from out of town.  (via The Blaze)

From the Washington Examiner, the Brown family attorney has indicated possible plans for a civil suit.

From Reuters, the Chinese company Fosun has increased its bid to buy Club Med.

From The Guardian, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, wants to put his office in charge of the city's criminal justice system.

From the New York Post, New York is the third worst state in which to get caught speeding.

From the Sunday Express, American intelligence officers have uncovered a plot by al Qaeda to blow up five European passenger airplanes.

From UPI, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that this year's October is the warmest October on record.

From CBS News, the body of missing Ohio State University football player Kosta Karageorge has been found in a dumpster, with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

From the Star Tribune, a small town in Texas has enacted a ban on fracking, which takes effect on Tuesday.

And from The New York Times, pro-democracy protesters and police clash in Hong Kong.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Despite having to drive through winter storm Cato, I made it safely down to my mother's house in Virginia, to celebrate Thanksgiving with the extended family.  It will soon be time to eat turkey, and later on watch some football.  Fortunately, the weather forecast for the upcoming weekend does not include any storms.  So may everyone who reads this blog have a happy Thanksgiving and safe travelling.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Links

Here are some items in the news, including a few things happening in the aftermath of last night's announcement that Ferguson, MO policeman Darren Wilson will not be indicted for the shooting death of Michael Brown.  I know that the Al Sharptons of the world may not agree, but even police officers have a right to self defense.

From Reuters, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) has ordered more National Guard troops into Ferguson.

Western Journalism has 17 pictures from last night's riots.

The Daily Signal has 33 pictures from the riots.

From Breitbart TV, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) says that the young people in Ferguson "have the direction of this country in their hands".  In fairness, she does encourage nonviolence.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls the violence from last night "much worse" than what happened in August.  (via Gateway Pundit)

From Fox News, some people in the media are "issuing mea culpas" regarding their coverage of Bill Cosby over the years.

From The Daily Caller, under Obamacare, bigger employers can offer skimpier health plans.

From NoTricksZone, the European Climate Institute reports that European winters have been getting cooler since 1988.

From UPI, the Supreme Court has agreed to review EPA regulations on mercury.

From Wired, the early computer named ENIAC has been put on display,  The article's title calls ENIAC "the world's first computer", but some commenters dispute that claim.

From the New York Post, Yemeni troops kill al Qaeda kidnappers and free their hostages.

From DNAinfo, a couple living near Chicago's Midway Airport has filed a lawsuit against an airline whose plane crashed into their home.

From KXII, a policeman in Healdton, OK saves a man who had fallen into a creek.

And from Reuters Africa, 50 years after the Olympics in Innsbruck, an American skating pair is awarded the bronze medal.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chuck Hagel Announces Resignation

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced that he will resign from his position, staying on until his replacement is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  Hagel is the only Republican in President Obama's cabinet, and served as an Army sergeant in Viet Nam.

Hagel's resignation, coming after his president's party lost in the midterm elections during the president's sixth year in office, has a recent parallel in the 2006 ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield from the cabinet of President George W. Bush, after the GOP lost badly in that year's midterms.

Read more at The New York Times, Yahoo News, NBC News, The Washington Post and AOL News.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Like It Or Not, SNL Picks On Obama

In a show-opening skit, Saturday Night Live pokes fun at the guy in the White House by spoofing the Schoolhouse Rock song I'm Just A Bill (and giving Bill a new rival).  This comes via Twichy, who note that some people on the left don't appreciate this offering from SNL, perhaps conveniently forgetting that the show has been picking on presidents ever since the days of Gerald Ford.

UPDATE:  NBC has blocked the YouTube video on copyright grounds, but another version from NBC themselves has appeared on HotAir, who discuss an attempt by The Washington Post to fact-check the skit.  As Ed Morrisey points out, the Post never tried to fact-check Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin saying that she could see Russia from her house, or evaluate whether the Blue Öyster Cult song Don't Fear The Reaper really needed more cowbell.  Thus, I've removed the YouTube video and replaced it with the one found at HotAir.  You'll have to wait through a 30-second ad before the SNL skit is played.

Marion Barry Jr., 1936-2014

Former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry died early this morning, shortly after being released from Howard University Hospital.  No cause of death has been publicly stated, but he had previously suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes, prostate cancer and kidney ailments, undergoing a kidney transplant in 2009.  Besides serving four terms as mayor, Barry had also been a member of the city council for 15 years, including the period from 2005 until his death.  He was also known for smoking crack cocaine during an FBI sting, which landed him in federal prison.

Marion Barry Jr. was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi on March 6, 1936 to Mattie Carr and Marion Barry Sr., a sharecropper.  During his boyhood, he delivered papers and became an Eagle Scout.  He graduated from LeMoyne College with a degree in chemistry and received a master's degree from Fisk University.  He was involved in NAACP chapters at both schools, helping to found the chapter at Fisk.  He came to Washington to be the director of the SNCC's Washington office, a position from which he would eventually resign.  In 1977, he was shot by Hanafi Muslims during the siege of the District Building, suffering a superficial wound.

Barry was married four times and divorced three times, and was separated from his fourth wife.  He also had some extra-marital affairs.  His only direct survivor is his son, Marion Christopher Barry.

Read more at The Washington Post, Fox News, CBC News and WUSA.

Friday, November 21, 2014

30,000 Missing IRS Emails Recovered

(H/T The Right Scoop)

It seems that the proverbial homework-eating dog that devoured a large number of emails at the IRS has allowed his stomach to be pumped.  From the Washington Examiner:
Up to 30,000 missing emails sent by former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner have been recovered by the IRS inspector general, five months after they were deemed lost forever.
The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) informed congressional staffers from several committees on Friday that the emails were found among hundreds of “disaster recovery tapes” that were used to back up the IRS email system.
Read the full story.

Bigfoot's Immigration Reform Plan

Last night, during his speech on immigration, President Obama told the GOP to "pass a bill".  In principle, I agree.  Congress, not the president, has the power of enacting law.  Therefore, when the new Congress is seated this coming January, here's what I would like to see in a bill to reform our "broken" immigration system:

1) First and foremost is border security.  The border must be secured to the satisfaction of the citizens of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.  To that end, any money previously allocated for border fence construction must be actually used for that purpose.  The Border Patrol and any other federal or state agencies used to protect the border should be given the resources needed carry out this function.

2) The states must be allowed, without federal interference, to enact legislation that improves the ability of state and local law enforcement officers to ascertain the citizenship and immigration status of anyone they arrest.  Federal and state law enforcement officers should strive to work together, not against each other, to identify those who are illegally present in the United States.

3) The ability of illegal aliens who trespass on private property owned by American citizens or legal immigrants to sue property owners who act to defend their property should be greatly curtailed.  Illegal aliens caught trespassing should have the right to sue the property owner(s) or those acting on his/her/their behalf only if the alien(s) suffer(s) harm that is physical (which would include unlawful detention, but not emotional stress), deliberate, and in a degree above the amount necessary to defend the property.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Few Amnesty Links

Tonight at 8:00 p.m., President Obama is expected to deliver his planned executive actions on immigration, which have been called an "executive amnesty", or as I call it, shoving his middle finger into the face of all who have legally immigrated to the United States, past and present.  Some stories and opinion pieces running ahead of his address:

The Washington Post reports that Obama's actions "will shield 4 million from deportation".  (via Don't be a Moron!)

Via Pat Dollard, on their YouTube channel, the GOP uses Obama to criticize Obama.

The Daily Caller has done some number crunching.  According to them:
President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty will quickly add as many foreign workers to the nation’s legal labor force as the total number of new jobs created by his economy since 2009.
In National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy argues that the amnesty is not justified by the concept of "prosecutorial discretion".

In The Federalist, Gabriel Malor takes on the leftwing claim that President Reagan also offered amnesty by executive order.

And from Politico, the White House is "exasperated" that the major TV networks are not broadcasting his address.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Virginia Tech Denies Funding For Bay Buchanan Speech

The Student Budget Board at my alma mater doesn't seem to like having conservative speakers on campus.  From Fox News:
A conservative group at Virginia Tech is fighting back after a student-run group pulled its funding following a speech on illegal immigration by former Treasury Secretary Bay Buchanan.
Young Americans for Freedom, which co-sponsored the speech by the conservative pundit and sister of former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan with the school's College Republicans, is appealing a decision made by the university’s Student Budget Board. The board denied the group funding for an already-scheduled speech by (former GOP presidential candidate) Herman Cain, as well as all other aid for the rest of the year.
One of the groups sponsoring the speech changed the flyer publicizing it, due to complaints from the Latino Association of Student Organization.  Read the full story.

What Do "Climate Alarmists" Want?

We've all heard the warnings that unless humans decrease our production of CO2, especially from the consumption of fossil fuels, the atmosphere's greenhouse effect will be increased, bringing on disastrous results.  But do the people who tell us these things really believe what they're saying?  I'm sure that many do, but to others, whether they're scientifically correct is not the point.  Their real concerns are not environmental.  This is pointed out in an article in Forbes.  Although published in February 2013, I'd say that it's still relevant.

The Forbes article sets forth statements by people they call "climate alarmists".  Here's an excerpt containing two examples, from known world leaders.
In 1996, former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev emphasized the importance of using climate alarmism to advance socialist Marxist objectives: “The threat of environmental crisis will be the international disaster key to unlock the New World Order.”
Speaking at the 2000 U.N. Conference on Climate Change in the Hague, former President Jacques Chirac of France explained why the IPCC’s climate initiative supported a key Western European Kyoto Protocol objective: “For the first time, humanity is instituting a genuine instrument of global governance, one that should find a place within the World Environmental Organization which France and the European Union would like to see established.”
The italics are used in the Forbes article to indicate quoted material, and are thus reproduced here.  Notice the goals of Gorbachev and Chirac - "the New World Order" and "global governance".  Advancing the concern about alleged man-made global warming is not an end in itself but a means to achieve these other goals.

Read the full article.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reverend Al Faces Tax Trouble

Via The Week:

Reverend Al Sharpton, often hailed as a civil rights hero, but also notorious for the Tawana Brawley hoax, is in serious trouble with federal and state taxing authorities, both personally and with respect to a company that he owns, Raw Talent and Revals Communications.  These tax liens total about $4.5 million.

A question for our friends on the left:  Does your belief that people should pay their "fair share" when it comes to taxes include those owed by Rev. Sharpton?

Read the story at The New York Times.


Via The Right Scoop:

Who is Jonathan Gruber, and what did he have to do with Obamacare?  To find out, watch this video, placed on YouTube by the user AmericanCommitment.

UPDATE:  There's more on Gruber and his involvement with Obamacare at Pundit Press.

One Last Look At Sedona

Here are the last few pictures I have from Sedona, taken during my last full day there.  Not far from where I stayed, there is pedestrian bridge over Oak Creek.  I took this picture of the creek from the bridge.

Here's the bridge itself, with a couple looking down at Oak Creek to get the same view as I had in the first picture above.

Also near where I stayed is a shopping area called Tlaquepaque, which includes this fountain.

And finally, here was the view from my balcony.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Amitabha Stupa

The Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park is located in northwestern Sedona.  It may be reached from state highway 89A by driving north on Andante Drive (one of several nearby streets named for musical terms) and then turning left onto Pueblo Drive.  The park includes a parking lot and driveway, both unpaved.  Like the surrounding rocks, the dirt (or more precisely, dust) that you drive on is reddish.  Along with the namesake stupa, the park also includes the smaller White Tara Stupa, which is about six feet tall, and shown here with the Amitabha Stupa in the background.  You can also see papers with prayers written on them and strung onto lines.

The back of the White Tara Stupa, and some nearby houses:

The Amitabha Stupa is 36 feet tall, with four flag lines connecting to its apex.  One of them appears to be just about right above me.  In the background is a formation that I believe is called Chimney Rock.

Here's a close-up of Chimney Rock.

The back of the Amitabha Stupa and a small seating pavilion:

Near the Amitabha Stupa is a wooden statue of the Buddha.

Near the pavilion is this prayer wheel.

Read more about the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park at Kunzang Palyul Choling and Wandering Educators.

Monday Links

I'm back in Maryland, so back to the routine I go, passing on stories in the news.

From LifeNews, a baby is born after his mother had taken the first pill of a multi-pill abortion drug.

From the Independent Sentinel, the DEA raids NFL teams in response to a civil lawsuit.

In the National Review Online, Matthew Continetti warns that executive amnesty for present illegal aliens will invite the next wave of illegal aliens.

From Politico, support for Obamacare hits a new low.

From Legal Insurrection, a British scientist who worked on the successful comet-bound Rosetta project has come under attack from feminists because of his shirt - which had been given to him by a woman.

From Reuters, Japan's economy unexpectedly slips into recession, causing their prime minister to consider delaying a sales tax increase and calling a "snap election".

From UPI, British and American industries are trying to improve aircraft wing technology.

From The Weekly Standard, the Supreme Court announces that they will hear King v. Burwell.

From Criminal Justice News, an alleged leader of a Mexican drug cartel has been extradited to the United States.

From CNS News, a high school in Virginia, in a reversal of an earlier decision, allows students to start a pro-life club.

From Real Clear Politics, former President Bill Clinton says, "I never bought this whole lame duck deal."

From Metro, two Australians trying to join ISIS are rejected for being too fat.  (via Breitbart London)

From Fox News, police are bracing themselves for possible violence in response to the upcoming Grand Jury decision on whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

From The Daily Caller, the chief of the EPA says that the current pause in global warming "doesn't represent climate".

From ABC News, Pope Francis has confirmed that he will visit Philadelphia.

And from the New York Post, women can now get a boob job that lasts 24 hours.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Music Break

Now that I'm back home, it's time for a music break.  The first selection is For The Heart by Elvis Presley, which I first heard back in college because one of my roommates had the album which included the song.  Although from the 1970's, its backing vocals remind me of the Jordanaires, who appeared on over 300 of Elvis's songs starting in 1956.

Red Rock State Park

Red Rock State Park is located southwest of Sedona, and may be reached from state highway 89A by either Red Rock Loop Road or Upper Red Rock Loop Road.  I used the former to reach the park and attempted to leave via the latter, only to find a sign the said "pavement ends", so I ended up leaving the same way I came in.  The park straddles Oak Creek, downstream from Oak Creek Canyon.

Just after starting my hike, I saw this rock formation, the top of which I would later reach by the Eagle's Nest Trail.

Just after starting my hike, I came upon two of the local residents.

Here's a view from somewhere along the Coyote Ridge Trail.  The building near the left edge of the photo is the visitor's center.

The Sentinel Trail Crossing includes these bridges over Oak Creek.

The Wikipedia page on this park includes the rather interesting story about how the park came to be.
Red Rock State Park was previously a part of a ranch, Smoke Trail Ranch. In 1941 it was purchased by Jack Frye, then-president of Trans World Airlines, as a southwestern retreat for himself and his wife Helen.[2] Helen Frye maintained the property for many years after Jack's death in 1959. In the early 1970s she sold 330 acres (130 ha) to a real estate development company, who planned to build a resort complex. The deal fell through from lack of funds. In 1976 the property was transferred to Eckankar, a new religious movement that Helen Frye belonged to, who planned a private retreat for their members.[2]
In the fall on 1980 a group of friends hiking along Oak Creek were informed by an Eckankar representative that they were trespassing on private property. The group happened to include Bruce Babbitt, then-governor of Arizona. Concerned about loss of public access along waterways, Babbitt researched the property and noted its potential for a full-fledged state park. After determining the willingness of all parties involved, Babbitt pursued a three-way land exchange: Eckankar would sell 286 acres (116 ha) of the Smoke Trail Ranch to Anamax Mining Company, who would donate the land to the state in exchange for 3,947 acres (1,597 ha) of Arizona State Land Department property they had been leasing in Pima County. Since state law only provided for such exchanges within a county, the Arizona Legislature had to pass new legislation allowing trans-county trades. The enabling law and the transfers were completed in 1981.[2]
As it turns out, footnote [2] refers to the "history" page of the park's website, the main page of which is linked on this post's first line above.  The apparent lesson is that if you're going to trespass on private property, it's a good idea to bring your state's governor with you.